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How To Freeze Dry Tomatoes, (Grape, Cherry & Regular) Tomato Sauce and Spaghetti Sauce
One of my earliest, most fond memories was when I was a little 3 or 4 year old girl staying with my grandmother for a few days. She put a salt shaker in the pocket of her apron and we walked out her back door and down to her garden. That was the first time I got to sit in a garden, pick and eat fresh peas in the pod and wonderful fresh, vine ripened tomatoes.
That was a whole new world to me! When you combine a sweet memory of someone you loved dearly with a taste or smell of something yummy, you never forget it. I was in love with tomatoes from that point on.
Tomatoes Are So Healthy
With my first grown-up job in an office, just out of high school, I had to drive for 25 minutes to get home each day. The other girls I worked with would stop at a little store in the morning for candy, gum and chips to get them through their day. I would buy a little bag of small tomatoes and put them in the glove compartment of my car, (where I kept a salt shaker) for my trip home each evening.
Fast forward to several years later when I met my husband. His dad managed a welfare farm while he was growing up, with all the fruits and vegetables you could ever eat. His favorite was… yep, you guessed it –tomatoes!
Living in the mountains, they’re not easy to grow, but we’ve finally got it down and have them in our garden each year.
The secret for us is to grow them in rubber tires with human compost soil and to buy the largest plants we can find in the spring.
Interestingly, tomatoes are a fruit (actually botanically classified as berries!) but are commonly used as a vegetable ingredient. (Seems funny, like rhubarb which I freeze dried several batches of this summer, is technically a vegetable, but we usually use it like a fruit, sweetening it! It’s hard to imagine having some cooked rhubarb with steak and a baked potato! Eeeeeeh!)
I can’t think of a time that I haven’t had a small basket of tomatoes sitting by my kitchen sink year round! So, of course that is going to be something I will want to freeze dry plenty of.
How To Freeze Dry Grape Tomatoes
These are the first grape tomatoes I freeze dried in my HarvestRight. I wasn’t sure how they would do because they do have a lot of water in them, so I spaced them pretty well. Now that I know how well they freeze dry, I load the trays with the tomatoes very close together and they are fine.
Bonnie salts her grape tomatoes before freeze drying so they are a “ready to eat” snack –great idea! See how we store all of our freeze dry treats!
I did these trays with one tray of pineapple tidbits and they took 28 hours. I’m sure if I had 4 trays of grape tomatoes, it would be closer to 24 hours.
(Ooops, I discovered that smoke from the California and Oregon fires clouded my lens!)
We planted several cherry tomato plants this year specifically for freeze drying. They were so tasty and flavorful! Freeze Drying pulls out the sugar in light, little white bubbles. If you taste them, they are a burst of sweet tomato flavored sugar! So yummy.
When we picked more tomatoes than we could eat, we would slice them and place them on a tray in the freezer until the trays were filled and ready to freeze dry. As I tasted the sliced tomatoes I thought: “I wouldn’t hesitate to make a sandwich with lots of mayo and place the freeze dried slices right in the mayo to rehydrate somewhat in that, and maybe add a slice of freeze dried sweet onion with it.” Sweet onion and tomato sandwiches are a family favorite!
Can You Freeze Dry Tomato Sauce?
Tomato sauce is something I really wanted to be able to freeze dry. It doesn’t have a very long shelf life before it starts to taste like the can! So, at our local URM or FoodService Warehouse I can get #10 cans of tomato sauce for $3.99. I put 3 cups on 3 trays and 2 1/2 cups on the 4th tray. One #10 can contains 11 1/2 cups of sauce. It makes a beautiful powder and I’ve found that powders always re-hydrate to the perfect consistency of what they were before.
Freeze dried tomato sauce turns out great. It took a little longer than raw eggs and actually has a little more water, but if you need a break from prepping, put this in your HarvestRight –the prep is easy!
Can You Freeze Dry Spaghetti Sauce?
Spaghetti sauce is amazing. This is the Tuscan Traditionals, a favorite of my son and daughter-in-law (and ours now!) Two trays of Spicy and two of the Basil Tomato. The tomato flavor is so intensified, I couldn’t stop sampling –I could survive on this alone. It’s definitely a ready to eat item!
Each tray can hold 2 – 25 oz. bottles of pasta sauce, but it’s a full tray and it dries to a full 1/2″. It works out great as long as it’s pre-frozen a minimum of 24 hours. That’s the secret for most of the food items that you want to powder, like eggs, sour cream, mashed avocado, etc.
Spaghetti sauce powders beautifully. 2 – 25 oz. bottles of powder fit nicely in a quart mylar bag. So I was able to get the 4 trays of powdered pasta sauce into 2 bags. I even cut some I did later, into small squares for snacks.
So, go ahead and make memories for your children and grandchildren in your gardens and always keep a salt shaker handy!
HOW DO I FREEZE DRY TOMATO PRODUCTS?
Many people think it’s next to impossible to do the freeze drying for themselves. This is far from factual. Freeze drying at home is made easy by Harvest Right. They sell three different sizes of freeze-drying machines that do everything in the machine – except prep and package.
That’s up to you.
For all intents and purposes, here at Freeze Drying Mama we use the medium sized freeze dryer. You can check out the sizes offered at Harvest Right here.
What this machine does is first freeze the items on stainless steel trays to -41 degrees or lower. This takes about 10 hours or so.
Then a vacuum pump turns on and creates a vacuum inside the drum. This is the drying stage and will vacillate the heat of the tray up and down to a pretty warm temperature. This makes the frozen items release any water in them in vapor form. The vacuum sucks the moisture to the drum. This collects in ice form on the inner circle of the drum.
Then there’s the final dry which is essentially the same thing, but with a time associated with it and an end in sight!
WHAT SETTINGS DO I USE TO FREEZE DRY TOMATO PRODUCTS?
On the Harvest Right freeze drier – this works on all sizes – after putting the trays inside the drum on the shelves, I put in the drum cover and then tighten the handle as I lock it shut. On the computer touch screen, I selected START > LIQUID > NOT FROZEN > CONTINUE. After inputting the settings and making sure my drain tube was closed, I walked away.