Sun or Oven Drying Tomatoes for
Tomatoes, tomatoes: it's that time of year isn't it? If
you are running out of room for canned or frozen tomatoes why not try
them for storage? Once
take up a fraction of the space and
can be used in all sorts of ways! The big surprise is just how flavorful
they are once you have reconstituted them for use. The ones
we have dried so far are superb and will make wonderful dried tomatoes!
The tomatoes we have used in our demonstration are Pomodori heirloom
Don't forget to get your heirloom
tomato seeds from us.
We have quite a few paste type tomatoes that are perfect for drying
like Amish Paste, Black Plum, Golden Roma Italian, Opalka, Orange
Banana, Polish Linguisa.
What kind of tomatoes to use?
Traditionally plum or paste type
tomatoes are used for drying. You may, however try any type that you
like. You want them to be firm and ripe but not over ripe, which will
lead to decay. For larger round or slicer type tomatoes slice them
crosswise into no more than 1/4 inch thick pieces. For cherry tomatoes
cut them in half.
Are they still nutritious when dried?
They are but some of the nutrients do get lost when we dry fruits and
vegetables. The water-soluble vitamins, such as B and C are gone.
Nutrients like the minerals, fiber content, vitamin A and the
phytochemicals become concentrated when we take the water out with the
drying process. The lycopene content of tomatoes increases when they are
To Sun Dry
Carefully wash and dry your tomatoes
first. Cut them in half lengthwise for plum and cherry tomatoes. For
larger fruits slice them across the axis in 1/2" thick slices.
remove seeds if you like but
it is not necessary. If you do remove the seeds try to be careful not to
remove the flavorful pulp. Use a spoon or your fingers to scoop out the seeds.
Cutting a slit in the skin side of the tomato will help accelerate the
Place the halves skin side down and/or the slices on a framed plastic
screen (we use our seed drying trays for this), being careful not to lose
any liquid from them and spread them out so that none are touching. You
can salt them at this time for a little more flavor and the salt will
help to draw the liquid from them. The drying process will concentrate
all the flavor in the juice. Use a cheesecloth cover over the screen to
protect the tomatoes from bugs and crud. Raise the cheesecloth off the
tomatoes slightly with wood skewers or something like that. Then place
the screen outside in the sun with some boards or something to raise it
a few inches and allow air to circulate underneath it. It will take at
least a few days of sunshine, sometimes up to 12 days, to
properly dry the tomatoes and you need to bring the whole set up indoors
overnight, once the sun goes down.
The Results: When your tomatoes have dried properly they
will have a dark red color or if using yellow, pink, white etc. type tomatoes
they will have a darker, more intense color than they originally had.
They should feel dry and pliable or leathery to the touch. They should
not be hard and brittle or moist. You should be able to stick your
finger in the center of them, pull it away and have no pulp on your
Storage: Now that you have made it this far here is how you
store them. Your dehydrated tomatoes take little space to store. They
can be stored in plastic bags or airtight glass jars. For plastic
bags: pack the tomatoes as tightly as you can, squeezing out the
excess air. If you have a vacuum sealer it would be perfect for this.
For glass jars pack them as compactly as you can and use a tight
fitting lid to seal. We use our canning jars for this. Either way they
can be stored at room temperature in a cool, dark place in the kitchen
cabinets or wherever you have room. They will keep well for about 1
year, after that the flavor, nutrition and flavor will begin to
decline. You may keep them for about 18 months if you wrap them
securely in plastic and store in the freezer.
The weather must cooperate for sun drying. If this is not the case in
your area oven drying is your solution! It does require a bit more of
a set up. Using uniform tomatoes sizes will simplify your
results. Preheat oven to 130º F or the lowest setting on a gas oven.
On some brands of ovens 130º F will be the "warm or low"
setting. If your oven only goes down to 200º F then you will need to
leave the door ajar while drying. Prepare your tomatoes as previously
stated. Omit the cheesecloth and place them on foil lined cookie
sheets or pizza pans as above. Put your pans directly on the oven
racks. Alternately you could cover the oven racks with aluminum foil
into which you will need to punch small holes for air circulation. Bake in a closed,
preheated oven at 130º F
for 6 to 12 hours until the tomatoes are shriveled and slightly
pliable not unlike raisins. Keep checking on them periodically and remove ones that are done.
After taking them out of the oven place them on racks until they have
cooled down completely.
