Monday, September 7, 2009

Tomatoes, Tomatoes Everywhere – Drying Them

I love the taste of sun-dried tomatoes with pasta or on salads, so last year, when I was overwhelmed with cherry tomatoes, I researched how to make sun-dried tomatoes. I was a little dismayed to learn that sun-drying tomatoes requires setting them outside in hot, dry weather for 2 or 3 weeks, covered in screens to keep the bugs and other critters out, and bringing them in and out if it rains. Ack. That’s way too much work for me.

Then I discovered it’s much easier to dry them in the oven, and it only takes a day. And, what’s even better is I don’t have to chase bugs or birds away from them when I use my oven! That works for me!

You can oven-dry any sort of tomatoes. My mom dries her Roma tomatoes and then snacks on them like healthy potato chips during the day. I like to dry my cherry tomatoes because they are about the size of raisins – perfect for tossing into salads or into an alfredo sauce for pasta.

Drying tomatoes is really easy, but it’s a little time-consuming, so don’t start when it’s nearly bedtime (which seems to be when so many of us mothers start projects, doesn’t it?).

1. Use a cookie sheet with raised edges (so the tomatoes don’t slide off the tray when you’re taking them out of the oven – voice of experience here!), and line it with parchment paper. (Tomatoes react with aluminum, so you really don’t want to use aluminum pans.)

2. Slice your tomatoes thin (if you’re using cherry tomatoes, cut them in half), put them on a paper towel to drain for a couple of minutes, then place them on the parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. (Drain cherry tomatoes on the paper towel cut side down, then place them cut side up on the parchment paper-lined cookie sheet).

3. Sprinkle the tomatoes very lightly with sea salt, seasoned salt, garlic salt, or other seasoning, depending on your taste. It’s easy to over-salt them, so go easy.

4. Turn your oven to its lowest setting (200 degrees is ideal), put the cookie sheet in the oven, and let the tomatoes dry at 200 degrees for 8 – 10 hours for regular sized tomatoes, or 5 – 7 hours for cherry tomatoes. The time will vary depending on the thickness of your tomato slices, and how hot your oven is, so check them after a few hours and keeping checking them every hour after that. If your oven only goes down to 250 degrees, that’s fine. Just don’t cook them as long.

5. The tomatoes are done when you think they’re done – I like mine the consistency of raisins (a little chewy). My mom likes her Romas crispy. Some tomatoes will be done earlier than others, so take them off the tray as they get done, and let the others stay in the oven a little longer if necessary. When you’re finished, they’ll stay in a container at room temperature or in the fridge for a few days, or you can store them in zippered plastic bags in the freezer for months.


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