I don’t remember how inspiration struck (apologies to any blogger I’m slighting here) but this summer as I investigated the world of dehydration I discovered vegetable leather. Ok, I know it probably sounds gross at first, but bear with me, you will be THRILLED with the end result!
So inspired, I started searching and found recipes for several varieties of vegetable leather, gazpacho, tomato, mixed veg, and pumpkin, and resolved to give it a whirl–especially since at the time I was just beginning a diet the idea of tasty “free” foods was exciting. (Here’s one online resource for recipes and techniques)
So here’s the problem with this. I made my tomato leather in September and I cannot remember exactly how I did it. With the aid of the pictures and the recipes I can mostly piece it together, but there are a few steps I’m unsure of. The method I’m sharing here is not necessarily exact so if you want to try this don’t take my instructions as absolute law (just this once, ok?)….
It was the end of the season and I had a rag tag bunch of tomatoes both in my garden and from the local farmers market. Something that did not depend on pretty tomatoes seemed like the perfect use for these long in the tooth and random assortment of leftover fruits.
You can make this without any special equipment, but having a food mill makes the process super simple; mo need to peel or seed, just chop them up and throw them in a sauce pan. If you don’t have a food mill though, you may want to seed and peel them first. If you do, throw them in the pot and cook them until they are soft, then run them through your food mill. (This is one of the steps I’m unsure of. I *think* I cooked them before I put them through the food mill, but I”m not 100% sure)
This will give you a light tomato sauce. I cooked mine down some but dehydrating is taking out the liquid anyway so theoretically you could probably put watery sauce on the tray and just dry it longer. I felt like it would make for thin leather or it would slosh around and be messy and that’s why I cooked it down, but you don’t have to do it for hours, just enough to thicken it a bit.
Next, season it. I actually made several batches and varied the season from one to another. Salt–for me–is a must. But you could add Italian spices, Indian spices, fall spices like cinnamon and cloves, Worcestershire sauce, or whatever you fancy.
Once you have it where you want it, pour it on your trays. This can be done in an oven using rimmed cookie sheets. I just happen to have a dehydrator and fruit leather mats. Are you surprised?
Then turn on the dehydrator and leave it. I think mine took about 12 hours. You have wiggle room so don’t worry about going to bed or work and ruining it. It should be fine.
Once it is dry it is ready. You can eat it all standing at the counter, what? Or you can store it so you have it to snack on.
Remove it from the tray
Put it on wax paper and roll it up (like a fruit roll up!)
Ok, so how does it taste? Like a tomato punched you in the mouth–in a good way. I LOVE this stuff. It is the pure essence of all that is good and holy in a tomato, concentrated.
When I’m feeling like I want to eat, or more accurately TASTE, but I am not hungry or don’t need the calories, or am dieting, or whatever, a strip of this stuff makes me damn near as happy as a handful of potato chips. But Bonus! It’s actually GOOD for you!
Along with snacking on it, you can also add it to recipes. I recently cut it into thin ribbons and served it on top of a risotto cake. Delicious!
I haven’t tried any of the other leathers, but I’m considering it, especially for that summer moment when I just have TOO MUCH produce and I’ve preserved it every which way I can think of, this is a neat way to preserve and its frankly easier than many of the more standard methods–though of course the end product is a little less versatile than say, canned tomatoes.