Dec 17, 2008

oven dried tomatoes - recipe

Store bought tomatoes, washed and ready for anything

I'm experimenting with more ways to put my tomato surplus in the 'pantry bank', so to speak. Having recently purchased the first two Destitute Gourmet cookbooks, I was keen to put them to good use. I've already baked the Oaty Crisp biscuits (cookies if you're in the US) every week, so that justifies the purchase of book 1. This week I'm drying tomatoes in my oven. (Handily justifying the purchase of book 2 - justifying to myself, I mean. I'd be annoyed to fork out money for recipe books I won't use).

Before I get into the pictorial extravaganza, I'll point out that drying stuff in a warm oven for hours is not exactly 'destitute' cookery. It would have been far more frugal to blanch and freeze them, or bottle the tomatoes to use in recipes in place of tinned ones. But it was fun.

If I could rig up a solar dehydrator for use on those long hot mid-summer days then it would cross the threshold into true frugality (especially if I found a cheap supply of olive oil...). But for now, here is how I interpreted the instructions given me by the great Sophie Gray.

First, preheat your oven to 125degC

Wash your tomatoes and take off the green bits. Slice them in half and poke holes in the skin with a wooden skewer (or a fork if you don't have any skewers).

Excuse the state of my oven - I don't clean it often

Lay the tomatoes on an oven tray or two and pop them in the oven.

Wedge the oven door open slightly with the handle of a wooden spoon. This allows the evaporating water to escape the oven, and allows the tomatoes to actually dry.

One spoon, artfully placed

I think I left mine too long. You're aiming for soft fruit-leather type consistency, without them being juicy - no juice should ooze out if you squeeze one. But mine are a bit crispy round the edges - for some reason I was heading more for banana-chip consistency (which is odd as 1. I hate banana chips and 2. We do eat sun-dried tomatoes, so I'm not unfamiliar with their consistency. Weird. I'll just put it down to a bit of a head cold). The book says up to 6 hours, but mine were still a bit juicy then. Use your judgment and make notes for yourself for next time.

When they're done, put them into sterile jars*, pour olive oil over the top until the jar is full and screw the lids down. I'm hoping that soaking in olive oil will soften mine up somewhat.

These dried tomatoes are not bright red. Apparently bought ones are soaked in something first to keep them red coloured, so your homemade ones will have that artisan-craft additive-free look to
them. And you get bonus flavoured olive oil for all sorts of goodies once you've eaten the tomatoes.

From 3 kilograms of tomatoes (about 6 pound, give or take) I made 2 jars of dried tomato goodness. So I guess one way that this beats freezing or bottling fresh tomatoes is the space saving component. That's a lot of concentrated tomato flavour in a couple of little jars.


*I sterilised the jars by taking the tomatoes out of the oven, and putting the jars in, at 125degC for 10 to 15mintues. I sterilized the lids by pouring boiling water over them and leaving them to sit for the same time period. If you have your own preferred sterilization method, then use it. Tomatoes are quite acidic so are a bit more resistant than other foods to 'close enough is good enough' sterilisation standards.

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