How to Dry Tomatoes for Long Storage and How to Use them TooOctober 05, 2009
Learn how to dry tomatoes, store them well and use then in delicious meals!
This year I made a commitment to myself to grow more food and to grow more food from seed. I ordered seed way back in January and started seed indoors in February. I ended up with so many food crop starts that many went to other gardeners. And, enjoying a record summer, my garden produced enough food to feed us and allow us to take several bags of food to the local food bank each week.
Despite eating heartily from our fresh crops and giving a lot away, we’ve found ourselves preserving lots of our garden-fresh food to last us into the winter ahead. Among the many delicious fruits and veggies we’ve put up, we’ll be enjoying are a few pounds of dried tomatoes.
Drying tomatoes is fairly simple, and their uses are quite diverse. In our house, we’ll put defrosted chopped tomatoes in a blender with a few dried to create a rich marinara base. Or, we’ll use Barbara & Camille Kingsolver’s fantastic Antipasto Tomatoes (from their wonderful family book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle) as a snack or on a pizza or chopped and rolled in mozzarella or in a mixed seasonal veggie saute (see recipe below). Friends who have enjoyed these have asked how I prepare them for storage, so here goes:
How many tomatoes will you need? In my experience, using Saucy Paste tomatoes, which are a nearly seedless Roma style tomato grown for saucing, not slicing, I find that about 8 pounds of fresh tomatoes yields about 8 ounces dried tomatoes. I’ve found that slicing tomatoes don’t make the best dried tomatoes and are essentially a waste of a good tomato.
How do you prepare tomatoes to dry? Wash the tomatoes, slice lengthwise, remove seeds and inner juices and any interior stems and bad spots. I then place them in a bowl and toss together with a sprinkle of sea salt,
a dash of superfine sugar (sugar really isn’t necessary!), a pinch of dried thyme and a dollop of olive oil. Certainly, you can dry them without anything added or you could adjust using other herbs. Just use a light hand with your additives so the tomato goodness stands out.
How do you dry the tomatoes? If you have a food dehydrator, line the trays with the cut side of the tomato up. Flip it on and let it run. Depending on the juiciness of the tomatoes and the power of the dehydrator, generally they’ll be ready to store in about 24 hours. If you don’t have a food dehydrator, line cookie sheets with tomatoes, cut side up. Turn oven to low setting, around 200F, and roast tomatoes until dried. This can take anywhere from 2-6+ hours.
How do I know that my tomatoes are properly dried?
Your tomatoes will be ready when they are leathery and tough. It is important to remove all the moisture from the tomatoes to ensure you don’t end up with spoilage (aka rotten tomatoes).
How do I store my dried tomatoes? In our household, dried tomatoes are put into vacuum seal canisters and kept in a vacuum for long storage. When our canisters overflow, extras are vacuum sealed in bags and frozen for extra long storage. Packed in jars, covered with olive oil, dried tomatoes will last a couple of weeks in the fridge.
Now that I’ve dried them, what do I do with them? Following is a delicious seasonal veggie saute we thoroughly enjoy. It comes together quickly and can be the bed for a delicious chop or just a wonderful wilted salad on its own:
Change of Season Veggie Saute with Dried Tomatoes:
Ingredients for this saute can be modified based on what you have on hand. I happened to find fantastic baby boletes at the farmer’s market yesterday, and I harvested the last, tiny crookneck squash from my garden this week as I pulled out the plants for the season. Use your own favorites and let the flavors shine! (This combo is fantastic served with garlic-balsamic-rosemary grilled lamb chops)
- Kingsolver Antipasto tomatoes (use about 8 tomatoes for the saute & store any extras you have)
- 2 cups par-boiled fingerling potatoes, cut into 1″ rounds
- 1 cup sliced or baby yellow crookneck squash
- 1 cup chopped fresh bolete mushrooms
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 T. chopped garlic
- Olive Oil
- Salt & Pepper
- Fresh mixed tender seasonal leafy greens like arugula & spinach
Roughly chop Antipasto Tomatoes for saute and set aside.
Saute chopped onion & garlic in olive oil until onion begins to brown. Add mushrooms and squash. Sear briefly. Add in potatoes and toss to warm. Remove from heat.
In batches, toss saute with leafy greens and tomatoes until greens are just barely wilted. (Remaining heat in pan should be enough to wilt).
Plate up and eat!