Nothing says "mouth watering Italian food" like sun-dried tomatoes.
Full disclosure, the tomatoes in this instructable are not actually dried by the sun, but they taste like they have been! One of the many upsides of drying tomatoes (or anything) inside, is that you don't have to worry about bugs, daytime humidity, or nighttime moisture ruining your batch.
Let's make some delicious things!
Step 1: Safe Home Food Preservation
This is a project that I made to go with my Instructables Canning & Preserving Class. I will not be going over all the safety ins and outs of drying and dehydrating for food perservation in this instructable, so I highly recommend that you read through Lessons 1 & 6 of my class before you give this a go!
Step 2: Supplies
Step 3: Using a Dehydrator or Oven to Dry Tomatoes
If you plan on doing a fair amount of dehydrating, I highly recommend investing in a good quality electric dehydrator. It doesn't have to be the fanciest on the market, but things to look out for are:
- metal racks (if you're concerned about warm/hot food touching plastic like I am)
- a side mounted fan* instead of a bottom mounted fan
*A side mounted fan more evenly distributes the air to all racks so that you don't have to shuffle the racks throughout the drying process.
Using an Oven Instead
If you'd rather try out these recipes to see if you like the results before investing, not to worry! The oven will work just fine, but will require some extra attention during the drying process.
The dehydrating processes can take anywhere from 6-24 hours (depending on what you're drying) and most home ovens don't have low enough settings to replicate the dehydrator settings, so you end up having to use (and monitor) an oven thermometer and attempt to keep the temp low enough by turning the oven off and on repeatedly, so that it doesn't over heat the foodstuffs.
But it IS possible and a good way to start out if that's the only resource you have. If you are lucky enough to have a convection setting on your oven, always use that for dehydrating, as the air flow created cuts down the oven drying times by almost half.
Step 4: Recipe
All you need for this recipe is TOMATOES and a bit of vinegar!
I like to use vine ripened and cherry tomatoes, but other great 'maters for drying are roma, plum, or any paste tomato. I had never tried an heirloom varietal before, and they are so delicious fresh...so added one into the mix. The best thing about drying tomatoes, is that they don't need to be blanched first, so they're quite quick to prepare.
The results are in on the heirloom test: It turns out its water content is much higher than its vine ripened cousins and it required way more drying time than their smaller, less moist counterparts. Not worth the extra expense and energy output in my opinion.
Step 5: Prepping the Tomatoes
To remove any surface spoilers, wash the tomatoes and place them in a large bowl of cold water mixed with one cup of white vinegar for 10 minutes. Be sure to periodically flip the tomatoes that are floating so that both sides get soaked.
After the 10 minutes are up, drain the the tomatoes and rinse them in fresh water.
On a clean cutting board, use paring and chef's knives to remove the stem end and slice them into 6-8 wedges.
NOTE: We'll be standing the pieces up on their skin sides, so the wedges have to be wide enough to stand without falling over.
Step 6: Laying Out, Loading, and Drying
Place a fruit leather sheet or some tin foil in the bottom of the dehydrator to catch any drips.
Lay the wedges, skin side down, on the dehydrator trays or on baking sheets layered with oiled parchment paper. Leave plenty of space between the pieces so theres a lot of air circulation around each piece. This will help them dry faster and prevent mold.
If you're using any cherry tomatoes, slice them in half lengthwise and lay them out skin side down on the trays.
Like so! Now you're ready to bring the heat. Turn your dehydrator or oven to 140°F.
If you're using an oven, don't forget to prop the door open a bit. And because of the high moisture content in tomatoes, it also helps to set up a little fan to blow into the oven opening if you don't have a convection oven.
They will take anywhere from 6-18 hours to dry depending on the thickness of the pieces and moisture content of the tomatoes you chose. Check in with them at 4 hours and then monitor them every couple of hours after that until they're done.
To rehydrate your dried tomatoes for use, place them in a heat-proof bowl and cover them with boiling water. Let them sit for 15 minutes. Remove them from the water and use.
NOTE: As they soak in the boiling water, some of their vitamins and minerals AND flavor leach out into the water. So don't throw the water out! Save it and use it in a sauce, to make risotto, or a delicious soup.
Step 7: Storage Tips
Place the COMPLETELY dried tomatoes in airtight containers, label/date them and store in a cool, dry, dark place like a cupboard or pantry. As long as moisture doesn't get introduced into the containers, the dried foods should last indefinitely.
PRO TIP: After the dried tomatoes have been in the airtight jars for one day, check to see if there is any condensation on the inside walls of the jars. If there is, it means that the tomatoes are not 100% dried and need to be put back in the dehydrator/oven for a few more hours.
Step 8: To the Pantry and Beyond!
For more drying/dehydrating projects – and to learn about other food preservation methods like:
- Vinegar Pickling
Enroll in my free online Instructables Canning & Preserving Class!