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Make Sundried Tomatoes in Your Car

Updated on August 23, 2017

No Fuss Sundried Tomatoes Dehydrated in Your Car

Folks, I know you're gonna love this one. Yes, you can make gourmet sun-dried tomatoes in your car!

Fresh sun-dried tomatoes retail for $5, $10, or even $20 a pound. Whether you grow your own tomatoes or take advantage of seasonal sales, making your own sun-dried tomatoes is hands-down the easiest way to preserve the bounty of the season.

When it's too hot to drive, take advantage of the summer heat and preserve tomatoes. In the middle of winter or before the next harvest, there's nothing like the delicious sourness, saltiness and rich flavor of sun-dried tomatoes. Tomatoes of all sizes from cherry to beefsteak can be sun-dried in the car in a few days. Unlike sauces and soups that require tomatoes to be blanched, peeled, and cooked extensively, sun-dried tomatoes need only be sliced, salted and placed in the car for passive solar drying and long-term preservation. I hope you enjoy this new take on an age-old technique.

History of the Sundried Tomato

Origin of the Fruit and Preservation Methods

The sun-dried tomato or pomodori secchi is a one of the specialty ingredients used by gourmet cooks and Italian restaurants. Although tomatoes are associated with Italian foods, they are native to South America, which means there was probably salsa before pasta sauce.

The tomato was brought back to the old world and introduced to the Mediterranean in the 1500s by the Spanish Conquistadors.

Because the first tomatoes brought to Europe were golden yellow, pomodoro, which is the Italian word for tomato, literally means golden apple. In the 1600s, the tomato was first described in the English language using the name love apple, a term that stems from French pomme d'amour a possible corruption of the original Spanish word for tomato, which was pome dei moro or apple of the Moors.

The archetypal red tomato was unknown in Europe until Jesuit priests brought seeds on their return trip from missionary work in Mexico. The modern word tomato originates from tomati which is the name used by tribes in Central America. When the tomato was first introduced, many people believed it was possibly poisonous because it is a member of the solanacae or nightshade family. Until the 1800s, cookbooks instructed a minimum three hours of cooking time to eliminate the raw taste. Today, it's hard to imagine a fruit or vegetable that is loved more.

Before the days of electricity, canning, and modern food preservation,

sun-drying would have been one of the preferred preservation methods. Commercial manufacturers hire workers to spread tons of machine cut tomatoes on the ground or on elevated tables with mesh screens. Outdoors sun-dried tomatoes take about one week to fully cure depending on the humidity and temperature. The processing of dry tomatoes by removing the water and curing with salt can also be achieved in the car or in standard household oven on the lowest setting.

sun dried tomato ingredients
sun dried tomato ingredients

Ingredients and Supplies

Not too many, but you will need:

  • Fresh tomatoes one pound or more
  • One cup of Kosher salt
  • Baking dish
  • Cutting board
  • One very sharp paring knife
  • Cheesecloth (optional)
  • Herbs (optional)
Sun-dried tomatoes provide pure, intensified flavor. For the best results, use vine-ripened tomatoes which are the most flavorful. Because tomatoes have more than 80% water content, it takes a few pounds to make a substantial quantity of sun-dried tomatoes.

Salt is the second most important ingredient for sun-dried tomatoes. Salt acts a desiccant and preservative that pulls water from the fruit and prevents mold or bacterial growth. I prefer Kosher salt for several reasons: It's made from pure sea salt, it's economical, and the large flakes seem to be more effective. Salt will be applied several times throughout the drying process for a pleasantly salty finished product, however the majority of the salt will be washed off by the tomato water.

To dry your tomatoes, use a non-reactive baking dish preferably made from glass. Pyrex dishes and pie plates work great because the sides are high and they're easy to pour from.

Cheesecloth is completely optional. Inside the car there is very little risk for bug infestation compared to drying outside. Cheesecloth can also make it easier to pour of the water without losing any tomatoes. If you choose cheesecloth, you'll need several large, strong rubber bands and some other makeshift devices, such as binder clips, to hold the cheesecloth without letting it drape in the tomatoes.

Sundried Tomato Preparation

1. Wash tomatoes to remove any surface dirt from the skin.

2. Cut tomatoes in halves or quarters. (removing the seeds and gel is not necessary. In fact, much of the tomato's flavor is retained in gooey liquid that surrounds the seeds.)

