Sun-dried tomatoes are a delicious addition to many meal. If you can produce your own tomatoes, it is so much better. However, if you must purchase them, there is a simple recipe for producing your own rich and tasty sun-dried tomatoes using Roma tomatoes, which are generally half price compared to slicing varieties. By making your own quality product you won’t be wasting money on store-bought items, which contain unnecessary preservatives.
The amounts are not specified in this method. A basic rule of thumb is five pounds of Roma tomatoes will be plenty to load 3 racks into your oven. Add or subtract optional ingredients according to taste. As the outdoor natural drying process is not practical for most people to attempt, this method will use the oven.
You will need:
-200 degree preheated oven
– Roma tomatoes
-Oven trays/Cookie sheets or wire cake racks, cooking spray.
Crushed garlic or dried garlic flakes, onion flakes, white vinegar, basil, oregano, bay leaves. chili peppers, whole black pepper, green peppercorns.
-Place some aluminum foil into the bottom of your oven to catch any moisture which may drip. When salt is added to tomatoes it draws the liquid out very quickly. Some of this liquid will drip and cause a mess. Removing the foil and discarding it will make cleanup so much easier.
-Slice the tomatoes in half horizontally, and lay onto lightly sprayed cookie sheets or cake racks. Do not spray the tomatoes. Make sure the tomatoes are not touching one another.
-Some people like to remove the seeds, but this is not necessary. I find it to be wasteful and it does detract from the delicious flavor. However, if you have an intolerance to acidic foods, removing the seeds may be necessary after all.
-Generously sprinkle each tomato with sea salt. Place into the pre heated oven, leave for 4 hours without opening the door.
-After 4 hours, rotate the trays as the heat distribution will be different from top to bottom. Leave another 2 hours and check for any which have already dried sufficiently.
You will now need to check every 30 minutes for those which are ready to leave the oven.
-It is very important to make sure your tomatoes are the right consistency before packing them into plastic bags. They must be void of all moisture, completely dry, but not crisp. They should still be able to bend between your fingers. If tomatoes are crisp they are still alright to pack, but they are overdone.
-Oven drying times will vary, some will be done in 6 hours while others will take as long as 8 – 10 hours. It also depends heavily on what type and size tomatoes were used.
-As each tomato is dried properly, remove it and allow it to cool before storing.
Packing into jars:
Unless you have a canning method to adequately seal your jars, or unless you wax around the lids, you will need to keep the jars refrigerated to avoid bacteria growth. Any tomatoes which are not dried enough can cause jar packed tomatoes to create a cloud when immersed into the olive oil. It does not mean they are bad, but it doesn’t look very presentable if you have placed them into a gift basket.
Drying tomatoes and storing in small sealed plastic bags is much easier and you can dry extra when tomatoes are on sale or when you have additional from your garden. Simply empty a bag full each week into a jar with the some of the ingredients so you always have some ready for immediate use.
Choose which herbs you would like to add, and begin tightly packing tomatoes into the jar. You will want to sprinkle some herbs into the bottom of the jar, and add more once the jar is half full. A tsp. of vinegar adds to the flavor, but is optional. Top with olive oil making sure all air bubbles have now filled up. Close the lid tightly and store in the fridge.
As well as adding them to soups stews and salads, dried tomatoes are delicious when served with fruit, nuts and cheese.