Fast and Easy DIY Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Sun Dried Tomato Recipe & Techniques
The following is a super easy technique for making the most delicious sun-dried tomatoes. If you don't have a dehydrator there are some alternate methods I'll share at the end. We only use the dehydrator for the convenience, because it's simply easier than setting up outside and actually sun drying.
Sun Drying or Dehydrating Tomatoes
This is a great way to preserve tomatoes. You can dry and then freeze them, store them in olive oil, or place them in any airtight container. They never really last long enough around here to test just how long they will keep, but I have heard up to six months when stored properly. They take a long time to prepare, but don't let that deter you from trying them – they are definitely worth the wait!
Sun Dried tomatoes can be eaten as a healthy snack (delicious) or used later in pasta sauces. You can also rehydrate them in dressing or olive oil and add them to salads. There are numerous possibilities and they are SO delicious. This is my favorite method of preservation because it really locks in that intense aroma and flavor. We can only eat so many tomatoes as they ripen, so drying them keeps them handy for later.
Preparing our tomatoes for drying
Food dehydrators are an excellent investment. You can make dozens of healthy snacks from jerky, to fruit chips and of course - "sun dried" tomatoes without the hassle of actual sun drying. Dehydrators easily pay for themselves over time due to the amount you save on prepackaged snacks. They also prevent waste and ensure that the foods you consume are cleaner and preservative and chemical free.
Recipe and Directions Dehydrated Tomatoes
Prep time: 5 Minutes Cooking Time: Varies by method 3 to 8+ hours
Sauce: (enough for at least a dozen tomatoes we use romas and larger varieties)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing (any variety you like)
1 – 2 Tablespoons finely chopped Basil
1 Tsp finely chopped Oregano
Fresh or Minced Garlic – you decide!
Sea salt and pepper (to taste)
Mix all of these ingredients into a medium sized mixing bowl and let it chill in the fridge for a few hours to blend the flavors. I will leave the amount of garlic, salt, and pepper to the individual as some people love garlic and others don't like it. My advice is don't get too carried away because the flavors of your blend intensify as your tomatoes dry .
In the meantime, go to your garden and harvest tomatoes. This should be enough to cover about a dozen or more Roma tomatoes and fill a large dehydrator.
Slice your tomatoes in ¼ inch thick slices. You don't want the slices too thick or it takes too long to dry them and they don't dry as evenly. Thick slices may remain "spongy" in spots which is not pleasant. *I highly recommend the use of a mandolin to get uniform slices that dry evenly. Another good kitchen investment.*
Dip the slices in the mixture and coat thoroughly, shake off excess. Place on dehydrator trays with ½ inch space between tomatoes. You don't want them to touch or it slows drying time and causes the tomatoes to stick together.
For dehydrators with a heat setting – use the lowest setting. For those with dehydrators without a specific heat setting; you will have to carefully watch your tomatoes and rotate them periodically.
Every hour or so you will want to turn your tomato slices and rotate your trays, placing the top tray on the bottom and stacking in reverse order. This is very important if your dehydrator dries vertically rather than horizontally. This re-stacking and turning helps your tomatoes dry evenly.
As your tomatoes dry all that yummy goodness from the dressing and herbs soaks deep into the tomatoes giving them amazing flavor!
Use the Oven
You can also dehydrate tomatoes in the oven. For this, you need to place a cooling rack on top of a large cookie sheet, then place your tomatoes slices on the rack. Your tomatoes need a place to drip and they also need to breathing room so that the heat and air can move all the way around them. You can't bake them in a low oven directly on a sheet and get good results. Your oven should be turned on at a very low setting 200 degrees or so. Turn the tomatoes periodically. Spray the rack with a bit of non-stick cooking spray prior to cooking.
A great way to do this is old window screens – carefully and thoroughly cleaned and sanitized beforehand of course! Place the screens on sawhorses so that the screens are off the ground and air can get your tomatoes on all sides. Be sure you place this in an area where the sun is shining directly for several hours; the south side of your home is usually the best.
This is the most authentic way to sun dry a tomato, of course it is also the least convenient. It can take up to two days and you will have to bring in your tomatoes at night. You'll also have to watch them carefully because they are outside with the bugs, birds etc. For this reason, we rarely dry outside, although it is fun to try at least once and let the kids participate in it.
Other Things to Consider
Be creative – try a batch like this and then do a different batch with a different blend of herbs or spices. Summer savory is a great choice, sage, rosemary, garlic and pepper. There are endless possibilities and it's hard to mess these up.
If you give them to others they will want more! It's a great gift idea and people really appreciate them. Package them in a jar of olive oil or in a pretty airtight glass jar on their own. They look and taste amazing.
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© 2011 Christin Sander
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