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Let’s be honest—store-bought sun-dried tomatoes tend to be a bit leathery and tough, without much flavour. They seem like a faded, desiccated memory of tomato rather than a fragrant, intensified taste of summer days. On the other hand, homemade “sun-dried”1 tomatoes are another thing entirely: fragrant and chewy but not tough, with complex, concentrated tomato flavour and a slight sweetness.
Slow baked in the oven makes these oven-dried tomatoes the best. Drizzle with olive oil, toss with spices to make the perfect appetizer or side dish.
Not a labour-intensive process, but certainly a lengthy one. Of all the methods for preserving tomatoes, drying them in the oven is the least fussy. Plus, drying preserves their sweetness and flavour best. And these flavorful little gems cost so little when made at home; it’s worth the time they need to achieve that chewy, raisin-like texture.
One thing I can guarantee is the appetizing fragrance in your house of tomatoes slowly roasting to dried perfection, especially if you choose to season them with garlic and herbs.
In the meantime, think of all the tomato bread, salads, pizzas, pasta, pesto and sauces you’ll be able to make once they’re done. It’s tempting to prematurely devour those tiny little sweeties, hot, pungent, sweet & salty with good virgin olive oil as they are, spread on crackers or toasts.
Here are other mouth-watering Tomato Recipes you should also make (and eat):
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- 1 Kg Tomato - firm ripe Roma*– about 10 tomatoes
- 2 tbsp Sugar
- 1 tsp Salt
Step 2 (seasoning)
- ¼ cup Olive oil - extra virgin
- 1 tbsp Minced Garlic - Or sliced cloves
- Black pepper - Ground - optional – or hot pepper flakes if desired
- Fresh herbs - (**optional for seasoning: dried and/or fresh basil, dried oregano, dried thyme, sage, parsley)
Step 3 (packing)
- Olive oil - (More for packing into a jar, if desired)
- Wash all whole tomatoes thoroughly under clean, running water.
- Cut out the stem and scar and the hard portion of the core lying under it.
- Cut the tomatoes in half through the equator (not through the stem).
- Remove the seeds and gelatinous pulp.
- If the tomato is more than about 2 inches long, cut it in quarters.
- Make a small slit with the tip of a sharp paring knife in the back (peel side) of each tomato half to help them dry.
- Place tomato pieces into a Strainer, toss with salt and sugar and wait about 30 minutes to drain off liquid.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C).
- Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer, with the cut surface up, on lightly greased (drizzle with a little olive oil) non-stick baking & cookie sheets (glass, ceramic or porcelain dishes are OK.) Do not use aluminum foil or aluminum baking sheets as the acid in the tomato will react with the metal.
- Make sure there is a bit of space around each tomato and that they're not touching so they can dry evenly.
- Place baking sheet in the middle of the oven for 1 hour. There will be lots of water.
- Remove from oven and place them carefully into a Strainer or colander (or directly to another clean baking sheet). Wash the baking sheet (it’s the most important step for the success of the recipe).
- Reduce the oven temperature to 320°F (160°C).
- Return the tomatoes to the baking sheet and arrange them in a single layer, with the cut surface down.
- Leave them another 1 hour and repeat the process to remove the water, transferring them to a clean baking sheet.
Step 2 (seasoning)
- Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer, with the cut surface up.
- Blend olive oil, salt (if needed), pepper, herbs and garlic in a small bowl. Sprinkle tomatoes with the seasonings, generously.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F (150°C). Resist the temptation to use a higher temperature to speed up the process, as then you'd be cooking the tomatoes instead of drying them.
- Leave until the tomatoes are dehydrated and a bit leathery, but not hard, brittle, or crispy. They should still be somewhat chewy and flexible.
- Check them every hour during drying.
- Tip: It depends on how dry they already are. After 1 hour with the seasoning, if I don’t need them right away, I turn off the oven and let the tomatoes sit in the oven to dry in the residual heat.
- If it is not ready, continue to dry, turning the tomatoes every hour and gently pressing flatter and flatter until tomatoes are dry.
- Depending on your tomatoes and oven, this can take anywhere from 3 to 5 hours, including the 2 hours from step 1. They are done when they are dry but still pliable, when the tips are rounded. The texture is about that of a dried apricot. If dried too long, they become tough and leathery. If not dried long enough, they will mold and mildew, unless packed in oil. So watch them carefully while they dry.
- Be aware that not all of the tomatoes will dry at the same rate. They do not all have the same amount of moisture, nor do they experience the same temperature and air circulation while they are drying. Try to remove them on an individual basis before they become tough.
Step 3 (packing)
- In a bowl, toss the dried tomatoes with olive oil, minced garlic (if desired), salt (try it before; usually there is no need to add more), fresh and/or dried herbs and black or hot pepper flakes if desired.
- Cool thoroughly and Store these tasty gems under olive oil in a very clean, very dry jar or container in the refrigerator for up to a week*** or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
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