Gastronomy 101, a blog about food and Los Angeles restaurants

INFO: How to Dry Tomatoes



It's the end of summer and tomatoes are everywhere. Lovely round red tomatoes and multi-colored lumpy misshapen heirloom tomatoes and cute little cherry and grape tomatoes and oblong, flavorful roma tomatoes. And along with the tomatoes, tomato recipes abound. Capreses and salads and sauces and sandwiches--it seems impossible sometimes to find a dish that DOESN'T have tomatoes in some form.

So what's a girl to do when tomatoes are everywhere and ... she hates tomatoes? Why, dry the tomatoes of course! Dried tomatoes are so very different than fresh tomatoes. So different as to be a different fruit altogether. And I like dried tomatoes. Dried tomatoes are sweeter and that green flavor I don't like so much seems to get baked right out, replaced by a rich warmth that is much tastier to my palate. Also the chewy, meaty texture is more pleasing to me than the weird firm-yet-squishy texture of even a tomato grown with all the tender loving care of its farmer.

Generally I purchase sun-dried tomatoes as needed for recipes and what-not, but it always seems I only need a few and the rest sit around only to be thrown away eventually. But suddenly something occurred to me. DUH. Why don't I dry my own tomatoes? Then I can control not only the amount, but I can pick out the exact tomatoes I want to use. And it is cheaper than having them sundried for you, and an extremely simple process.


There are a few ways you can go about this. I'll start with the ways I DIDN'T do it. The traditional way of course, is to sun dry them. About.com has a good guide for how to sun dry tomatoes. This is a good method for all you folks who are dedicated to following old traditions and it may be true that letting the tomatoes really sun dry brings out better and more interesting flavors than other methods. I am guessing that in good old Los Angeles, however, my tomatoes would end up with essence of ROX, SOX and NOX (i.e., air pollution) infused right into them.

Other reasons I have for not doing this are:

1. Impatience: I can barely wait an hour to eat my food. I think waiting four days to two weeks would be near impossible. Not to mention by the time they were done, I would be SO over the tomatoes and on to something else.

2. EW! I don't know that I could stomach eating something that's been sitting around in my yard for days on end. I just ... don't normally eat stuff that's been hanging around outside, unless said hanging around was the activity otherwise known as "growing."

3. I have no private yard and my neighborhood is a hazardous place. If some nasty bugs didn't get into it (and the bugs around here WILL lift up a cheesecloth and stroll right on underneath), then a neighborhood dog would pee on it or get it, or some drunk would do something nasty to it. If the little tomatoes managed to escape all of that, then without a doubt my jerkface, loud-talker, speedfreak neighbor and his nasty little rat-dog or his jerkface, loud-talker, crybaby girlfriend would find SOME way to ruin them. I just know they would.

The other way I didn't dry the tomatoes was in a dehydrator. About.com also has instructions for how to do that. The reason I didn't choose this method is really very simple: I do not have a dehydrator.



Now that I've talked about the methods I didn't use, let's talk about the one I did: oven drying. I read a couple different things on how to oven dry tomatoes and was kind of amazed to find out that they all said different things. After all, there's not much too it. So I kind of took a consensus approach and here is what I did:

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit or to the lowest temperature on your setting. My lowest temperature of course, said 260. But then I discovered you can turn the dial lower than that lowest temperature. So I turned it down to the lowest I could turn it and decided to just keep on eye on things. Stupid apartment stove.

2. Wash however many tomatoes you are going to use. I used five roma tomatoes. What? I am only making one sandwich, I don't need that many dried tomatoes. Cut the ends off of the tomatoes and slice the remaining portion in half, lengthwise.

3. Arrange tomato halves on a baking sheet, making sure they are not touching each other. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. I used a sea salt that is mixed with a combo of dried herbs for some extra bonus flavor. Lightly drizzle with olive oil. This seems to be optional so I only gave it the lightest line of drizzle.

4. Throw in the oven for hours and hours and hours. There were various times suggested. After the first 2-4 hours, I would start checking the tomatoes once an hour to see how they are doing, because some are ready more quickly than others. I was able to take a few out at around 5 hours, and the rest were ready between 6-7 hours. I don't know what the temperature was though, so they may need more time depending on what temperature they are sitting in.

I also think I could have taken them all out at around 6 hours. However, I fell asleep before they were ready, which meant that I got up sometime in the middle of the night to take them out and I didn't have a lot of control over that. Those ones were a little dark, but looked palatable still. I think thanks to the olive oil.

As you can see from the picture, my dried tomatoes are at least partial successes in that they at least came out looking like dried tomatoes ought to look. The next test comes tonight when I throw them on my sandwich and see how they taste. I'll try to put up a picture and composition of said sandwich later, assuming all goes well.

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20 comments:

Sun dried tomatoes are icky.
BTW I just totally hit you up for blog day. Neener neener.

said by Garrett at 1:09 PM Delete

More for me then! You can have all of the NON-sundried tomatoes.

Now I must go discover what this mysterious "blog day" is.

said by KT at 1:11 PM Delete

I totally mirror your feelings on tomatoes. Thumbs up for dried. Middle finger up for fresh!

