Sun-dried tomatoes are usually made during the hot summer months when tomatoes are in season and the days are long. Any type of tomato can be used to make sun-dried tomatoes but typically the plum tomato is used due to its low moisture content. Sun-dried tomatoes are an essential part of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet.
Fresh tomatoes are plump, firm and juicy, while sun-dried tomatoes are shrivelled, chewy and boast a darker colour than the original version. Sun-dried tomatoes are a flavourful addition to many dishes, whether using them as is or rehydrated.
The drying process may be lengthy but you can learn how to sun dry tomatoes in your backyard or oven. It is a great way to preserve tomatoes if you have an abundance of them.
1. Rinse the tomatoes under cool water and dry them with a paper towel
2. Cut the tomatoes on a cutting board
If you are using cherry tomatoes, cut them in half. For other larger tomatoes, cut them into quarters.
3. Remove the seeds of the larger tomatoes
This is not necessary but they will slow down the drying process.
4. Sprinkle your choice of seasonings on the tomatoes
Basil and other fresh herbs are often used to flavour sun-dried tomatoes. Toss the tomatoes so they are well coated with the herbs.
5. Sun dry your tomatoes out in the sun
Find an area that has full sunlight for the majority of the daylight hours. Choose a really hot day. For optimal results, the temperature should be over 32 degrees Centigrade with humidity less than 60 percent.
Use a screen, either one used for drying purposes, or an old window or door screen that has been scrubbed clean, to lay out the tomatoes. Set the screen up on a table, and raise it with small boards or bricks, so that air can circulate.
Place the tomatoes onto the screen, skin side down, and arrange them so that there is space between the tomatoes. Do not allow them to touch. Proper drying requires adequate air flow for each individual piece of tomato.
Cover the tomatoes with cheesecloth by propping the cheesecloth over the tomatoes so it does not touch them. This will help keep flies and bugs off and birds out, as well as falling debris from trees. Build bricks or boards around the screen, high enough so the cheesecloth will not touch the tomatoes. Lay the cheesecloth over the screen and across the bricks. Hold the cheesecloth in place by placing more bricks on top of the bottom bricks.
Check on your sun-dried tomatoes intermittently. They can take anywhere from one day of full sun to two weeks to properly dry. Make sure to take them in at night. After the sun goes down, humidity levels tend to rise and you do not want your tomatoes to develop dew.
The tomatoes are completely sun dried when they have a leathery texture and are not sticky. Do not over dry them so that they become brittle. The finished product will be much darker than the original.
6. Dry your tomatoes in the oven
Preheat the oven to 66ºC. Drying tomatoes in the oven requires the lowest setting on your oven. If it is above 66ºC, leave the oven door open slightly to account for the difference.
Arrange the cut tomatoes on a baking sheet so that they are not touching one another. They will have to be turned and tossed periodically throughout the drying process since there is no air circulation with a baking sheet.
Heat in the oven for several hours, about six to 12 hours, until the oven-dried tomatoes have a leathery texture but are not sticky.
7. Store the sun-dried tomatoes in a glass jar
Pack them tightly and rid the container of air as much as possible. Keep the sun-dried tomatoes in an airtight glass jar in a cool, dark place, the refrigerator or freezer.