A Taste of the Summer Sun, “Sun-Dried” Tomatoes


~Make your Own Dried Tomatoes with a Dehydrator or Oven~


These are not really sun-dried tomatoes, but tomatoes that are dried in your dehydrator or oven to emulate sun-dried tomatoes you may buy in the stores. You don’t really need the sun to dry them.

Just a note here on those sun-dried tomatoes you buy in the store; according to the USDA, few, if any store-bought “sun-dried” tomatoes are actually sun-dried (but the regulations allow them to call them that). The tomatoes are dried and sulfured to ensure shelf life. But these will taste the same (or better, actually) using a food dehydrator.

However, the sun-dried you buy in the stores are soft, not crisp like dehydrated tomatoes. So how do you work around that? I did a few experiments here at Casa Colleen to figure that out for you.

Preparing the Tomatoes

To Start my experiments, I bought firm, ripe San Marzano tomatoes which are paste tomatoes like Roman. Paste tomatoes (or plum tomatoes) generally have a thicker fruit wall, fewer seeds and a denser but grainier flesh. Roma tomatoes tend to be oblong in shape and heavy for their size. They also tend to be more firm than a non-Roma tomato. These tomatoes are meatier and my personal choice for making the sun-dried tomatoes. However, you can use any tomato you wish including grape and cherry tomatoes for this process.

Preparing Tomatoes Collage

I decided to go ahead and roast them first in the oven before dehydrating them. This step is not necessary, but does add a nice flavor to the tomatoes. In addition, studies have shown that cooking substantially raises the levels of beneficial compounds called phytochemicals in tomatoes.

To roast the tomatoes:

  1. Slice the ends from the tomatoes and then quarter. If using cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half. If using larger tomatoes, like beefsteak, cut into sections no larger than the size of a quartered plum tomato.
  2. Preheat oven to 425°F/215°C.
  3. Arrange the tomatoes, with the cut surface up, on non-stick cookie sheets (glass or porcelain dishes are fine.) Do not use aluminum foil or aluminum baking sheets as the acid in the tomato will react with the metal.
  4. Bake until soft, about 30 minutes. Check at 10 minute intervals, making sure not to burn the tomatoes.
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To dehydrate tomatoes:

  1. Place the tomatoes, cut side up, directly onto the dehydrator trays.
  2. Set dehydrator temperature to 135°F/55°C.
  3. After 4 or 5 hours, turn the tomatoes over and press flat with a spatula.
  4. After a few hours, turn the tomatoes again and flatten gently.
  5. Continue drying until crispy, about 8-16 hours.
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To oven-dry tomatoes:

  1. Arrange the tomatoes, with the cut surface up, on non-stick cookie sheets (glass or porcelain dishes are fine.) Do not use aluminum foil or aluminum baking sheets as the acid in the tomato will react with the metal.
  2. Bake in 170°F/75°C oven for about 3 hours.
  3. Leave the oven door propped open about 3 inches to allow moisture to escape.
  4. After 3 hours, turn the tomatoes over and press flat with a spatula.
  5. Continue to dry, turning the tomatoes every few hours, and gently pressing flatter and flatter, until tomatoes are crispy dry, about 12 hours.
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Storing your Sun-Dried Tomatoes

After drying your tomatoes, you can choose to make the recipe below or store your tomatoes until you are ready to use them.

Be sure to condition your tomatoes to assure dryness. If you are storing long-term, add an oxygen absorber to your jar to keep the tomatoes fresher for longer.

Place sealed containers in a cool, dry, dark place, maintained at about 60-70ºF. If completely moisture-free, dried tomatoes will keep flavor and texture for up to a year.

Store in the freezer or refrigerator to maximize shelf life or seal with an oxygen absorber in Mylar bags. Dried tomatoes stored in the freezer or refrigerator and keep up flavor and texture for about 18 months.

