Truly a gourmet ingredient of Italian cooking, “sun-dried” tomatoes are pricey—$5 for a little 3 ounce pouch—but easy to make yourself for free, if you have a garden! Almost no sun-dried tomatoes are actually sun-dried anymore as that process takes a couple of weeks, depends on hot, dry weather, and attracts insects. Here’s how to make the same great-tasting nutritious dried tomatoes the quick and easy way, in your food dryer:
1. Wash garden tomatoes and slice thickly, arranging them on dryer trays. Roma tomatoes will dry the fastest, but any tomato will work fine, even cherry tomatoes (just slice in half). Resist the temptation to slice the tomatoes thinner than 1/2″ to 3/4″. They may dry faster, but you may end up struggling to remove them from the dryer trays if they are too thin. A thicker tomato slice will pop off easily.
2. Dry at 135 degrees (or medium high setting on your food dryer) for approximately 30-40 hours, until tomato slices are very dry, or leathery feeling. I don’t worry about the time very much. Just check them before you go to bed and when you get up in the morning, and they’ll be dry before you know it!
3. Open dryer and separate trays, allowing the tomatoes to cool for 15-30 minutes.If you leave them for hours, they will begin to gather the humidity from the air and become less dry.
4. Chop with a hand food chopper, or process lightly in food processor until just chopped.
5. Store in airtight container, labeled.
Hooray! All that summer goodness is easily tucked away nice and neat without the labor of canning!
Here’s how to use all that delicious summer bounty in the winter months ahead:
- sprinkle on pizza after the sauce and before the cheese.
- shake into casseroles
- add a scoopful to meatloaf
- add to soup liquid for a tomato based soup
- add to boiling water for use the same as diced tomatoes in cooking. Makes a rich, delicious spaghetti sauce!
- add to homemade salad dressing
- put in the blender with dry milk powder, cornstarch, water and basil to make gourmet tomato soup. Simmer until thick and creamy.
- add to alfredo or garlic sauce in pasta dishes to add color and a burst of flavor
- add 2 tablespoons to your cornbread recipe
- make a delicious, colorful dip or spread by putting in the blender: 1 cup reconstituted sun-dried tomatoes, 1/2 cup walnuts, 2 tablespoons onion, 1/4 cup olive oil and a splash of vinegar. Add a little water to get the right consistency. Yum! Fabulous spread on artisan bread!
Whenever using dried tomatoes in a dish that you will not be cooking, reconstitute them first by covering them in warm water (or broth or other liquid) and let them set for 30 minutes. They will now be soft and ready to use raw. Don’t throw away the liquid, as it is nutritious and flavorful!
If you are wishing for oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, simply put your whole dried tomato slices into a wide-mouthed jar, layering them with fresh basil leaves, salt and minced garlic. When the jar is packed and compressed down, add olive oil to cover tomatoes. Store in fridge, and wait for 8 days until the tomatoes have softened before using. This make a delicious condiment! When the tomatoes are gone, use the oil for cooking.
If you are using dried tomatoes in a dish that will be cooked, just toss them in dry, and they will soften as they cook. Because they will soak up some water, they are great for thickening a sauce that is too watery.
Drying tomatoes is so easy that even your kids can do it, slicing and loading the trays, checking them for dryness, chopping, bottling and labeling them. It really is quick and easy!
I love how compact dried tomatoes are! A whole bushel of ripe garden tomatoes can be stored in just one quart jar once dried. And they store wonderfully on your shelf for years so you can enjoy summer’s healthy, fresh taste in your meals, even in the middle of winter.
Now you know what to do with all those tomatoes!
P.S. Learn how to make V8 Powder from your garden veggies!
May I recommend my favorite food dryer: