Tomato paste. That gooey tomato-y stuff that comes in those tiny little cans that you use 2 TB out of and then it sits in your fridge until it goes bad. Then you start all over again the next time you need it. Is there any way to break the cycle?
What are your options?
Toss is – that’s what my mom did all those years. She knew, from experience, that she’d never use up the rest of the can, so instead of the frustration of finding little cans in the fridge with growths, she’d just toss the can. Wasteful, yes. Realistic? probably. Freezing it – you can freeze in tablespoon sized globs or in ice cube trays and store in airtight containers in your freezer. Problem here is…you have to remember to defrost for when you need it. Most of the time, you can simply include it in your sauce and it will eventually defrost, but it’s something you have to get in the habit of remembering to do. Dehydrate it – For me, this is the best solution, because it solves everything I need at one time. I don’t have to store those little cans (besides, the chemicals found in canned foods are something I’m trying to wean out of our pantry as much as possible, and this is a perfect solution for me). I don’t have waste when I don’t use up a full can at one time. I can make a huge batch at once and keep the leather’s ready to toss into a stockpot, or grind into a powder to make tomato paste at a moment’s notice, however much I need. This is also especially helpful if you come across big industrial sized cans of tomato paste!
How to Dehydrate Tomato Paste
You’ll need sheets for your dehydrator trays that allow you to do leathers. You can either wrap your trays in plastic wrap, or use nonstick sheets provided by manufacturers or create your own.
- Spread your tomato paste in a thin layer across your sheets. Make sure that you get an even distribution. Using a spatula can help. You don’t want lumps and bumps that will effect the dehydration rate of your paste.
- Set your dehydrator to about 125F and begin dehydrating. It can take anywhere from 12-18 hours to fully dehydrate, depending on how much you’re trying to do, how thick your layers are, and how powerful your machine is.
- Check on your leathers after about 8 hours. If it is nontacky to the touch on the top, this is a good time to gently pull it off your sheets and turn it over so that the bottom can also dehydrate
- Note: Your tomato paste will turn darker. It’s not a defect, it’s the way it will react to the moisture being removed. Don’t worry – it’s supposed to look like that!
- Once your leathers are pliable, non tacky to the touch, and come away from your sheets easily, you are done!
Store your leathers in chunks in airtight packaging. For long-term storage, consider vacuum packing in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers to keep them from turning. Shorter term can be in zip top bags. Powder your leather! I toss my leather into my blender and pulverize it. I’ll then send it through a mesh screen into a mason jar for storage. The chunks that didn’t grind down well are put through the blender again. If I have a particularly stubborn chunk, I use my small spice grinder to finish it off to a fine powder. Then this stores in a mason jar that has had an oxygen absorber added and vacuum sealed with my jar attachment of my vacuum sealer machine to ensure the best storage. I keep a smaller quantity in a ready-to-use jar for convenience.
For leathers, just put your desired amount of leather into some hot water to reconstitute into a thick tomato paste. You’ll have to experiment with how it works to what you need since it will be effected by how big your leather sheet is, an how thick you made it. It won’t take too long to figure it out. I judge a palm sized piece to be about a tablespoon for me. For powders – mix a 1:1 ratio of powder to water for form a thick paste. You can adjust the quantity as you go for what you need in your recipe, but I’ve always done a shy TB amount of powder to a shy TB water to be perfect for my needs. Now, for those of you who are rolling your eyes at this, that’s fine. I personally love that I have tomato paste ready to go in one container, that will store for a very long time, and is super convenient to use for very little effort of my time. Not all dehydrating methods are necessary or even useful for everyone, but I’m finding the more and more I learn to dehydrate, the less space I use up in my pantry that can be better used for other items. This may not be the place you want to concentrate your dehydrating efforts on, but it was a wonderful achievement for me when I finally figured it out!
Your thoughts? Have you tried this before? What are some other items that you find you love dehydrating that people think are mad? Tools you might need: Excalibur Dehydrator or American Harvester Dehydrator | Ball Canning Jars | Vacuum Sealer | Zip Top Bags