Start Collage1

To Achieve the Same Texture as Store-bought Dried Tomatoes

This one had me on the fence for a long time, but I finally achieved the same texture as commercial sun-dried tomatoes by treating them with an acid. I add 1 tablespoon of vinegar or 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to a cup of dried tomatoes in a closed jar and shake the jar to distribute the acid treatment. Then I allow the tomatoes to sit for 15 minutes, give the jar another shake, and resume waiting for another 15 minutes.

As you can see from the pictures,  this softens the tomato wedges, allowing for a nice texture and chewiness. This also acidifies the tomatoes, allowing for longer refrigerated storage. Then I continue on, making my sun-dried tomatoes in oil.

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Sun Dried Tomatoes in Oil

Refrigeration is required with oil-infusion because foods need to be commercially acidified for shelf stability. And even though tomatoes are technically an acid food, they are borderline at best (depending on the variety). If not refrigerated after the oil is added, you risk botulism growing. Therefore, for safety, they must be refrigerated.

Tomatoes in oil without added garlic and herbs will keep 4-6 weeks in the refrigerator. If you add garlic and/or herbs, use tomatoes within 1-2 weeks to prevent spoilage.

Ingredients
1-1/2 cups dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
1 tablespoon coarse kosher or sea salt

1 tablespoon minced garlic or garlic granules
1 tablespoon Italian herb blend
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seed oil (for its distinctive nutty aroma and taste giving umami), optional
Extra virgin olive oil to cover to the top of jar (1 to 1-1/2 cups)

Directions

  1. To soften and acidify, empty dried tomatoes into a pint Mason jar or similar container. Add vinegar and coarse salt. Seal the jar closed with a lid and shake the jar to distribute over the tomatoes. Allow to stand 15 minutes.
  2. Shake the jar thoroughly again and allow to stand for another 15 minutes. Tomatoes will be soft and pliable.
  3.  Add garlic, herbs, onion powder and sesame seed oil if using. Seal the jar and shake thoroughly one more time to distribute the contents.
  4. Using olive oil, top off the jar with enough oil to cover the contents, submerging  the tomatoes fully.
  5. Store in the refrigerator for a minimum overnight timeframe to allow the tomatoes to marinate.
  6. Tomatoes will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
  7. In the Freezer, they will keep their same consistency. If you freeze the entire container you’ll have to thaw the entire thing in order to remove a single tomato. Instead, cover a cookie sheet with waxed paper and spread the tomatoes out so no two are touching. Each tomato will have a small pool of oil. Freeze the sheets for an hour or until the tomatoes are frozen through, then pull the tomatoes off the waxed paper and place them in a plastic freezer bag or glass container with an airtight lid. They’ll last in the freezer for up to a year, but try to use them within three months for the best flavor.
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Finish Collage1

To use: Remove amount of tomatoes called for in your recipe from the jar and allow to come to room temperature before using. The flavored oil may be used as well.

Note: Do NOT re-use this oil for another batch of tomatoes. Prepare a new batch each time for safety and greatest freshness.

SDT in Food Collage


©2016, 2017 21st Century Simple Living www.21stcenturysimpleliving.com

3 thoughts on “A Taste of the Summer Sun, “Sun-Dried” Tomatoes

  1. Bette Rose says:

    Love your recipe on Sun Dried Tomatoes. My daughter makes a spaghetti sauce with Sun Dried Tomatoes. I would like to make it and can it. Can I use your recipe for canning? Her recipe includes sweet Italian sausage, fresh basil, and jared Prego Spaghetti Sauce along with other ingredients. It’s a great tasting sauce.

    1. Admin says:

      Canning requires safely tested, approved recipes. It is not recommended that you make up your own recipes and can them without proper acidification measurements and tested processing times. Sorry.

  2. Bette Rose says:

    Love your recipe on tomatoes. Will need to try it. My daughter makes a great spaghetti sauce using dried, infused tomatoes. I would like to make her sauce and can it. I’m sure that I can with your Sun Dried Tomatoes recipe.

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