Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sun-dried Tomatoes How-To

When your garden is producing more tomatoes than you can possibly eat, or when gorgeous seasonal tomatoes are cheap at the farmer’s market, preserve the sweetness of summer by sun-drying and enjoy the bounty all year round.

This is a different sort of post for me, my first how-to, and I’ve been saving it to share since last summer when I couldn’t pass up cheap seasonal tomatoes and decided to give sun-drying them a try. Turns out it’s easy and our hot, dry summers in Dubai do have an upside!

A framed screen
Some pebbles and other small objects for weights

Tomatoes that are very ripe but still firm and not mushy
Sea salt (Optional)

Wash your tomatoes thoroughly in cool water.

Remove the stems and cut the tomatoes in half, just along one side of the core.

Cut out the core with a sharp knife and discard.

Cut the tomato halves into half again, if they are small, or perhaps thirds if they are larger. You want small wedges that will dry faster.

I debated removing the seeds and pulp but since that is where a lot of the tomato flavor resides, I decided to leave them in. The tomatoes will take longer to dry, if you do the same, but the increased flavor is worth the time invested.  For more information on this, read Why You Should Stop Seeding Tomatoes.

Drain the tomatoes in a colander while you set up the screen outdoors.

In Dubai, it’s so doggone hot that we can’t leave the doors open in the summer anyway so I removed a screen door from the house and balanced it on garden table chairs.  If you have a screen for drying sweaters, this would work also. If your screen has been used outdoors, make sure to give it a good scrubbing to remove any dirt and rinse thoroughly before setting it up in a sunny spot, out of the way of any automatic sprinkler systems.

Lay your tomatoes out on the screen, peel side down and poke toothpicks in around the tomatoes - to hold the cheesecloth off of them - and around the perimeter of the screen - to help secure the cheesecloth in place.

Give them a light sprinkling of sea salt, if desired.

Cover the tomato wedges with a single layer of cheesecloth to stop the birds and bugs from getting to them.  Secure it with the toothpicks around the perimeter and weigh the edges down with little stones and other objects. I started with just the pebbles but ended up adding glass ashtrays and barbecue brushes and whatever else was laying around outside because of a strong breeze.

View from the top

View from underneath.

Balancing the screen door on chairs
Now it’s just a matter of time, patience and good weather. My tomatoes took just two and a half days (54 hours, to be precise) to dry completely because our weather was gloriously hot and the breeze stayed steady. Yours may take a bit longer but, aside from checking that your cheesecloth is still secure, this is all hands-off time.

Sneak peek at 30 hours

I'm calling them done at 54 hours

When your tomatoes are completely dried, store them in a sealed Ziploc in the refrigerator. It’s possible that they could also be stored in a cool, dry cupboard but I wanted to be on the safe side.

To rehydrate the tomatoes before using in a recipe, merely soak them in very hot water until softened. I used mine most recently in a spicy pepperoni sun-dried tomato pesto that was divine!

Need more recipes and ideas for Memorial Day and how to make the most of summer? Check out these links from my fellow Kick Off to Summer participants.

My helper dog was most intrigued by the finished product.

No comments :

Post a Comment

Where in the world are you? Leave me a comment! It makes me happy to know you are out there.