3.Arrange tomato pieces across the baking dish as tightly as possible. The tomato pieces will shrink dramatically and shift so it's not important to be precise.

4.Salt liberally until all of the piece are coated with a thin layer of salt.

5.Place baking dishes in a sunny part of your automobile, such as the dashboard or rear window of a hatch-back station wagon.

After 2-4 hours check the tomato pieces and drain off water as necessary. I have found the most dramatic water-loss occurs in the first eight hours, so draining the dishes frequently during the first day is extremely important. At night, bring your trays inside and dose liberally with salt. I find it's convenient to store the drying tomatoes in the oven where they are out of the way. As the tomatoes begin to dry, your will notice the raw smell fading and a delicious, tomatoey sweetness developing. Once the majority of the water has drained off, you can add thyme, oregano and other complementary herbs if desired.

If the sun decides to hide while you're drying your tomatoes, simply bring the baking dishes inside and dry inside the oven with the lowest setting, which is approximately 150 to 200 degrees. If any strong odors develop while oven drying, turn the heat off and allow the oven to cool briefly. On average, it take approximately 5 to 7 days before the sundried tomatoes lose their tackiness. The ideal moisture levels allow the sundried tomatoes to remain supple without supplying enough moisture for spoilage to occur. When in doubt, allow the tomatoes to dry further. Removing too much moisture will make the sundried tomatoes brittle. However, it's better to err on the side of dryness.

Once the drying process is complete, simple store the sundried tomatoes pieces in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. To prevent excess moisture, I add one silica desiccant packet to each jar. Although it's unsafe to eat silica pack, they are excellent for prevent moisture buildup in the packaging of moisture sensitive food products. Once dried, tomatoes have an extremely long shelflife. Add a cut ribbon or decorative cloth cover, and gift your sundried tomatoes to someone special.

Sundried Tomato Consumers - Pros and Cons

9.44 in. x 11.8 in.

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Sundried tomatoes are gourmet food items, so they can be vary costly in specialty markets or the grocery store. Does the high cost of sundried tomatoes prevent you from cooking with them more often?

Does this affect your consumption?

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Cooking With Sundried Tomato - Fabulous Ideads for Using Sundried Tomatoes

A handful of hundred tomatoes will spice-up any meal. Crunch a handful of sundried tomatoes into your favorite quiche batter along with drained spinach or a few tablespoons of bacon bits. Sundried tomatoes don't need to be rehydrated for quiche and moist recipes. However, sometimes it's useful reconstitute sundried tomatoes for spreads, dip or dry sandwiches. To rehydrate sundried tomatoes, soak with a few tablespoons of boiling water or hot water from the tap.

Sundried tomatoes are versitle flavoring ingredients. A simple sundried tomato tapanade spread on a slice of French bread, sprinkled with cheese and heated in the toaster oven will turn into instant Mediterranean baguette pizza and dinner for the family in about 20 minutes.

Tomato: A Fresh-from-the-Vine Cookbook
Tomato: A Fresh-from-the-Vine Cookbook

Fresh or sundries, tomatoes add zest to any salad, antipasti, appetizer or cooked dish. With this jam-packed cookbook, you'll never run out of ideas for using your home grown tomatoes!

 
The Heirloom Tomato Cookbook
The Heirloom Tomato Cookbook

Heirloom tomato varieties that have been grown on family farms for centuries are just gaining recognition. Green, gold, red, purple and near black tomatoes have such an amazing variety of flavors and such decorative appeal. Learn all about the great ways to use these magnificent heirloom fruits.

 

Sundried Tomato Taste Test - To Eat or Not To Eat? That is the Question!

Tell Me how you really feel!

Do You Love 'em or Hate 'em?

Sundried Tomato Nutrition Information - What's in a Cup of Sundried Tomatoes?

Sundried tomatoes are extremely rich in vitamin, minerals, amino acidsand essential fatty acids, which are great for preventing signs of aging and promoting healthy skin. Although sundried tomatoes are vitamin-rich vegetables, they also contain very high levels of sodium. However, the intense saltiness is great for flavorful dips or spicing up your favorite Italian dish.

The following nutritional information is provided by the USDA.

1 cup or 54g of Sundried Tomatoes Contains:

139 Calories

583 grams of Protein

7.62 grams of plant-based fat or lipids

6.80 grams of Carbohydrates

30.11 grams of dietary fiber (excellent source!)

