Tuesday, August 25, 2009

oven-dried tomatoes

Does anyone else have a garden bursting with tomatoes right about now? Here's one way to preserve them that takes little space, no special equipment, and of course, 15 minutes or less of your time.

Oven-Dried Tomatoes

Slice all tomatoes into sections about 1 inch by 1 inch. (This is roughly the size of a grape tomato.) Leave seeds in or remove them -- either way is fine.

Toss in a bowl with a little olive oil and sea salt.

Spread on a cookie sheet and bake at 170 degrees overnight or up to 225 degrees under a watchful eye. When they get chewy (like packaged sun-dried tomatoes), they are finished.

Store in freezer bags, label & toss into the freezer. 10-12 tomatoes will fill one quart-size freezer bag.

Use throughout the winter to make sauces, tomato paste, or as a salad topper.

This method has several advantages over other preservation methods. As I mentioned before, no special canning equipment or know-how is needed. And unlike canning, you can use tomatoes that aren't the best of the bunch. Just cut out any bruised spots or holes and use what is still good.

Drying them compacts them to a fraction of their original size, which is a big help when Fall freezer space is at a premium.

And finally, when the tomatoes are finished, they are nearly shelf-stable. If that winter storm knocks out electricity this year, it's unlikely they'll be ruined before you get back on the grid.

If you have no freezer or if you are living off-grid, you can also package fully dried tomatoes into oil, making them completely shelf-stable. These should be used within 6 months.