Sunday, September 7, 2014

Drying tomatoes

Drying tomatoes is a good way to store some of the summer for the colder months. You should pick a day where you're planning to be around the house, as it takes many hours to dry the tomatoes, and you need to start checking them after the first couple of hours to remove any that have fully dried.

While you can dry any tomato, I started with a large colander of cherry and grape tomatoes.
Cut the tomatoes in half and place cut side up on a cookie sheet. Note that the tomatoes will discolor your pan a bit (very shiny where the tomatoes were, discolored where they weren't), but it doesn't ruin the pan. If you care about having your pans be uniformly shiny, you might want to put down aluminum foil or parchment paper, although I've not tried using either of these.
I put the trays in an oven set at 200 degrees. Much higher and the tomatoes will roast, rather than dry out. I add the trays to the oven as I finish each one. After about 45 minutes of cutting tomatoes and arranging them on the cookie sheets, I had three trays of tomatoes in the oven.
After 2-3 hours, I start to look at the trays 30 minutes to check on how the tomatoes are drying. The smaller ones will dry first; pull them off the tray into a bowl on the counter before putting the tray back into the oven to continue drying the rest. If you want the process to go a bit more quickly, try 250 degrees, but then be sure to check the tomatoes more often.
I like to leave the tomatoes soft; I don't dry them to a crisp.
After over 7 hours in the oven, I decided that I wanted to be done with drying tomatoes for the day. I took the tomatoes that had dried the least and put them into a jar. Then I added olive oil to the tomatoes in the jar. I'm planning to use these tomatoes and the oil to make a dried tomato pesto in the next week or so. (Don't leave dried tomatoes in oil in your fridge for more than a couple of weeks. The first year I dried tomatoes, I stored all of them in oil in the fridge. I ended up having to throw away several jars of tomatoes that had gone bad, which was very sad.)
Instead, store your dried tomatoes in bags in the freezer.

I use them on pizza, in quiche, blended with feta cheese as a spread, and to make dried tomato pesto. They are also good as a snack (particularly when you're pulling them off the trays when first dried).

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