6.6 grams of Sugars

Minerals

59 mg Calcium

4.91 mg Iron

105 mg Magnesium

192 mg Phosphorus

1851 mg Potassium

1131 mg Sodium (almost enough salt for an entire day)

1.07 mg Zinc

0.768 mg Copper

0.997 mg Manganese

3 micrograms Selenium

Vitamins

21.2 mg Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid

0.285 mg Thiamin

0.264 mg Riboflavin

4.887 mg Niacin

1.127 mg Pantothenic acid

0.179 mg Vitamin B-6

37 mcg Folate, total

37 mcg Folate, DFE

24 mcg Vitamin A RAE

283 mcg Beta Carotene

472 IU Vitamin A

24787 mcg Lycopene

766 mcg Lutein + zeaxanthin

23.2 mcg Vitamin K (phylloquinone)

Lipids

0.230 g Fatty acids, total saturated

0.002 g 14:0

0.176 g 16:0

0.052 g 18:0

0.263 g Fatty acids, total monounsaturated

0.006 g 16:1 undifferentiated

0.257 g 18:1 undifferentiated

0.602 g Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated

0.596 g 18:2 undifferentiated

0.006 g 18:3 undifferentiated

0 mg Cholesterol

Amino acids

0.056 g Tryptophan

0.193 g Threonine

0.183 g Isoleucine

0.279 g Leucine

0.280 g Lysine

0.066 g Methionine

0.099 g Cystine

0.198 g Phenylalanine

0.131g Tyrosine

0.195 g Valine

0.185 g Arginine

0.116 g Histidine

0.217 g Alanine

1.057 g Aspartic acid

2.809 g Glutamic acid

0.188 g Glycine

0.144 g Proline

0.203 g Serine



Search Amazon for the Hottest Tomato Related Products - Everything from Books to Gourment Foods

Try searching amazing for tomato to find all types of wonderful books about everything from growing to eating tomatoes.

Sonoma Sun-Dried Tomato Halves, 2.5-Pound Bag
Sonoma Sun-Dried Tomato Halves, 2.5-Pound Bag

If you don't feel like making your own sun-dried tomatoes, you can always buy them! This large bag is a great value for making soups, ravioli, manicotti and any dish that calls for these salty treats.

 
Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer
Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer

Of course, if you're really into tomatoes you can grow your own heirloom varieties. Paste varieties like Roma, Opalka and Amish Paste are ideal for making sundried tomatoes because they have much less moisture and much more meat than beefsteak or cherry varieties.

 

Do You Love Sundried Tomatoes? - Share Your Recipes and Fond Tomato Memories

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    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

      June Parker 4 years ago from New York

      Who knew that something that taste so incredibly good could be so nutritious? The best is sun drying in the car instead of building a screen drying frame. Totally cool. I have to try this! *Squid Angel Blessed* and pinned to my "Stocking Up" board.

    • Carashops profile image

      Cara 5 years ago

      Something I'd love to try.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      What an absolutely unique idea, I was looking for information on canning tomatoes and saw this and just had to come on over for this very cool idea!

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      This is great information. I never heard of this before. Great lens.

    • QuiltFinger profile image
      Author

      QuiltFinger 5 years ago from Tennessee

      @CuppaJo: Awesome! Thanks so much for sharing your results! You're going to love them, and so much cheaper than store bought! Thanks for stopping by!

    • CuppaJo profile image

      CuppaJo 5 years ago

      Hey, just wanted to say it totally worked...and it only took like 8 hrs (spread over 2 days). It's been way hot here.

    • CuppaJo profile image

      CuppaJo 5 years ago

      Thanks for this lens! I've got them baking in my car right now, hope they come out ok!

    • Valerie Bloom profile image

      Valerie Bloom 5 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      Awesome!

    • profile image

      blanckj 6 years ago

      Interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    • tvyps profile image

      Teri Villars 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      When you can grow things in your car, it's time to clean the floorboard! ha! Cool lens.

    • KarenHC profile image

      Karen 6 years ago from U.S.

      I've just recently started cooking more with sundried tomatoes, and I love the taste. I'm looking forward to drying our own sundried tomatoes next summer, using your method of drying them in the car. Some of the recipe links you included here sound very good too!