Here is another pantry staple you can make on your own – the sun-dried tomatoes. Either in olive oil, seasoned, or plain, they add a distinctive touch and great flavor to many dishes and salads. Making your own sun-dried tomatoes is very simple and certainly is much less expensive than buying them at the grocery store. Although they’re called “sun-dried” tomatoes they are almost always artificially dried because no few people live in a climate that makes sun-drying the best method. Also, few store-bought “sun-dried” tomatoes are actually sun-dried.
Anyway, they will taste the same (often times better, actually) using an oven – this method is easier and more consistent than actual sun-drying.
The first thing is to pick the correct tomatoes. You want small meaty tomatoes for drying. Traditionally plum tomatoes (or Roma tomatoes) are used, as there are less seeds and a higher ratio of flesh, but you can use any type of tomato, including cherry varieties.
Try to choose tomatoes of a uniform size so they dry at the same rate. The end product must be dry but not crispy, with almost no inner moisture in order to avoid bacteria growth. Oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes with herbs (especially fresh) or garlic added must be refrigerated.
Here is how you make them:
Wash all your tomatoes and let them air dry. There two choices of ways you can prepare the tomatoes: if you want them a little bit crispier, use a rack, if you prefer them a little softer, use a baking sheet. Still, if you leave them for longer, even on a baking tray they will become drier and crispier.
You’ll find many recipes calling to get tomatoes oiled before putting them into the oven. We, however, don’t oil them and bake them as they are, with just a little salt sprinkled on.
Cherry tomatoes should be cut in half; Roma or plum tomatoes if small can be halved also. If they are large, cut them into thirds. Regular tomatoes can be quartered and you can squeeze out some of the tomato seeds if they bother you.
Next, preheat the oven at only 90 C (around 200F). While the oven is heating, line the tomatoes, making sure they don’t touch each other, because you want the hot air to circulate freely, so they can properly dry. Optionally, brush the tomatoes with a little bit of olive oil, just so you can see the sheen of oil on the tomatoes.
Put the tray in the oven and leave it there for about 6 hours, checking it from time to time. When you think they’re done, remove the tomatoes from the oven and leave them to cool until they can be easily handled. Get a clean jar of appropriate size, sprinkle a little salt and pepper into it and then add peeled garlic cloves, oregano and thyme. Place the dried tomatoes into the jar and pour over enough extra virgin olive oil to fully cover them.
They should keep for up to six months in the fridge so long as they are always covered in oil.
We love them tossed into pasta, salads or just on a slice of crusty homemade bread drizzled with olive oil. Why not give it a go?