Every year, starting around the last week of August, we are awash in tomatoes. Beefsteaks, Romas, cherry tomatoes, you name it. We plant a little bit of everything. And for at least a month I eat a tomato at every meal. I make salsa. I make soup. I make spaghetti sauce. I make my mom take some. (She says our garden tomatoes are the best she’s ever had, by the way.) I’m constantly looking for new recipes in which to use my bags and bags of tomatoes.
And before you ask – no, I don’t can. Why? Because at the moment I don’t have the time to add one more thing to my plate, nor the money to buy all the stuff to start up. Next year. Every year I say next year. I’m also a little more than a little worried that I’ll do it wrong and accidentally poison my whole family…
So until I get over my fear, and find some time and some money, this is what I do to make sure my tomatoes don’t rot in my kitchen.
When you make sun dried tomatoes yourself they turn out sooooo much better than the ones you buy at the store. I make mine “dry” now (like the ones in the bags, not the ones in the jars packed in oil). You can do them drizzled with oil and stored in a jar in your fridge but they spoil faster that way.
I’m gonna preempt this next part by saying this is the kind of endeavor you want to take on over the weekend. At least your first time through. The time element is quite variable depending on the size of your tomatoes and your oven itself.
Take your clean tomatoes and remove any remaining stems. I tried to group them by size but it’s not even slightly necessary that you do that. Cut them in half lengthwise, season them with salt (and pepper if you like a little bite), and place on a cookie sheet cut side up in a 200 degree oven.
Leave them in there until they are dried but not hard – like a raisin – chewy, with just a little plumpness left in them. Most of these ones were done when I took this shot. Some were not. I know this because I picked them up individually to test them. This is one of those things that you really have to go by feel. When you can pick them up and the bottoms are firm (not squooshy, not hard) they are ready to come out. Don’t worry – the temperature is so low you’ve got some wiggle room on the time.
The time varies greatly depending on the size of your tomatoes and on your particular oven. I think mine runs a little cool because it always takes my oven longer than I think it’s supposed to. If you have full size Romas, like the size you might pick up in the grocery store, you probably want to put these in before you go to bed. I’ve read this takes about five hours but my smallest ones probably took eight. The bigger ones took more like 14 hours. At least for your first time…check them every hour or so starting around five hours to be safe. (Like I said – weekend project.)
And here they are all done! Try not to eat them all at once. I actually ate two right off this plate after taking this picture. The flavor of sun dried tomatoes is so very different from a fresh tomato. So much more concentrated. Sweeter. Almost candy-like. You have to try them to understand.
Once your tomatoes are cool, simply put them in a ziplock bag and toss them in your cupboard. You can use them wherever sun dried tomatoes are called for in recipes. Use them in pesto. Chop them up and mix them into mayo for a gourmet spread. Put them out alongside some olives, some bocconcini, some prosciutto and you have a first class antipasto. Add them to pasta sauce, serve them with eggs, in sandwiches, there are a million uses. They make adorable crostini (recipe teaser!) And you know I adore them on my Balsamic Steak Gorgonzola Pizza.
Give it a try, I promise, they’re amazing.
Sun (oven) Dried Tomatoes
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Clean and stem tomatoes. Cut tomatoes in half and season with salt.
Put tomatoes cut-side up on a cookie sheet and dry in the oven until dried chewy like raisins, several hours at least. Test for doneness by pinching between your fingers. The bottoms should be supple but firm – not squooshy and not hard as a rock.
Allow to cool completely before sealing in ziplock bags. Store like you would any other dried fruit in your cupboard.
Makes as many as you want.