Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Oven-Dried Tomatoes!

Dude, don't you love sun dried tomatoes?  I sure do.  But why are they so expensive?  I'll tell you why: because they take forever to dry!

After weeks of stressing over whether I was going to get any tomatoes this year, my wishes were rewarded with pounds of little tomatoes thanks to the extended summer we had.  We ate a bunch of them but we're still getting them.  And to be honest, I'm not a huge fan of a straight tomato.  So eating them as is is not something I can do easily. 

Since my counter and 'fridge was getting over-run with them, I really needed to do something about it.  I already have three large jars of canned tomatoes from the canning party my family had late in the summer so I didn't feel like I needed more.  Then I had an epiphany: sun dried tomatoes!

But the sun is gone, so the oven did the trick.  I made two batches.  Here's the process:

I started with my heirloom tomatoes that I grew from seed that I saved last year.  These tomatoes aren't very big, aren't very lumpy like normal heirlooms, and come in various sizes.  I had ones that were as big as a roma, down to ones just larger than a cherry. 

So for the first batch, I just cut them into quarters or halves.  I cut out the green cores where the stems were and gave them a little squeeze to get out any extra juice and seeds.  Then I arranged them onto a wire cooling rack and a cookie sheet sprayed with a little olive oil.

For the next batch, I peeled the tomatoes using the quick boiling method.  (Boil the tomatoes for 45 seconds, then put them into an ice bath.  The skins will then peel easily.)  Then I did the same.  Cut, core, squeeze, and arrange onto a cookie sheet.  Here is what the peeled ones looked like:

I then put all the trays into an oven heated to 200 degrees.  I was a little worried that 200 degrees would be too high, but I think it was perfect.  I checked on them after a few hours and they were still pretty soggy. 

BEFORE: Skins on top, naked ones on the bottom.
After 4 hours, I had to go to bed, so I turned off the oven and just left the tomatoes in the oven.  I then woke up the next morning and just turned the oven back on and gave it another 5 hours.  I decided they were finished when they weren't quite crispy, but more rubbery.

So shriveled...
I kept the two batches separated and ended up with probably 2 cups worth.  I put them in baggies and sucked out as much air as I could with a straw.  Into the freezer they went and are ready for use!

*I actually used them tonight and mixed them in with some brown butter sage sauce with chantrelles to put over butternust squash ravioli, and it was delicious.  So much good tomato flavor!  I guess it makes sense that when you take all the water out of a tomato, you're just left with pure flavor!  I think this was a pretty smart use of my tomatoes that I will be enjoying for a while.

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