I'm going to check out the method sources you mentioned for actual sun-drying. It sounds so peasantish and bohemian that it's totally turning me on.

said by Acme Instant Food at 1:43 PM Delete

Ooh, post about it if you do it! I was thinking that if I had my own courtyard kitchen garden--the kind that's situated in the middle of your fabulous villa--then I would totally do it. Or even if I had one of those urban roof gardens that cool people in NYC have. But all I have is a front porch.

said by KT at 1:46 PM Delete

I have three levels of decks. The lowest level even has a "potting shed." How frickin Martha! *gag*

I didn't put it there; it was there when we bought the place last year. Sadly, it goes unused. I'm thinking I must be able to dry some fruit down there somewhere! I wonder what else I could dry...

said by Acme Instant Food at 1:51 PM Delete

By the way--AWESOME idea to sprinkle your tomatoes with dried herbs. You rock!

said by Acme Instant Food at 1:52 PM Delete

JEALOUS!! I want three decks! I want even one deck! I will even take a potting shed because maybe that would inspire me to do some potting. Or something.

As for the herbs--when I was in Italy I bought this salt that is all mixed in with dried rosemary, basil, thyme, peppercorns and some other stuff (that's as far as my Italian translation skills go) and I haven't used any yet, so this seemed like a perfect time to utilize some of it. So it wasn't so much an idea, as the ability to notice what was sitting in the kitchen, but that's often how I get my best ideas. It comes from being lazy--you just think "what can I use that would allow me to not have to go to the store?" And then you get a good idea, just like that!

said by KT at 1:57 PM Delete

I'm having a trashy food moment and about to spoil your very classy and well-written post. Oh, wait a moment. I already ruined it with those stupid comments above. Too bad, here goes:

Put on a disguise (maybe the fake glasses with nose and mustache?)...go to the store and buy a can of those crappy, canned, refrigerated Pilsbury breadsticks...sneak back home... pull the window blinds down so nobody can see you...pop open the can by inserting spoon at seam...unroll em...slather some olive oil on em...sprinkle your salt/herb combo on em...pop em in the oven...open a good bottle of wine...change into your favorite old, comfy sweats and then wait for the timer to go "ding!" You did set the timer, right?

Sorry, I think maybe that's just my fantasy evening. I need therapy.

said by Acme Instant Food at 3:02 PM Delete

Oh Acme, that isn't trashy, thats rockin it Sandra Lee style. *psh* You should see me with a thing of cool whip, it's a scene that would scar children if they were to witness it.

said by Garrett at 3:33 PM Delete

Hee heeeeeee!! Sandra Lee? I think Sandra Lee is a genius. Who else would have thought to make money off of teaching people how to make things that are already made? I don't care how many foodies hate her, I bet we all wish we had thought of it first. That's like, the easiest job in the world.

I'm ready to do this thing. My disguise will be ... wait, I can't tell you my disguise! Then it's not a disguise.

However, if you in your fake mustache glasses should happen to run into a secret agent lady with a trench coat and big-ass sunglasses at the frozen Pillsbury section of the store tonight, just give her a little wink and she may just pass you a scoop of herb-filled salt. You can carry it home concealed in the plastic nose. It smells really good.

said by KT at 3:39 PM Delete

I'm going to wear my Karl Malden glasses/mustache/nose piece. It has a REALLY big nose and can hold a lot of herb-filled salt.

You two are hysterical.

said by Acme Instant Food at 3:44 PM Delete

P.S. You can spot me at Pavilions in Burbank.

said by Acme Instant Food at 3:46 PM Delete

Oh, well ... that is like the opposite direction of where I want to go after work. Maybe I will send my friend Z. over there instead with pocketsful of herb-filled salt with instructions to pour it in any big noses she sees. And to please have that videotaped if possible for my amusement later.

Come to think of it, that's the ULTIMATE disguise, is to send a whole different person. Maybe I could have her pick up some frozen rolls too.

said by KT at 3:50 PM Delete

I'm so on it.

said by Anyanka at 11:16 PM Delete

I'm about to dry my tomatoes, because I spent ages growing them and now I don't want to lose them all. But don't you think it's a huge waste of energy just to dry for one sandwich? I'm going to try to dry my entire crop of 4 plants - about 40-50 tomatoes and put them in a jar... just hope they will keep!
Still, thanks for your blog - useful instructions and I like your writing style.

said by 傅泽西 at 7:31 AM Delete

Storing your Tomatoes
Just before you guys go to all the trouble, here's a recipe to help you keep the tomatoes until the next batch is ready for harvesting.

sun-dried tomatoes
grape vinegar
olive oil
black peppercorns
fresh thyme sprigs

Method:
Marinate the tomatoes as follows: arrange tomatoes in a sterilised glass jar. Mix one part grape vinegar with 9 parts oil (preferably olive oil) – use about 25 ml vinegar for every 250 ml oil. Fill the jar with the mixture, add a few black peppercorns and sprigs of thyme. Seal firmly and leave for 3 weeks at room temperature. Store in the fridge for up to 4 months.

said by Lisa at 2:16 AM Delete

I know this was posted over 2 years ago but thank you for posting this! I don't like fresh tomatoes and I bought about 4 for a recipe that did not turn out very good.

What I did different was use regular vine ripe tomatoes because that's all I had. I coated them with olive oil spray because I'm on a diet and real olive oil has too many calories.

They turned out delicious! I bought some Roma tomatoes just to do this again!

said by Omayra at 6:26 PM Delete

Thank you for the comment! I'm so glad they turned out well for you!

said by KT at 6:48 PM Delete

Hi: Just looking for some input on what type of tray to use to try drying them in the car. I live in Texas and the inside of the car gets like an oven... and I had read in a magazine that you can do this.

said by kbm at 5:30 AM Delete

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