Drying tomatoes is one of the easiest tomato preservation methods. If you have a dehydrator or an oven or even a toaster oven, you can preserve tomatoes by drying and have an excellent product. And did I mention sun drying? Dried tomatoes can be used in all kinds of recipes, or even just for snacking. My family uses them for homemade pizza topping (excellent!) and in soups and stews. Dried tomatoes have a strong tangy flavor because the natural acids are concentrated.
The best tomato varieties for drying are those which are meaty, like the Roma. Large tomatoes with a lot of gel aren't recommended.
Follow these few simple steps for drying tomatoes.
Wash the tomatoes thoroughly in clean water to remove all traces of bacteria-harboring dirt. While not generally necessary, there are also food-safe soaps sold by some health food stores and markets for removing oil-based residues that are not entirely water-soluble, such as pesticides, waxy preservatives, and oils.
After washing, cut out the stem core, but don't peel them. For smaller tomatoes like cherries or Roma, cut them in half. For larger tomatoes slice them into 1/4-inch slices or quarters. For tomato varieties with a lot of seeds, carefully scoop out as many seeds as you can.
After slicing the washed tomatoes, you can dry them in the sun, use an oven, or use a dehydrator.
In Seattle the early fall sun doesn't make sun-drying a good option, but it may work well in your location.
Place the tomato slices on a non-stick cookie or baking sheet. Cover with a cheesecloth or similar to keep the insects at bay, and place in the sun. After eight hours check to see if they've reached the desired consistency. Turn the slices over for even drying and continue a second day in the sun if needed, but bring the tray inside at night.
For long term storage, the tomato slices should be completely dried until brittle. If they are still chewy, store them in plastic bags or glass jars and use them soon.
For sun-starved regions like mine, or for very humid regions, it is probably best to dry your tomatoes in the oven. Lay out the slices on a non-stick baking sheet as before, and brush lightly with olive oil. Set your oven to 150˚F (65˚C) or your oven's lowest setting.
Keep the tomatoes drying in the oven for at least 8 hours, but up to 2 days, until they are the desired consistency, which should be "crisp" for long-term storage.
For very small quantities a toaster oven with a temperature control can even be used in the same manner as a regular oven.
If you're lucky enough to have a dehydrator, you'll find they are excellent for drying tomatoes. Many people think dehydrators produce the best quality dried food. That's because an electric dehydrator can circulate the heated air evenly by means of a gentle fan. Some dehydrators also have timers.
Set your dehydrator's temperature to 150˚F (65˚C) and place the sliced tomatoes on the trays. Near the end of the drying time, check the dryness frequently so you don't overcook or scorch the tomatoes. Remove any tomatoes that are completely dried.
Homemade dried tomatoes can be stored in any airtight bag or container. For the best shelf life store them in the refrigerator or freezer. They'll keep for six to nine months. You can store them without refrigeration if you're sure they're completely dried. Check periodically for mold.
If you choose to store them in oil, they can be refrigerated for up to 4 months. A great appetizer recipe for dried cherry tomatoes is to add a basil leaf, a pinch of pepper, and a quarter clove of garlic to each tomato, and pack in a jar of olive oil.
Many recipes use rehydrated dried tomatoes. There are several ways to rehydrate them. You can add dried tomatoes directly to stews and soups. Or add 1-1/2 cups of boiling water to 1 cup of dried tomato pieces and let stand until the water is absorbed. Rehydrating usually takes about 2 hours.
Dried tomatoes can be chopped or sliced and make a delicious and nutritious addition to many recipes. Some ideas for cooking with dried tomatoes:
Just writing about this topic is making me hungry!