I love the flavor of sun dried tomatoes, but find the price to be a bit much for my wallet, so last year I started making my own, with the hope of getting all the flavor and none of the cost. If you grown your own tomatoes then your cost for these lovely flavor filled gems will be minimal.
You do not need any special equipment to make these, they are incredibly simple to make, and more than likely you will find the equipment you need in your own kitchen.
Start with firm ripe Roma tomatoes not only do they make the best sun dried tomatoes, but often they are less expensive in the store if you are buying them instead of growing them.
If you would like to peel your tomatoes first (optional I did not) you will want to use the blanching method to peel them first. Put your tomatoes in a pot of boiling water for a couple of minutes, then remove them with a slotted spoon and dip them in ice water. This will make it easy to peal the skins off.
Once they are peeled if you decided to do so, quarter your tomatoes, remove any bruised spots, the stem, and the seeds.
To dry your tomato you have 3 basic choices. You can use a food dehydrator if you have one, you can dried them in your oven, OR you can place them on a shallow tray covered with cheese cloth, to dry on your car on a hot sunny day.
In the Oven
Oven: Set your tomatoes on racks that are set on cookie sheets, spread them out so you have space to turn them, season them if you wish sea salt and rosemary works very nicely! Turn your oven on its lowest setting, and let the tomatoes cook till dry and leathery.
This can be an expensive way to do this, but if you do not have access to a food dehydrator, or hot sun, this method is still cheaper than purchasing these little guys in the store. Times vary widely as to how long it will take for for these to be done depending on where your stove is set and the weather, but you can expect them to take anywhere from 5 to 20 hours.
Using a Dehydrator
If you have a dehydrator this is a very frugal way to do this. Put your tomatoes on the trays as you would any fruit or vegetable, and season them to your liking. Dehydrate on 140 degrees till they are dry and leathery, again times will vary check your manufacturers booklet for exact times.
Outside in Your Car
If you have the equipment already this is the ultimate frugal way to do this, use a thin tray or rack to put your tomatoes on. You can also use a cookie sheet. Place them on your car in early morning on the dashboard with the windows rolled up on a hot sunny day. You can cover them with cheese cloth to be sure that the bugs do not feast on them. Doing it this way you can expect the tomatoes to take 1 to 2 days to dry completely, but you will have produced beautiful sun dried tomatoes with the natural energy of the sun!
Storing your Sun dried Tomatoes
Now that you have made your sun dried tomatoes you will want to store them for maximum freshness. If you have a vacuum seal use this, they will last far longer with that than anything else. If not then use regular Ziploc baggies just realize you will not get as long a storage life with these.
The best way to store your tomatoes is in the freezer stored this way they will last up to 12 months. If you have only made a small amount, you can store them in the fridge for a few weeks. Be sure they stay dry though, if they get moist they will mold very quickly.
When you are ready to use your tomatoes they rehydrate very quickly in water, or for a true gourmet flavor, you can rehydrate them in oil flavored with herbs in the fridge for a few days.
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Pic by:Andrew Deacon