Homemade Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Posted by on Monday Aug 13th, 2012 | Print

People have accused me of having a love affair with salt. My retort (which I usually keep inside my head) is that I just like things with flavor.

A preference for food with, you know, lots of flavor, has led me to seek out dishes that have the absolute most taste per square millimeter, and that search has led to making sun-dried tomatoes — concentrated little morsels of tomatoes’ sweet-and-savory-ness — at home. Summer’s abundant tomato harvest begs to be preserved, and once you’ve exhausted tomato saucesalsa, and ketchup, sun-dried tomatoes are a brilliant solution.


I took a longing look through White on Rice’s post about actually sun-drying tomatoes with sun over the course of a couple of days. Then I took a long look at my apartment, with its shady fire escape and dusty windowsill, and I decided that my oven was going to be the vehicle for turning my fresh plum tomato slices into their chewy “sun”-dried alter egos.

It was a fine choice, though you might argue that gas heat lacks the romance of sunshine.

By slowly cooking sliced tomatoes at a low temperature, you zap them of their moisture, leaving raisin-like remains a third the size of the slice you started out with, and containing all of the original flavors. You don’t add any olive oil, as you would when you’re simply roasting tomatoes until they burst, but you do add herbs and my one true love, coarse salt.

I start with plum tomatoes, cut into thirds. We all adore a big ugly heirloom or petite cherry tomato, but both have a bit too much water to make them practical for drying. In fact, I extract some moisture from the plum tomatoes before I even put them in the oven, using the same method as for sliced eggplant about to be roasted: salting, resting, and blotting.

An important trick is drying the tomatoes on a rack, instead of right on the baking sheet. This way, hot air surrounds the fruit from all sides, preventing it from basking in its own juices, which could risk a loss of sweetness or a burn from the oven.

And since you’re taking the long route and making these treats from scratch, you don’t have to rely on an antipasti bar’s selection to make key taste decisions for you. If you like slightly plumper sun-dried tomatoes, remove them from the oven sooner; chewier, go longer. If you’re always cursing the copious amounts of olive oil in your sun-dried tomato jar, you can skip the oil all together and store the cooled tomatoes dry, in a container in the fridge. I’ve steeped garlic in my oil to season it, but you can add hot pepper, oregano, or other dried herbs.

The one place I didn’t go was canning. It’s hard to can food that’s not very acidic in oil, and I didn’t want to risk a bad outcome. Since these keep so well in the fridge, in oil or not, I skipped the canning conundrum completely. If you know the best way to can sun-dried tomatoes in oil, share in the comments! (The downside is that your oil, if you use it, will solidify in the fridge. But that never bothers me when I’m scooping it out to flavor salad dressing or pesto.)

**Recipe**

Homemade Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Makes an 8-ounce jar, easily doubled, tripled, etc., so long as you have oven space.

Update: a couple of notes, as apparently botulism can rear its head in the fridge, too! If you want to keep these in oil for more than 4 days, you should either freeze them or avoid flavoring the oil with garlic and leave it plain instead. Tomatoes in oil and garlic stored in home fridges can still be dangerous, so best not to test the fates.

Ingredients
1 pound plum tomatoes (5-6)
a few pinches coarse salt
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup olive oil (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)

Preheat oven to 200°F. Place a metal rack on a baking sheet.

Cut each tomato in thirds lengthwise. Each slice should be about 1/3-inch thick.

Sprinkle salt on the cut sides of the tomatoes–not more than you’d want to eat though! Line a cutting board with a dish towel or paper towels and place the tomatoes on top. Top with another dish towel and another cutting board. Weight with a heavy cookbook or two. Leave for 20 minutes. This helps get some of the tomato’s juices out early, before they go in the oven.

Remove the tomatoes from the cutting board sandwich, dusting off any salt that hasn’t dissolved, and place them on the rack, with at least 1 inch in between. Sprinkle with the fresh thyme.

Bake for about 5 hours, until the tomatoes are dry to the touch and have wrinkled around the edges. You can really decide how dry you want them–as dry as raisins? or do you want to leave a little plumpness? Watch them (and try them) as they cook, and decide for yourself. When done, remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.

If you’re going to be storing your tomatoes in olive oil, place the olive oil and garlic in a small jar while the tomatoes are cooking, and let the garlic steep to flavor the oil.

When the tomatoes are cool, add them to the oil. Store in the fridge for 4 days. If not using oil, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a few weeks.

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  • http://www.insalatadisillabe.blogspot.com/ Elisa @ Insalata di Sillabe

    OMG, this recipe looks delicious and perfect for people like me, who loves things with flavor! I always add salt to pretty much everything excepts for cakes and sweets! 
    Plus, it’s a great way to finish the basket of plum tomatoes I bought some days ago at the farmers’ market! I have to say I’ve never made sun-dried vegetables before, but I guess there’s always a first time!

    Thanks for sharing!
    xo Elisa 

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      You’ll totally love these, Elisa! Glad to have a salt-loving partner in crime!

