It’s easy to dry tomatoes at home. All you need are firm flavorsome tomatoes and an oven. I started drying tomatoes about seventeen years ago and have never looked back since. I rarely buy them and much prefer home dried tomatoes over some of the leathery, salty and acidic commercially dried ones. About two years ago I bought a dehydrator and many times I find myself using both. Please don’t be put off with the lengthily drying time, drying your own tomatoes is so worth the effort and you wont be disappointed with the delicious deep intense results. There are endless ways of using up these very moorish bits with recipes and it’s worth drying at least 2 to 3 kilo- (more if you have an extra oven) at a time. Dried tomatoes are a wonderful store cupboard staple and Farmers Markets are great places to pick up some delicious fresh tomatoes. Oven dried tomatoes in olive oil makes a wonderful gift for foodies.
Drying tomatoes using an oven requires very low temperatures of 155F/68C/Fan 55C/Gas Mark 1/2 and if you have a fan assisted oven even better, as the circulating air distributes the heat more evenly. These days some gas ovens have a fan switch, use it if you have one. If you feel comfortable leaving your electric oven on overnight (not a gas oven), pop the tomatoes into the oven before heading to bed. As you sleep, your tomatoes will transform into moorish shrunken morsels of savory sweetness. Drying overnight frees your oven for daytime use. But if you have never dried tomatoes before, best to do this during the day and get comfortable with the drying process. Aim to dry a kilo or more of fresh tomatoes as they shrink to about quarter their size. This an approximate… after drying 1 kilo of tomatoes I usual end up with around 150g of dried tomatoes.
The only seasoning I sprinkle over the tomatoes before drying is sea salt. I never use oil, sugar or other dried or fresh herbs. I used to dry garlic along with the tomatoes but now prefer to flavor the dried tomatoes with fresh herbs and garlic before using them. When I started drying tomatoes I read you should never add fresh garlic (dried is ok) to jars of home dried tomatoes in olive oil when storing for long periods of time. This can support the growth of C. botulinum bacteria which causes serious food poisoning, so best to err on the side of caution.
I like to lightly toss dried tomatoes (a few at a time) with a little balsamic vinegar before placing them into sterilized jars and covering with olive oil. The acidity of balsamic vinegar helps preserve the tomatoes and adds extra flavor, you can omit this step if you wish. To prevent spoilage and mold always store oven dried tomatoes in the refrigerator. Don’t be alarmed if you see the olive oil solidify after time in the fridge… once you remove a few dried tomatoes from the jar, the olive oil quickly returns to its liquid state at room temperature. Use the leftover olive oil with salads, marinades and for brushing over meats and vegetables before grilling or barbecuing. Nothing goes to waste here… and you can recycle your jars for the next batch.
Points to remember:
- Choose firm tomatoes that are uniform in size so they dry at the same rate. Roma tomatoes are said to be best as they have a higher ratio of flesh and fewer seeds (less drying time), but I have only ever dried normal market tomatoes. I also never remove the skin or scoop out the seeds.
- Use a cooling rack or your oven rack (and not a baking sheet) to dry the tomatoes on, air needs to circulate around the tomatoes to dry effectively.
- Cut the tomatoes in 1/4 or into 1/3 if large and season with some sea salt.
- Pre-heat your oven to the correct temperature and use an oven thermometer if unsure. If you feel the lowest setting on your gas oven is reading a little high, leave the oven door slightly ajar with the help of a wooden spoon wedged in the door.
- Timings for drying tomatoes are approximate and this depends on the type of tomato, size and moisture content. Also the temperature and flow of hot air.
- Place the tomatoes skin side down on the rack and leave a space between each tomato so the hot air circulates freely.
- Once the tomatoes have dried they should still be pliable with little moisture inside.
- Nearer the end of drying time some pieces may have dried faster than others, remove when sufficiently dried.
- Tomatoes in olive oil should always be stored in the refrigerator and used within a month, although I have kept them longer.
Oven Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil
2kg firm unblemished tomatoes (or more if required)
balsamic vinegar (optional)
You will need: Preserving jars or other suitable jars, sterilized (I like to fill a few smaller jars and not one jar),
cooling racks or use the racks from the oven
How to make: Pre-heat the oven to 155F/68C/ Fan 55C /Gas Mark 1/2.
Meanwhile, wash the tomatoes and dry with kitchen paper. Depending on size, cut each tomato into 1/4 or 1/3.
Place tomatoes skin side down on cooling racks (stainless steel) or oven racks and season lightly with sea salt.
Place the tomatoes into the oven and leave to dry for 8 to 10 hours. Some pieces may dry quicker than others, remove them and leave to cool on a wire rack.
Once all the tomatoes have dried and cooled, place about 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar into a small bowl and add a few dried tomatoes. Lightly toss in the balsamic vinegar, remove from the bowl and place into a sterilized jar, filling them up. Repeat this step with the rest of the dried tomatoes, adding a little more balsamic vinegar to the bowl when needed.
Pour olive oil into the jars and completely cover the dried tomatoes. Seal and store in the refrigerator. Use within a month.
Do you have a favorite way of drying tomatoes?