Sun-Dried Tomatoes: I’ll be frank about the title. It is a misnomer. These tomatoes are not dried in the sun. However, they are better for you and every bit delicious (maybe more delicious) than those dried in the sun.
Growing up, we had a flat-roofed shed that my dad built racks of drying screens on. I climbed up and down the ladder to the roof countless times during vegetable and fruit drying season. Come winter, the sore leg muscles and time spent in the sun on a hot roof made the dried fruit and vegetable even more delicious.
Commercial sun-dried tomatoes are made from Plum tomatoes and are treated with sulfur dioxide and salt to improve their quality. I don’t think sulfur enhances the quality of a lovely fresh vegetable or fruit. After all, sulfur is the stuff that makes rotten eggs stink.
I had an overabundance of cherry tomatoes this year. My daughter gave me several tomato plants that she didn’t have room for and forgot to mention they were cherry tomatoes I love cherry tomatoes, but we’re talking gallons of cherry tomatoes. I added them to the sauce tomatoes, but I still had more than I could eat in salads.
I usually dehydrate my plum tomatoes, but with loads of cherry tomatoes, all my dried tomatoes this year are the cherry tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes have a lot of water, 96% water to be precise. That means a gallon of fresh cherry tomatoes will yield 6 ounces of dried tomatoes. That’s 2 cups of sun-dried tomatoes. WOW!!! Two cups of super concentrated sweetness and flavor. YUM.
Those little packages of tomato sweetness are also healthy. They have lots of Vitamin A, C, K, thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin. They are also rich in iron and magnesium. A cup of dried tomatoes (that’s a half-gallon of fresh tomatoes) only has about 230 calories.
Pick up some plum or cherry tomatoes at a local farmers market. Maybe you purchased more tomatoes than you can eat and don’t want to see them spoil. This is a great way to preserve them for use later on Three Cheese Ravioli, or homemade Pasta. Put them on Pizza or in the instant pot with Braised Short Ribs.
Preparation for Drying: Before drying the tomatoes, rinse them off and cut them in half. Here is another SIS (simple is smart) short video I made for slicing cherry tomatoes. Click here to view. Larger tomatoes like plum tomatoes can also be dried using this method. They will take longer to dry.
Once the tomatoes are sliced season them with either dried or fresh herbs, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, or red pepper flakes. You choose the seasonings that sound good. Fresh or dried herbs can include basil, marjoram, oregano, thyme, and parsley. For every 4 cups of tomatoes, I add a tablespoon of fresh or a teaspoon of dried herbs. Kick up the flavor with the red pepper flakes. The dried tomatoes with red pepper flakes are especially delicious on homemade pizza.
Sun-dried Tomatoes in a food dehydrator: I invested in a food dehydrator. Shop my Kitchen page for more information on where you can purchase one. I love the one I have. It is adjustable for a few racks to many racks and comes with fine mesh screens and a silicone tray for making fruit roll-ups. All for about $50: the drying temperature varies from 95 to 165 degrees.
Spread the prepared cherry tomatoes on the trays and set the temperature to 165 degrees. Check the tomatoes every few hours for dryness. Total drying time varies but is usually 3-5 hours.
Sun-dried tomatoes in the Oven: Prepare the tomatoes the same way for drying in the over. Once prepared, spread the tomatoes on sheet pans and place them in the oven — roast on the lowest setting for 8-12 hours or until the desired dryness.
Storing Sun-dried Tomatoes: Once the tomatoes are dry, store in a glass jar with a lid or plastic container in the fridge for 5-6 months. Cover the tomatoes in a mason jar with olive oil and store at room temperature for 2 -3 months. The shelf life is shorter than commercial sun-dried tomatoes because the jar isn’t sealed. Lastly, you can freeze them. I vacuum pack the tomatoes and then freeze them. The sun-dried tomatoes will last in the freezer for several years. If the vacuum seal is lost, revacuum pack them in a new bag or use within two months.
Enjoy your sun-dried tomatoes
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