  • http://chicgeekery.blogspot.com/ Mal @ The Chic Geek

    mmmm, these looks so incredibly wonderful!

  • http://thechaoticcook.blogspot.co.uk/ Abbe

    I’ve just used the last of my shop bought sun dried tomatoes, full of preservatives (I would imagine) – I wil most definitely be giving your way of doing this a try. Sunsghine is in short supply here, and my dog has a penchant for tomatoes – so they wouldn’t last five minutes in the fresh air!

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      Ha! We were having a week of thunderstorms when I made these so outdoors really was a no go. Hilarious that your dog adores tomatoes!

  • http://twitter.com/Katrinadingle Warm Vanilla Sugar

    Oh fun! I’ve been wanting to try this for so long now!

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      Let me know if you do – they’re totally addictive (I think…can’t wait to hear if you like em as much as I do).

  • Robyn

    This sounds great! Do you know how long these will last in the refrigerator?

    Robyn

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      In oil, at least a month or two. If you leave them plain, at least two weeks.

  • http://threemorebites.com/ Tawcan

    Hey that’s a really good idea, I didn’t even thought about making homemade sun-dried tomatoes. 

  • http://www.scordo.com/ Scordo.com

    Good post. Our family hails from southern Italy (the land of the sun dried tomato) and the very best sun dried tomatoes are, indeed, dried in the sun. We always advise our readers if they don’t live in a part of the country where they can dry tomatoes outdoors (there are only a few places I can think of out West) then they should aim to purchase sun dried tomatoes directly from a supplier who imports them from Europe. Our preserving method and technique also varies a bit from your method: http://www.scordo.com/2009/08/recipe-homemade-sun-dried-tomatoes-olive-oil.html

  • Susige

    I saw this on Food52 and used the process to “sun dry” yellow cherry tomatoes that I sliced in half and baked at 200 for about six hours as I forgot to put them on a rack. I added them to a pot of Jasmine rice cooked in vegetable broth and butter and served it as a side dish for cod fish in parchment over a bed of succotash to rave reviews! The rice with the sweet, chewy tomatoes was so delicious and perfectly completed the rest of the meat. Thanks for the directions!

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      That sounds just fantastic! Putting rice with sun-drieds (not to mention cod in parchment) on my “must-try” list.

  • Jayne

    Fantastic! I am making these for sure! 

  • http://www.primalbritain.co.uk/ Gary Conway

    I love these but never thought of doing it myself. I’ll have to try it out!

  • Mivalu

    I wonder if it would be ok to pressure can these. I love sun dried tomatoes.

  • http://twitter.com/punkdomestics Punk Domestics

    I’m the founder/moderator for Punk Domestics (www.punkdomestics.com), a community site for those of use obsessed with, er, interested in DIY food. It’s sort of like Tastespotting, but specific to the niche. I’d love for you to submit this to the site. Good stuff!

  • Bobbie

    Hello! Love to dry my tomatoes, they are delicious. Just a word of caution: Botulism organisms love low oxygen, low acid environments and that’s just what garlic or herbs in oil provide. Check out the recent publication from the Oregon State Extension on safe preservation of dried herbs and vegetables in oil at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/lane/food-preservation/publications

    • Basil None

      I’ve never had any trouble with items packed in oil as long as the oil completely covers the items….the trouble comes when you use up too much of the oil before using the items and the items are introduced to air again. I also keep shredded ginger in sherry in the fridge – a wonderful addition to the pan – just watch the alcohol when first adding it so the alcohol doesn’t flame in a hot pan.

  • Becky

    I was looking for a source for long term storage for tomatoes, would this method work for that? From growing season to growing season. Could they just be dried out and stored in a glass jar in a cool pantry area and used throughout the winter months safely? Thank you :)

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      They can likely be stored in a more acidic solution than oil, but I’m afraid I haven’t experimented with that. Even once dry, I think they’d have too much bacteria to store in a cool pantry area.

  • ToniK

    I’ve also heard that they can be frozen after drying…trying it tonight.

  • Julia

    I love those ovendried tomatoes, it’s jsut something totally different than the chewy things you get in the supermarket. Made already a few jars this summer myself!
    http://nadelundgabel.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/flavour-concentration-oven-dried-cocktail-tomatoes/

  • http://www.facebook.com/chef.kevin.ashton Kevin Ashton

    Have you tried storing the “sun” dried tomatoes in a smoked rapeseed oil as an alternative? The tomatoes take on a subtle smokey note which is delicious especially if you go onto make a sauce with them.

    Kevin Ashton
    http://wannabetvchef.blog.co.uk

  • borisslav

    You might want to replace the olive oil with sunflower oil as it can be held longer in the fridge. You can also put the tomatoes in a jar – with or without oil, put the metallic lid and boil the jar for a minute so it closes tightly – this is how my grandmother used to store her sun-dried tomatoes, roasted peppers, roasted chillis, etc, and such jar can hold for over two years. This used to be a big tradition here in Southern Europe before all these foods became available in stores even during the winter.

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      Thanks for the feedback!

  • umya

    what part of “sun dried” do you not understand?