23 August 2009

Make Your Own Sundried Tomatoes

No matter what size your home garden - from a few herbs to a dozen tomato plants - food preservation & storage is key to making use of your harvest. Donny and I have spent the last few weeks learning about canning, drying and freezing our delicious food. I look forward to sharing several recipes and ideas we've used.

First on the list is an easy and delicious one - homegrown homemade sundried tomatoes. The great thing about this treat is that you can use just about any size tomatoes. I chose to use our little cherry grande and sprites...I had found that we were not using/eating them fast enough. They also ripen quite quickly, so its best to use them while you've got 'em. This is a great recipe for a sick or rainy day since you will need to check on them for at least 4 hours and possibly 10 -20 hours, depending on the size of tomato you choose to use. The smaller the tomato the quicker it goes. However you should know that the final product will be about 1/4-1/2 the size of the fresh tomato.

The easiest way to make sundried tomatoes without a deyhydrator is in your oven. Preheat your oven to 150 degrees or its lowest setting.
My lowest oven temp was warm, just below 200 degrees. Cut all tomatoes lengthwise in half. If using larger tomatoes you can quarter them. I seasoned the tomatoes with a dash of sea salt & about half of them with homegrown dried basil (stay tuned for that recipe). On a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil, lay out the tomatoes seed side up so that they are not touching. They will start to shrink quickly, so its ok to squeeze them in. My suggestion is if you have the tomatoes - use them. I ended up doing 2 batches back-to-back that I could have done simultaneously had I just used 2 cookie sheets. Over the next few hours, check the tomatoes constantly. You will need to turn them on to the skin side and also move the sheets to other racks so they get an even heat. With the little tomatoes I found it easiest to turn them with my fingers. I enjoyed checking them every half hour - hour. You will know they are done once they feel like a raisin, but not brittle. They should have a leathery feel, but you should not feel water under the skin. For the remaining pieces you can speed up the process by cranking the heat to no more than 200 degrees, but be sure to check on them more frequently.

As they are done, take them out of the oven and leave to cool for about 20-30 min. After you complete the batch, store them in an airtight container or plastic bag. A small pallet of mason jars (varying sizes) is a good investment so that you will be prepared to start preserving your harvest. You can pick them up at your local grocer or drugstore.

Be sure to check on the batch of tomatoes for the first few weeks to make sure no moisture has formed. If there is any moisture, throw them back in the oven to dry them out more or use them immediately.

Enjoy them as tomato candies or in a pasta or salad.


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