Not-Sun Dried Tomatoes

Dried tomatoes

Do you love sundried tomatoes?  Who doesn’t?  Even a lot of people who don’t care for raw tomatoes love those, and I certainly do.  I’d eat them all the time, except that they tend to be moderately pricey, especially for the good ones.

So what will you?  I’ve tried to make them at home multiple times before.  Since I distinctly lack any facility for drying raw vegetables that’s fly-free, air-drying is out of the question.  I’ve tried one or two recipes that suggested using the oven at different settings/time durations and even the preheat-and-turn-off method.  Some of those yield a really rather wonderful roasted baby tomato pasta sauce, but none of them resulted in what I wanted, which is the slightly leathery chewiness full of tomato flavor that are oil-packed dried tomatoes.

That is, until now.  What changed now?  No, I haven’t found a secret recipe or method for you, sadly – I have searched far and wide, and it doesn’t seem to be out there, at least not that I’ve seen.  I have, however, come to dispel the Pinterest-setting-up-for-fail claims that tell you that you can totally, totally make this in your oven, with a picture of picture-perfect dried tomatoes, zucchini chips or what will you.  That’d be a big fat can of NOPE.  And until I meet the person who tells me and shows me that yes, they have done it and yes it works, I’ll keep standing by that nope, and tell you that you can’t make those dried or even semi-dried tomatoes in the oven so they’ll be just like the pretty ones in the shop.

As for the pretty photo above?  They haven’t been anywhere near an oven.  A few days ago, I’ve opportunistically bought a used dehydrator (those things can be terribly expensive new!), and several packs of ripe large-cherry type tomatoes, washed and quartered those and tried again, salting the wedges lightly before sticking them in the machine overnight.

Bingo.

So yes, you can make them at home.  And yes, they will taste even better than the shop-bought ones, especially if you use good tomatoes – I go for acid over sweetness here, but that’s personal preference.  However, the more acid tomatoes are also safer to pack into oil (from the botulism standpoint, because of their higher acidity preventing growth of bacteria), so there’s also that (this doesn’t matter if you plan to keep them dehydrated rather than pack them in oil).  But no, oven won’t do this – a dehydrator, however, will.

There is no recipe here, nor is one called for.  If you have a dehydrator, buy yourself some tomatoes, quarter, remove the tough bit at the back, salt them a little, and stick them in there till they are done, skin-side down to avoid them sticking to the trays.  Dry till they are the desired consistency (note: some of them will reach it sooner than others, so you might have to go through and pick off the dried ones from different trays a few times).  If you don’t have a dehydrator, borrow a dehydrator or buy a used one (or if money isn’t the matter, go for new).  Proceed back to start of this paragraph.

Once the tomatoes are dry to touch and a bit leathery, with a tiny bit of bend (not snap, unless you want to powder them!), take them out and stick in a clean jar.  Add any dried herbs you like, and pour good olive oil over them.  Store in refrigerator for a few weeks (fat chance of them lasting that long!).

That’s it.  Oh and approach Pinterest and even more reputable cookbooks with a grain of salt.  Or a sack of salt in the case of those ‘oh you can totally do this in a low oven!‘ pins.

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