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How to Make "Sun" Dried Tomatoes

A carefully dried tomato can carry the taste of summer's sweet abundance through many seasons.  Dried tomatoes provide a distinct chewy texture and richness to pan sauces and stews.  They can be eaten as is for a quick burst of vitamin C.  Making your own during is not hard at all. Equipment

Dried tomatoes are generally made in one of three ways:

  • in a solar cooker or sun dehydrator
  • in a very low temperature oven
  • in a dehydrator

A solar cooker is great because it saves energy.  You can find simple plans to build them at Mother Earth News and elsewhere.  The downside is that they take more monitoring, including bringing in at night if the temperatures drop and cause dew.

Sliced tomatoes can be dried in a single layer on a cookie sheet in a very low temperature oven (125 deg F maximum).  This temperature is best achieved by leaving the door shut with a gas pilot oven lit.  Unfortunately many modern ovens do not keep the pilot light lit and do not allow such a low temperature setting.

A home dehydrator is the more reliable method for creating great dried tomatoes.  We use an American Harvest model scavenged from my parent's basement.  We set it at 125 deg F and leave for approximately 24 hours.

Method

removing seeds from tomato for dehydrating

Slice your tomatoes in half or in 1/2 inch to 1 inch slices, depending on your preference and equipment.

Remove the core and at least some of the liquidy pulp.  I don't mind the taste of a few dried seeds so it doesn't bother me to leave some in.

paste tomatos in dehydrator

Place tomatoes in a single layer in your desired drying apparatus.  It is not necessary to leave much space in between tomatoes because they will shrink significantly.

Start drying.  Monitor regularly, especially with a solar dryer or oven.

dehydrating tomatoes after 5 hours

Test for doneness by breaking a tomato in half.  You should see no beads of liquid.

dried tomatoes after 18 hours

When tomatoes are done, remove them from the drying apparatus and allow to cool to room temperature.

Package in an airtight container.  You can store at room temperature, in the fridge, or freezer.  Because they take up so little room, I place mine in small plastic bags in the freezer until ready to use.

To cook with dried tomatoes, rehydrate them for 15 - 45 minutes in water, red wine, or broth.  Chop if you wish and toss in a sauce.  If using for a stew, cut dry tomatoes with scissors and then add to your recipe.

Keys to Great Dried Tomatoes

  • Use a fully ripe paste tomato.  The variety pictured in this post is Amish Paste, one I grow at home.
  • Be sure they are fully dry before storage.  Nothing breaks a cook's heart like finding a moldy batch of preserved food!
  • Prepare for shrinkage.  Tomatoes lose approximately 75% of their volume when they are dried.  Approximately 10 pounds of tomatoes will dry down to 4 cups of dried tomatoes.

This post added to Two for Tuesdays.