As you may know, I started my own little patio garden this year. I’ve really enjoyed it, and have had some great produce as a result. My husband is a huge tomato fan, so we planted some tomatoes. They were definitely hit or miss. However, a friend gifted me some of his home-grown heirloom tomatoes, and I needed to preserve them for later. So I decided to make my own sun-dried tomatoes and I’ve been super happy with them.
How to make Sun-dried Tomatoes
Well, in my area, actually putting tomatoes in the sun to dry is not recommended. It’s just too humid. So I use a dehydrator, though you can use an oven as well. You can slice tomatoes thinly, or just cut them in half. Obviously, slicing them thinly will result in a much quicker result. I usually do both ways to get a bit of a mix. One of the fun things about making your own sun-dried tomatoes is knowing that you’re getting an all-natural product and adding your own flavors. I very lightly sprinkle them with flaked sea salt and dried oregano from my herb garden. You can add anything you want!
For time and temperature, it obviously will depend on your choice of slicing thickness or type of tomato. I usually run my dehydrator at 130 degrees for 5-6 hours for slices. Flip them after two hours to keep them from sticking to the grates. For chunks, it may take as long as 8 or 9 hours. You don’t want them completely dry, they still need to retain enough moisture to be pliable. Also, even if you slice them very evenly, they will not dry at the same rate. So don’t be afraid to pull some out as they get done and leave the others in.
Types of Tomatoes
I love the different colors and hues of heritage tomatoes, so I usually use those. I also dry cherry tomatoes, and I just cut them in half. Any good tasting tomato will work here, just don’t bother with the hothouse tomatoes. If they don’t have great flavor when they’re fresh, they’re not going to have great flavor when they’re dry. Why bother!
Storing your dried Tomatoes
There are a few ways to go about storing your dried tomatoes. First, you can just seal them in a container and put on the shelf. Sun-dried tomatoes should last 3-6 months that way. Before use, reconstitute them in warm water for 20-30 minutes, then use as directed by your recipe (save the water for making a sauce if that’s what you’re doing!) Next, you can put them in olive oil. If you like, you can use put fresh basil and garlic in with them. If you do, you’ll need to store them in the fridge and use them in the next 5-7 days or so. Finally, if you just season them with dried herbs, you can store them on the shelf for months, even longer if you process them for canning (Please follow USDA canning regulations for this!) This is my preferred method, so I will have them available pretty much anytime.
Using Sun-Dried Tomatoes
You’ll be shocked at how much you love these, and you’ll start thinking of ways to use them. Chop them up and sprinkle on a salad to add some rich tomato flavor. Toss in pasta, add in a few to any sauce for chicken or pork, cook in a stew, go wild! The umami in these will wake up almost any dish. Stay tuned to the blog and I’ll post some of my favorite recipes soon!
As always, I hope you enjoy.