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How to Make Sundried Tomatoes
I plant a small garden in my backyard every summer. There are a few vegetables (and fruits) I incorporate every year: tomatoes, cucumbers and green peppers are my staples-as is basil (I absolutely adore fresh basil-and it dries nicely too!) I never have a problem giving away the extra cucumbers or peppers I have, but tomatoes are another story. Just about everyone I know has at least one plant and during a good summer there is always an over abundance of the fruit. I hate throwing anything away-and having too many tomatoes became a huge problem for me. I used them in salads, fried them, and made salsa-but I always had too many left over. I was frustrated -until I got an idea-why not SUN DRY them?
Why Sun Dry Tomatoes
If you've never had sundried tomatoes I encourage you to run to your local farmers market or supermarket and get some. They are fabulous! The drying process brings out the sugars in the tomatoes and makes them so sweet and delicious. You can use them in almost everything: pasta sauces, breads, pizza, in salads-just about anywhere. The first time I had them they were baked into bagels with basil and garlic-yummo!!
If you do find the dried red gems in your local store the first thing you will notice is that they are mucho expensive! A very small jar of the fruit soaked in olive oil will run you around $5. If you are lucky enough to find them dried in your produce department be prepared to shell out at least $8 a pound depending on the season. I don't know about you-but I don't have that much money to spend on something that is uber simple to make.
The Sun Drying Process
The first time I tried to sundry tomatoes I cut the fruits up, placed them on a cookie sheet, and put them on the table on the back porch to dry. What a mistake. First of all the tomatoes attracted all sorts of bugs including flies and gnats. I spend much of the afternoon chasing the pests away. Secondly the process took much longer than I anticipated. The tomatoes sat out all afternoon and hadn't dried. I figured there had to be a better way.
So I experimented with the oven. After several attempts I discovered the best way to dry the fruits was to put the oven on the lowest setting-and let the tomatoes sit for several hours. The results were delicious. If you don't want to tie up your oven for several hours you can heat your oven then turn it off and let the tomatoes sit inside overnight. Whichever way you choose follow the directions below and you won't be disappointed.
- Fresh Tomatoes
- Olive Oil
- Drizzle a very small amount of olive oil onto a cookie sheet or baking pan. Spread the oil on the sheet in a very thin layer-the oil is used so that the tomatoes don't stick. If you don't want to use olive oil spray the pan with a nonstick spray. It is necessary to lightly grease the pan, if you don't the tomatoes will stick and will be very hard to get off.
- Thinly slice your tomatoes and place them in a single layer on the cookie sheet or in the baking pan. You can crowd them because they will shrink as they dry.
- Turn your oven on to the lowest setting. I use 170 degrees. Place the cookie sheet into the oven and check on it every few hours. The tomatoes are done when they become a rich red/brown color.
- Remove the tomatoes from you cookie sheet and put them in an airtight container. If you don't have a container on hand just put them in a zip lock bag. The tomatoes will keep for several months in your cupboard.
- You can also placed the tomatoes in a small jar that contains olive oil. Tomatoes saved this way make a great gift for your favorite foodie.
That's it! Super simple-and super delicious. Start drying your extra tomatoes now so that you have them to use in your favorite winter recipes. Try drying a few extra batches to give as gifts for the holiday season.
I've included an easy recipe below for a delicious sundried tomato and basil bread.For a great bread basket gift layer dry ingredients in a mason jar and put it along with a jar of your sun dried tomatoes and the recipe in a basket -VIOLA-an awesome gift for your favorite cook.
Sun Dried Tomato and Basil Bread
2 packages of active dry yeast, 1 Cup of Warm Water, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 3 cups of flour, 1/2 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes, 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon dried basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Let mixture sit until foamy. Mix dry ingredients together. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Cover and let stand for 1 hour. Punch down dough, form into a loaf, and let rise for another 30 minutes in a lightly greased pan. While dough is rising preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake bread for 20 minutes or until it is golden brown and sound hollow when you tap your finger on the top.