Friday, September 7, 2012

Homemade Dried Tomatoes

We really thought our tomatoes this year would be a lost cause. The weather went a bit crazy; more cold and wet than warm and dry. The latter most favored by the tomatoes.

Good thing we have most of our tomatoes planted under a roof. They bloomed. The tomatoes came, but they were mostly green. As if they would never turn red! Then we went camping, taking advantage of a one-week warm weather forecast; leaving the watering of our tomatoes and other plants to our friendly neighbor.

When we came back? Wow, the tomatoes were thriving! We gave away most of the first harvest. The rest we packed and froze.

The red, red tomatoes
The tomatoes kept on thriving. We pluck them out daily, early morning and late evening. We eat them for breakfast, just like that. We have them as salad for lunch, with olive oil, salt, pepper and vinegar. We serve them as relishes for dinner.

And still they thrive! We have no more space to freeze them. So I decided to dry them. The storeroom has enough space. I checked the internet for ways to dry tomatoes. A lot of suggestions. I chose the one that suits me and changed them according to my own suitable way :-)

I don't really know how many types of tomatoes we have in our garden: cocktail, beef (fleischtomate), cherry, roma, etc... But I treated all of them the same, except that I separated the big ones from the small ones.

How to dry tomatoes?

I chose to start with the small types of tomatoes first, just because this is my first time to do tomato drying and the smaller ones might be the best choices to experiment with. I harvested them one early morning.

What you need to dry tomatoes:

tomatoes, washed and cut
clean bottles with tight caps
olive oil

The amount of things you would need depend on how many  tomatoes you plan to dry!! As for me, I didn't want to waste the oven's heat so in my first attempt, I made sure I have three trays full and I ended up filling two small bottles and a half of a big bottle (see photo below) of dried tomatoes. I also used up a 750 ml bottle of olive oil!

Now to prepare. I washed them, dried them and cut them in half. Then I placed a baking paper on an oven tray, and placed the halved tomatoes, making sure there's enough space in between them (as instructed by the sites that I read).

Afterwards, I sprinkled them with salt. I used sea salt with herbs just because I wanted to try this unopened salt given to us by our neighbor.
The small tomatoes are ready to be dried.
In a pre-heated oven, 150 degrees, place the oven tray and bake for six hours. Afterwards, turn off the oven and leave the tomatoes inside, leaving the door halfway open, until the oven cools down. I shoved three trays all at once because I am mindful of the cost of electricity! (If I had known that I would be drying tomatoes in the future, I would have taken advantage of the sun!!! But since it is too late as the weather is getting colder, I resigned myself to using the oven.)

Dried tomatoes fresh from the oven
After pulling the trays from the oven, I left the dried tomatoes to settle down for another hour before I started putting them in prepared bottles (I boiled the bottles and the caps ahead of time!)

The dried tomatoes in a bottle
Place the dried tomatoes inside the bottle. Make sure your containers are tightly capped! (Or you might want to use ziploc bags if you want to freeze them just like that.)
Homemade dried tomatoes with olive oil
Then pour the olive oil. The oil should cover the dried tomatoes because it is the oil that would help keep them fresh and good for at least the next six months (that's according to my research!). Of course, you need to put these dried tomatoes in a dry, cool place and away from the sun.

It is now the big tomatoes turn to be dried
After two days of drying my first tomatoes, I decided it was a success. My husband cannot resist munching on them right after I removed them from the oven! It is now the bigger tomatoes' turn.

And because I am aware of the amount of time they would need inside the oven (not to mention the electric bill), I decided to utilize the tray space in between the tomatoes. I sliced them into four pieces, and this time, placed them very near each other. Sprinkled salt and shoved them in the pre-heated oven. This time, it was at 170 degrees, because the tomatoes are thicker and yes, bigger. There were only two trays this time.

The bigger tomatoes all lined-up, ready to be dried
The same procedure as the first attempt, six hours but at 170 degrees. Then I left them inside the turned-off oven until the heat is gone. Before letting them breath outside for an hour, again.

The homemade dried tomatoes in bottles
I am proud to say that we now have six bottles of dried tomatoes soaking in olive oil that would definitely tide us up during the cold season. Not to mention those packs that we have frozen!

But as I mentioned earlier, I could have done it over the real hot days to save energy, next time!

Meanwhile, I am busy cutting various herbs and spices in our garden because I want to start drying them, too! Wish me luck!

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