Saturday, July 16, 2016

How to Make Sun Dried Tomatoes

The Homestead Lady has this great tutorial on how to make your own sun dried tomatoes. I love sun dried tomatoes and our tomato plant is bursting right now.

photo from the Homestead Lady
She says, "I have an Excalibur dehydrator with nine racks so I make sure to pick a big bunch of Borgheses because I use a lot of dehydrated tomatoes.  I wash them off and get out a cutting board, knife and my dehydrator racks.  Then I sit and slice those babies in half.  I could really use any cherry/grape type tomato for this, fyi; you can see in the picture that I have Sungolds, yellow pear and even some green Mr. Stripey that were yummy but small this year.  I’m so not picky about varieties most of the time – if it’s a tomatoes, I’ll eat it.
Then I put the slices close together, but not piled on top of each other and fill each rack.  I have a high volume of product so I’m always running a full dehydrator; it you have less, use fewer racks and certainly a smaller (cheaper) unit.  Drying time is totally dependent on what temp you set it to, how wet the product is and the ambient moisture around the unit.  I live in Utah, so I’m blessed with dry air.  I like my veggies to stay kind of close to raw so I set them between 115-135 degrees, depending on how much time I have; the lower the temperature, the longer it takes to dry them.  Usually a batch of tomatoes takes a good 24 hours.

Dehydrated to Sun Dried Tomatoes

After they’re dried, I prepare my jars; as you can see, I reuse anything I have because they just need a lid to be useful.  I use one to three cloves of garlic and a teaspoon of sea salt in each of my sun dried tomatoes jars.
 I de-jacket the garlic and add naked cloves to my jar, then the salt and then as many dehydrated tomatoes as I can comfortably push into the jar – I don’t want to pack it so tightly that I can’t work the jar easily but I do want to preserve as many as possible.  If you’re not going to refrigerate your jars, you’ll probably want to use dried garlic to safe guard against botulism – 1 clove equals about 1/4 tsp dried, minced garlic.  I will say, though, that I typically steep my tomatoes and garlic on my counter at room temperature for about a week before I put them in the fridge.  Do what feels comfortable to you.  I’m always making tinctures and herbal oils and messing around with stuff that might bother some people.  If it doesn’t seem right to you, don’t do it – simple as that. 
Finally, I cover the tomatoes with a fine olive oil and screw on the cap.  I can store these in a my fridge for about a year using fresh garlic or you can use dried garlic and put them in your cold storage room.  My cold storage room isn’t as cold as I’d like, so I use my fridge and fresh garlic.  One thing to keep in mind about using olive oil is that it doesn’t last as long as something like canola oil.  Olive oil can get smelly and taste a bit off after as little as three months outside of the fridge.  Honestly, these sun dried tomatoes are so good, they may not even last that long, but its something to keep in mind.  The longer they steep in the oil, the stronger the salted garlic flavor; I could also add herbs like basil or rosemary, if the notion struck me.  I learned this process from the book Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning.
I use these all year, but especially all winter, long.  May I just say that they are fantastic mixed into dinner bread or on top of homemade pizza or added to raw kale salad.  Once you’re done with the tomatoes, use the amazingly flavorful oil in salads or stir frys.  Dang, I’m hungry again! "

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