We had an over-abundance of tomatoes in our garden this year, and needed to choose a good way to use them up as soon as possible. I absolutely love sun-dried tomatoes, and so I decided that was the direction I wanted to go. The weather is pretty variable in New England this time of year, so actually drying them in the sun for several days was not really an option. I used my oven instead. I am absolutely thrilled with the way these turned out, they are delicious! So, I am really excited to share the recipe and drying process with you all today.
Of course you will need some tomatoes. A bunch, actually, because when dried, the tomatoes shrink down by at least 50%. My tomatoes were from our backyard vegetable garden. We grew Roma and Bistro tomatoes this year, so that is what I used.
Wash all of your tomatoes and pat dry. Slice off the stem end of each one, then slice in half. Some people think a serrated knife is needed to get a good slice through a tomato, but this just isn’t true. If you take good care of your kitchen blades and sharpen them regularly, a straight edged blade is even better. If you ask me, one good, sharp, chef’s knife is all you really need for cooking!
Over a bowl, give each tomato a good squeeze with your hand to loosen up the seeds and juice inside. This part can get pretty messy (and fun!), so try not to wear a white shirt. Use a spoon to scoop out all the seeds and juice from inside. After you’ve scooped them out, you can slice the biggest tomatoes in half again if you would like, but remember that they will shrink significantly in the oven.
Lay the tomato halves cut side up on a foil lined baking sheet, spaced out enough so that they are not touching each other. Then sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and pepper. I also added a bit of garlic powder. Lay whole stalks of fresh thyme on top of the cut tomatoes. The taste of that fresh thyme will seep into the tomatoes during the drying process, and it really ramps up the flavor. Finally, drizzle everything with extra virgin olive oil. I actually keep some olive oil in a small spray bottle in my cabinet for giving foods an even coating, and I used that here.
Set your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and get ready to wait… These will take between six and eight hours to fully dry, depending how large and how juicy your tomatoes are. You don’t need to poke or turn them during this time, so you can just let them do their thing, slowly drying away in the oven while you go about your business. Just stay nearby so you don’t burn your house down or anything.
When they are done, the tomatoes will have turned a deep dark red, decreased in size, and have a shriveled, leathery appearance. Turn off the oven and let them cool slowly inside.
Once the dried tomatoes have cooled, pile them up in a jar and cover with extra virgin olive oil. Push them down in the jar with a spoon to release any air pockets. Top off with a little more oil to make sure they are fully covered. You can store the whole jar in the fridge like this, or go through the regular canning methods to seal and store in the pantry for even longer.
These oven-dried tomatoes taste great and are also really versatile. Try them on a piece of french bread with some good cheese, or in a pasta dish or salad. If you sealed your jars, they could even make a lovely hostess gift! As for me, there are still more tomatoes ripening in our garden, so I plan to make another batch next weekend!