Storing food for the winter — here’s what works for us

Our preferred methods are dehydrating the tomatoes and freezing the spaghetti squash

This past summer was definitely busy. We had the pleasure of hosting a seven-year-old and a nine-year-old boy from Alberta, and they helped watch our year-old grandson while his mom ran the post office.

As I don’t like to use the water canner with young children underfoot, I used our dehydrator for the tomatoes. Really tasty dehydrated tomatoes start out as really tasty juicy tomatoes, so take the time to wash them well and trim off all blemishes. The ones with bad spots are better trimmed and thrown in the sauce pot than in the dehydrator.

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There are two ways to store dehydrated tomatoes. They will not need to be rehydrated if they are stored in oil, as this will keep them flexible and chewable. If they are stored dry they will need to be rehydrated before using, by covering with warm water and soaking for two hours at room temperature. When using them in a salad or an unbaked dish, try soaking them in warm water with a little vinegar for about an hour. Then drain, mix with olive oil, garlic and fresh basil, and marinate overnight.

Dehydrators can be purchased and used according to manufacturer’s directions but for a large amount of tomatoes, oven drying is an option. Seven to eight pounds of Roma tomatoes will make approximately one pint of dried.

Oven drying tomatoes

This will take about 12 hours depending on the thickness of the slices and moisture content.

Arrange the tomatoes, cut side up, on non-stick cookie sheets (glass or porcelain dishes are OK, but metal must be covered with parchment paper). Bake in 170 F oven for about three hours. Leave the oven door propped open about three inches to allow moisture to escape. After three hours, turn the tomatoes over and press flat with your hand or a spatula. Continue to dry, turning every few hours, and gently pressing flatter and flatter, until tomatoes are dry.

Another idea for using them is to powder in a food processor (for large amounts) or a coffee grinder (for small amounts). This powder can be used for soups, stews, sauces and even a quick cup of soup.

The best thing about dehydrated tomatoes is the flavour, and we find it much closer to that fresh garden taste than the canned variety.

Tomato paste from powdered dehydrated tomatoes

  • 1 tbsp. powdered tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp. water

To reconstitute tomato powder, add the powder to a small bowl. Mix with the water. The finished product will resemble tomato paste. Depending on the intended usage the water can be adjusted.

The other garden item we have in abundance is spaghetti squash. Freezing is my preferred method for storing as past experience taught us that it can taste like flowers when dehydrated.

Freezing spaghetti squash

You will need:

  • Spaghetti squash
  • Baking sheet
  • Knife
  • Colander
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Freezer bags

Cut the squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. (These can be kept for next year, roasted like pumpkin seeds or thrown in the compost.) Place the squash on a baking sheet (cut side up), and bake for 30 to 40 minutes (or until tender) at 375 F. Let cool then run a fork lengthwise through the flesh to separate it into strands which will resemble pasta. Put the cooked squash in a colander placed on top of a large mixing bowl. Cover and store it in the refrigerator overnight. This will allow the excess water to drain from the squash, so it isn’t soggy. Scoop all the squash strands into a freezer bag and freeze. Use in recipes from frozen — no need to thaw.

These two foods go so well together that having them put away in storage means never being out of a supper idea. We are already looking forward to the next growing season. Hope everyone else had a successful one with lots put away for the winter.

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