make your own “sun-dried” tomatoes

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Drying tomatoes is a Damsel-approved method of preserving tomatoes for eating later. She likes doing it because:

  1. No slaving over hot stoves, as opposed to canning.
  2. No peeling.
  3. Takes up way, way less storage space.
  4. The end product is very versatile.

To dry tomatoes, you need only tomatoes and a heat source. Yes, you can sun-dry tomatoes, and you can do them in the oven. The Damsel used a dehydrator because she has one.

Wash the tomatoes well and then slice. Some people peel them first but the fancy kind you buy in the store aren’t peeled, so why should you?

The Damsel used Romas but any kind will do. If you slice in rounds, they will dry faster.

But, if you want the look of the sun-dried tomatoes you buy at the store, just cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise like so. (Large beefsteak tomatoes need to be cut more than just in half, or you’ll wait a very long time for them to dry.)

Cut a shallow slit on the skin side. Goodness! Be careful!

Arrange the tomatoes on the dehydrator screen (or cookie sheet if you’re doing them in the oven) cut side up, and sprinkle with salt, if you like. The Damsel likes.

Turn the dehydrator on, or set your oven for the lowest temperature and leave the door ajar. The Damsel would NOT like to have her oven on in this manner in the summertime, so she’s glad to have a dehydrator. The Damsel has heard of people drying stuff in cars, and she can believe it because hello, cars can be freakishly hot inside. But this is a problem if you need to actually DRIVE your car anywhere.

And…yes…you could dry them in the sun. But you’ll have to fiddle with some way of covering the trays that doesn’t touch them, like a cheesecloth tent of some kind, because bugs will get on them. And you’ll have to bring them in at night, or the morning dew will be dewy on them. Using the sun is terribly old-school, it’s true.

So, get it set up with your hotness of choice. Walk away. It takes a while. The Damsel hates waiting, but there’s nothing for it. After a couple of DAYS the tomatoes look like this. They are done when they are still pliable, but no moisture remains. If you tear one in half, you should see no beads of moisture along the tear. Check them every few hours…take the smaller pieces out as they dry. The circular cuts may dry in only one day.

The dried tomatoes can be stored in glass, ziplocks, etc.  Just something that will keep them cool and dry.

If you want to make them into those fancy “sun-dried” tomatoes in olive oil, like you buy in stores for $$$$, just put these in a pretty jar, add any herbs you like, (the Damsel likes garlic and fresh basil) and then cover with olive oil. Leave for 24 hours at room temperature before using, then refrigerate. The Damsel has heard it’s best to make this up as you need it rather than keep tomatoes in olive oil for months on end. Also, don’t be alarmed if the oil gets solidified in the refrigerator. Once it comes back to room temperature (or you nuke it) the oil will melt and look normal again. Delicious in pasta and pizza!

Stay tuned for more uses. If you have a favorite way to use dried tomatoes, chime right in.

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9 thoughts on “make your own “sun-dried” tomatoes

  1. We must be the same variety of “old!” 😉 Today is my first day of the 2009 Tomato Wars and the grand’s are slicing for the dehydrator while I blanch and peel to can. We actually LOVE dried cherry tomatoes — one g-kid slices them in half and the other loads them as closely on the trays as she can. We always say we’ll soak a few in basil and oil for winter salads, but in reality most of them disappear right along with the dried figs, prunes and pears as a handy pocket snack. Yummm!

    • I love to eat them for snacks, too, although my kids look at me like I’m nuts. Tastes like tomato soup! Yum!

      haha love your name…the “Tomato Wars”…I call it the same thing.

  2. Forgive me for not being educated in the old school ways, but I need some clarification. You say that the dried tomatoes can be kept in a ziplock bag or a jar—how long can they be kept this way? A winter, a year, a lifetime? Thank-you

    • Great question! They can be kept for years this way, as long as they stay dry. They’ll taste and look best during the first year, however. You can put them in the freezer for double security, if you have the room, but it’s not necessary.

  3. Gotta try this too along with freezing my tomatos. I planted only three tomato plants and I’m sure I’ll be getting at least a bushel off of them! One plant is literally over 5 feet wide and about 3 feet high. Yikes! We love tomatos fresh but its nice to have easy ways to preserve them without canning.

  4. Pingback: Real Self Reliance » The Self Reliant Digest #15

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