Sun-dried Tomatoes: Here Are 3 Ways to Make This Pantry Staple! by Chef Gigi Gaggero
If your kitchen is abundant with beautiful sun-kissed tomatoes, you have plans: making sun-dried tomatoes! Sun-dried tomatoes always make a great pantry addition. Processing is incredibly easy and requires no special equipment!
- tomatoes, cleaned and sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices, seeds removed, skin intact
- olive oil
- garlic, peeled and left whole
- fresh or dried herbs, cleaned and picked over
- dried spices of your choice
Here’s how to oven dry them:
- Preheat the oven to 150 degrees F. Anything less will help bacteria growth, so regardless what anyone tells you, don't lower the temperature.
- On a parchment or silicone-lined baking sheet, place a cookie cooling rack or screen on top. Lay the cut tomato slices on the drying rack in rows. Make sure there is ample space between each slice (this will help with air circulation). If you do not have the tomatoes on a rack, you will need to flip them during the process.
- Sprinkle the slices with sea salt. Add optional flavoring, if desired, with fresh cracked pepper and dried herbs. Italian seasoning, thyme or oregano are all commonly used.
- Dry until all moisture is evaporated. This could take all day. Dry with oven door shut for 10-24 hours. Rotate the baking sheets onto different racks occasionally during the dry process.
Other ways to make sun-dried tomatoes:
- A Food Dehydrator: A food dehydrator with adjustable temperature controls and a timer are best. Using a dehydrator seems to yield the most consistent results. Also, it is the easiest. Because it is designed to eliminate hydration, these machines will achieve the best yields. Follow manufactures directions.
- The Hot Sun: Lay the cut tomato slices on drying racks or onto a baking sheet of you do not have a drying screen. Make sure there is ample space between each slice. If you do not have the tomatoes on a rack, you will need to flip them during the process. Sprinkle the slices with sea salt. Add optional flavoring. Cover slices loosely with a cheesecloth to keep any potential for bugs or dust coming into contact with the tomatoes. It's best to begin in the morning and allow the process go until sunset. It may take two to three days depending on the temperature and the humidity in your geographical area, the water content of the tomatoes, the thickness of the slices and how well the air is able to circulate around them. Remember to bring the tomatoes in the house overnight. When complete, tomatoes should be flexible, like a fresh raisin. You should be able to describe them as wrinkled with a deep reddish color. Remove from drying area and allow cool to room temperature about 30-60 minutes.
Here’s how to store them:
- Store airtight packed in oil with garlic and herbs, or left dry. The freezer is best – there the dried tomatoes will retain their color and flavor for about nine to 12 months. A fridge is OK for a few weeks, but if there is mostly moisture left in them, they WILL start to get moldy in a month or so.
- A vacuum sealer will help to increase the longevity of dried tomatoes in the fridge. Dried tomatoes not packed in oil will quickly reabsorb moisture. Make sure your containers are airtight. Be sure to spot check your newly packaged dried tomatoes every day for about a week.
- Make sure there are no signs of condensation in the containers. If you see any moisture, remove the tomatoes immediately, place them back in the food dryer and resume the drying process. If you like to have your dried tomatoes in a seasoned oil, such as olive oil with basil, thyme, oregano and/or minced or powdered garlic or garlic salt, it is best to do this when you are ready to eat them, or shortly before, and refrigerate them.
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