This year has been a lot of things, many of which have been a bummer, but I guess if there’s a lining somewhere, it’s in the tomato season. This year’s tomatoes have been straight fire, and there’s still more to come.
September is the harvest month for tomatoes around these parts; at least, that’s how it’s always worked out for me. I get some as early as mid-August and it continues to almost October. This year, they ran a little later than usual, but only by about a week or two, and it certainly could have been the varieties I planted.
I took chances on some very old seed this year. Pink Honey, Old German, Japanese Black Trifele and more: all of these were experiments, and most of them really showed up. Note to self and others – I have been calling some of these tomatoes by the wrong name because either I labeled them wrong, or they shifted in the garden.
This weekend, though, I had so many tomatoes that they were starting to soften, so I had an idea to dehydrate them to make tomato chips. It was a GREAT idea, but it didn’t work with the bigger, wetter heirloom varieties. So we scraped as much as we could off the dehydrator sheets for snacks and ground up the rest. Here’s the process:
First I sliced the tomatoes on the mandoline at about 1/4″. I salted the tomatoes lightly to try to leach some water. I packed the dehydrator as full as I could; we probably had about 6-8lbs of tomatoes over about 6 trays. Helpful note: next time, I will slice watery varieties at 1/2″ but keep paste tomatoes (meaty types) at 1/4″.
I had an idea to make a balsamic paste with fresh basil and spices to spread on the tomatoes, then dehydrate with the spices on the bottom (to prevent the herbs from flying into the heating element). This would have worked well on meaty heirlooms, but probably not on the watery type regardless of how thick I sliced them.
I did a quick experiment the night before and brushed a couple slices with olive oil and herb mix, but it never quite dried (thanks, oil) but it was absolutely delicious. If the snacks were for immediate consumption, I would totally, 100% recommend.
The tomato chips, even by themselves, are really good. They’re sweet and tart with a very concentrated tomato taste, almost like strawberries (not strawberry flavor). Justin noted that he thought the powder could be used as a general sweetener; I didn’t disagree.
Anyway, since the juicy heirlooms stuck to the sheets, Justin & I decided to grind them into powder (as we do a lot of our summer produce for use during the year).
To grind herbs and things other than coffee, we have a special coffee grinder we use. It’s nothing special in the grinder itself, just that we don’t grind coffee in it because the spices will alter the taste of the coffee. I think it’s like a $20 grinder, and it does the job just fine. We use this grinder to grind up eggshells for the garden, too.
The tomato powder cakes very easily and had to be scraped out of the grinder with a small spatula. Though the tomatoes are dry, they are loaded with natural sugars, and I’m certain this will clump into a hardened mass in no time at all. I’m reading up now on using starches (maybe arrowroot or tapioca) as an anticaking agent.
I plan to use this as a type of seasoning mixed with our dried pepper powders to make a sort of “dorito dust” with which I was obsessed over a few years back (I don’t think I blogged about it). I want to make homemade doritos all the way from scratch. I also thought this might be a good seasoning to “crust” some plantain fritters in the Air Fryer (omg, have I blogged about this yet? I’m so far behind!).
I have another blog to write regarding our most recent Root Beer experiment, too, so if you’re a subscriber, you might see a couple today.