- For Cherry tomatoes cut in half, prepare as above always
putting the cut side down on your racks. Cut the drying time to
Obviously you have to spend some money to get a dehydrator
but many think it gives dried food a superior quality. There are many
units available that won't set you back a lot. It all depends on what
you want. They can have timers and thermostats or you can use a
thermometer which you place on the lowest tray to monitor temperature.
You want it to ideally stay around 135° to 140°F. You do all the prep
as already stated and the trays should have a space of 1-2 inches
between them. You still may need to rotate the racks and, in this case,
turn the tomatoes.
You can rehydrate your dried tomatoes in different
ways. For basic use you soak them in water for 1 to 2 hours at room
temperature as needed- this should be long enough to fully rehydrate
them. Boiling water will speed up the process. For longer soaking times
be sure to stick them in the refrigerator.
- They can be added directly to soups and stews. Adding them
during the last 20 to 30 minutes of cooking is usually sufficient.
- Try soaking them in bullion or vegetable stock.
- Be inventive and try rehydrating them with wine!
- Use the liquid from soaking in your recipes like a vegetable
- Pour a mixture of one half vinegar and one half boiling water
over them and let them soak for five to ten minutes. Drain
thoroughly then mix with a good olive oil seasoned with a few
pieces of garlic sliced clove and marjoram leaves. Let them
marinate for 24 hours in the refrigerator before using. Very good
in salads, on pizza and in pasta dishes!
Flakes and Powders
If your tomatoes come
out too dry try or you want to make them into flakes and powders dry
them beyond the leathery or pliable stage. This takes even less storage
room. Flakes and powders are perfect for anything you would like to lend
some fine tomato flavor to!
To give them a crumbly texture put them into your
freezer for about 5 minutes and then crush them with a rolling pin, kitchen mallet or give them a quick whirl in the blender.
To get flakes dry them until quite brittle and crush
with a rolling pin.
For powders process them until very fine in a food
processor or blender.
For the adventurous!
For this you need to wash, core and seed the tomatoes, peeling them if
you want.. Crush them with a mallet or your hands and cook the tomatoes
for 60 minute. Let it cool a bit then put it in the blender or food
processor to puree them. Now return the tomato mixture to the pot to
simmering it over low heat, stirring occasionally until it's reduced by
half. This may take as long as 3 or more hours. When it is reduced let
it cool a bit and spread your puree ½ inch thick onto cookie sheets.
Place in slow oven to dry (approx. 140F) or the sun or dehydrator until
it is no longer sticky but pliable like a fruit leather. Roll your dried
tomato paste into 1 inch balls and let them dry at room temperature for
another one or two days. Store in airtight jars. You can add the tomato
paste balls directly to soups, sauces, casseroles etc.
Bruschetta with Sun Dried Tomatoes
4 Sun-dried tomatoes
3 Ripe tomatoes; peel, seeded and chopped
3 teaspoons capers, well rinsed
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons red onion, minced
2 teaspoons Balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped or 1/4 tablespoon dried
1 tablespoon fresh marjoram or oregano, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
12 inch loaf Italian bread, cut into 24 slices
Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Reconstitute the sun-dried tomatoes
by placing them in a small bowl and pouring about 1 cup of boiling water
over them. Let the tomatoes rest in the hot water until it cools. Drain
the tomatoes and chop them finely. Combine all ingredients, except the
bread slices and the cheese, in a bowl and set aside for 1 hour at room
temperature, mixing occasionally. Toast the bread slices in the oven
until lightly browned then cool them slightly. Top the bread slices with
the tomato mixture. Sprinkle with Romano or Parmesan cheese. Serve warm
or at room temperature.
Yield: 24 servings
Marinated Dried Tomatoes
2 cups of rehydrated tomatoes
1/4 cup of canola oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dried mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fine sugar
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
2 fresh sprigs of thyme, chopped
1/4 teaspoon fresh marjoram, chopped
1 tablespoon red onion, minced
Place tomato slices in a glass serving bowl. Combine remaining
ingredients and pour over tomatoes. Toss lightly. Chill for 1 hour or
longer to blend flavors before serving. You can also let it the marinade
return to room temperature and serve over pasta.
Dried Tomato Pesto
1 cup sundried tomatoes packed in oil
½ cup chicken stock
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
3 cloves minced garlic
3 green onions sliced
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 teaspoon slivered lemon basil leaves
Place sun-dried tomatoes, chicken stock, oil, cheese and garlic in a
blender or food processor. Blend until completely smooth.
Pour over enough fresh, hot pasta for 4 servings- linguine is nice for
Sprinkle with the green onions and pine nuts.
Garnish with the lemon basil.
Yield: 4 servings
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