One would think it is too late to preserve tomatoes. But I did it and now I have a jar full of dried tomatoes soaking in olive oil. Homemade at its best; within the easy reach whenever I need it.
When I found the juicy ripe on the vine tomatoes, for a minimal price at this time of the year, I kind of went bonkers and bought a lot. And a lot means a seriously big lot. I could almost brand myself as a hoarder.
This is Texas, and the warm pleasant weather continues and chases the winter. We are fortunate to still get fresh produce. So I got a bagful, (no I am not telling how much) and marked off another one in my to do list: sun (not really).. oven dried tomatoes. I guess I could have used the sun to make a bigger batch when we had the relentless summer heat for 3 months. The sun has mellowed and is definitely not strong enough to dry the tomatoes. But the oven saves the life.
So why take all that trouble and make dried tomatoes at home during the winter time? Because there is immense pleasure and satisfaction in making your own…It is that simple.
Wondering what you would do with them? There is plenty to choose from!
A very quick and easy (a bit time consuming.. but that is okay, right?) recipe, with endless possibilities to perk up any meal.
Ingredients: (makes approx. 2 cups)
- 5 lbs ripe tomatoes
- coarse sea salt
- a sprinkle of raw sugar
- freshly ground black pepper
- any herb you want to use (Optional)
- garlic cloves (Optional)
- approx. 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil + more oil to use when preserving them in jar
Preheat the oven to about 200 F.
Slice the tomatoes, or halve them, depending on the size. The thicker they are, the longer they will take to dry. I have used large vine ripe tomatoes and have sliced them into 3-4 slices, about 1/3-1/2 inch thick each. Do not slice them too thin, or they will dry out too much and harden.
If you want you can remove some of the seeds; it won’t hurt to leave them on, except it will take longer to dry. Sprinkle with salt and allow some of the juice to drain out, for about 30 minutes.
Toss all the other ingredients (except for the oil to use in the jar to store) with the tomatoes.
Place the tomatoes in a single layer on a baking tray lined with foil or parchment and cook in the oven at 200F-250F for about 4-6 hours or until all the juice has dried up and the tomatoes are dried and wrinkled but not hard, more like a leathery texture. (might take longer depending on the kind of tomatoes and how juicy they are, so watch and decide when they are done). Turn over each slice 2-3 times during this process of drying, that way both sides are dried well. There should be no juice running, the sides will be shriveled and all the slices should have shrunken well. They should not be hard, be still bendable but not mushy.
Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely; save them in a clean sterilized jar completely covered well with extra virgin olive oil.
(Drying the tomatoes outdoors in the sun: If you want to sun dry them in the real sense.. spread out the sliced tomatoes in a single layer in full sun, taking them in at night and dry until they are of the right consistency. It is better to place the tomatoes on a screen so the air circulates between them and dries them better and quicker. The drying time/days might vary with the heat of the sun and the hours in the sun; any time between 3-10 days.)
Tips from Food and Wine: “Slide the blade of a knife along the side of each jar to release any air bubbles. Seal the jars and refrigerate for up to 2 months or freeze for up to 6 months.”
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 4-6 hours
Difficulty Level: Easy
Yields: approx. 2 cups
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