Garden Friday – Sun (Oven) Dried Tomatoes

I left town this week for a 3-week trip to the inlaws.  Of course, just as I was leaving, my tomatoes started to ripen all at once.  What to do?  I didn’t have enough to justify canning yet.  I thought about picking them and putting them in the fridge – but I’m guessing I’ll come home to a lot of tomatoes.  (Note to self, make sure you don’t plan anything on the 2nd day home because you will be canning!)  So I decided to make sun-dried tomatoes from about 2 dozen grape and roma types.

Now, if I had been on top of this, I would have truly sun dried them (or car dried them… good idea for next time) which is far more sustainable with no energy use.  But since it takes about 2 days with the sun (same process, just bring them in at night and cover with cheese-cloth to keep bugs out) and I only had this ‘crap, what am I going to do with these tomatoes?’ moment less than 24 hours before my flight, I decided to take the oven dried shortcut.  (Apparently you can also use a dehydrator, but I don’t own one.)

You can make dried tomatoes from any type, but the more ‘pasty’ romas or cherries are probably easiest and have the least moisture content.  Here are the steps:

1.  Pick tomatoes, wash them, etc.

2. Cut tomatoes into fairly equal parts (they dry more evenly this way).  I cut the small grapes into half, the smaller romas into quarters and the bigger romas into eighths.

3.  Take out a cookie sheet and evenly lay out tomatoes on a piece of parchment paper or foil.  Some people sprinkle with sea salt and/or basil.  I just left them plain.

4. Stick in the oven on lowest setting (I got my convection down to 180 but most recipes seem to state 200 is ok) for 5 to 8 hours.

5. Store in airtight plastic bag.  It seems you can easily get 9 months to a year in your freezer although you hear a lot of people say if you store in a dark, cool food storage room would be fine too.  Some store in olive oil but most warn it should be refrigerated and used within a month or 2 because of botulism concerns.

So, now I have a nice bag of sun-dried tomatoes.  The only question is how to cook with them? (I never purchase them because they are so expensive.)  What is your favorite sun-dried tomato recipe?

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3 responses to “Garden Friday – Sun (Oven) Dried Tomatoes

  1. Karmen August 26, 2011 at 7:28 am

    Oh thank you for this, Nicole! My tomatoes are just starting to come on and soon there will be bushels. I plan on canning most but did want to dry some this year (never done it before) so this is VERY helpful!

    Question: you said that botulism is a concern in the olive oil. There’s no concern that you know of with the dried, bagged and stored tomatoes, right?

  2. Nicole I August 26, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Home grown tomatoes are acidic enough to be safe dried. Even if there are a few botulism spores, they can’t really multiple in the acidic tomato. You freeze them mostly to keep mold at bay. Olive oil provides a base for the botulism. In fact, any time you infuse olive oil with anything, you should be putting it in the fridge.

  3. mfranti August 26, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Nicole,

    What do I do with sun dried tomatoes? I might be interested in preserving some this way too.

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