A bumper crop of cherry tomatoes makes for sweet, scrum-delyicious Oven 'Sun-Dried' Tomatoes to be used on everything from homemade pizza to chicken cutlets in tomato cream. Best part is, the method is largely hands-off.
Among the zillion recipes floating around for use of cherry tomatoes is to make homemade sun-dried tomatoes....in your oven. Oven 'Sun-dried' Tomatoes are sweet, easy to do, natural in color with nothing weird added, and keep for several weeks in the fridge. Planted a few cherry tomato plants, and are now inundated with the little gems? Follow along, because if you are already at the point of giving pints away to neighbors, consider "gifting" these jarred versions of summer's friendliest member of the garden instead. I have personally found that friends LOVE receiving these as summertime gifts.
Oven 'Sun-Dried' Tomatoes are a fragrant, intensified taste of summer's sultry days.
A few weeks back, I posted my version of chicken cutlets in a cream sauce in which sun-dried tomatoes are the star ingredient. I merely referenced using homemade sun-dried tomatoes one time in the post. To date, I have received MANY requests for my homemade method. One reader said it best, in that she had planted more than she and her family could possibly eat, and rather than buying store bought sun-dried tomatoes for the chicken recipe, she wanted to be able to use some of what she had.
Oblong tomatoes like San Marzano or Roma, or flavorful cherry tomatoes, work best for Oven 'Sun-Dried' Tomatoes. If using tomatoes larger than a cherry tomato, scrape out the seeds and pulp before placing into the oven.
If you do not have Mason jars, empty and cleaned pickle or fruit jars from the pantry will work. They must be glass and must have metal tops. Junk jars as I refer to them, are actually perfect for this exercise. Here is a hack for removing both the label and the sticky glue. First, soak the jars for about 20 minutes. Soaking is going to get a good portion of the label GONE.
Next, make a paste of equal portions of baking soda and olive oil in a little bowl. Dry the jars and apply a liberal amount of the paste to the remaining gluey label mess. I use the scour-side of a kitchen sponge to rub the paste in a circular direction over the glue and rub until it's clean. Run your jars and their lids through the dishwasher to make sure they are sterile before you begin.
Oven 'Sun-dried' Tomatoes are so incredibly flavorful, especially made with juicy ripe tomatoes at the height of their season. They are irresistibly delicious. The riper the tomato, the sweeter the dried outcome.
I recommend playing Oven 'Sun-dried' Tomatoes up the best you can. What do I mean? You all know my argument for herbs. In addition to using summer's loudest member of the garden, basil, I use thyme, micro-chives and garlic for these tomatoes. Just snip off what you want to use, rinse, and then dry. For the garlic, smash a clove or two and pop into the jar as you are packing it. No need to even peel it.
Store in olive oil in the refrigerator or pack into a freezer bag once dry and place in the freezer for up to 3 months. I find the olive oil method works for my household, as they do not usually last very long with everything we use them in.
I add micro-chives, bulb and plant, whole and intact. Any acid from the tomatoes will begin to break down the micro-chives, imparting their flavor in the process. If you like things hot, try a pinch of red pepper flakes, but do go easy on them. Oven 'Sun-dried' Tomatoes are meant to add tanginess and a slight sweetness to recipes. If you plan to add heat to a recipe, add it while you are cooking it, not to the ingredients for it. Those red pepper flakes tend to become bitter over time and could spoil your lot.
Ingredients for Oven 'Sun-Dried' Tomatoes
- 2 pounds fresh ripe Campari, San Marzano, Roma, or cherry tomatoes
- sea salt flakes
- Prepare storage jars with tight-fitting lids by sterilizing in a hot water bath. Remove from the bath using tongs and allow to dry completely.
- Line a large rimmed baking sheet or sheets with parchment paper. Place a drying rack over the parchment.
- Preheat the oven to 250° F, or the lowest setting possible.
- Cut each tomato in half lengthwise. If using any tomato larger than a cherry tomato, scoop the seeds and pulp out and discard.
- Once all of the tomatoes have been sliced, place each tomato half, cut side up, on the drying rack leaving room between each and every tomato. Nobody should be touching.
- Sprinkle the tomatoes lightly with the flaked sea salt.
- Place baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 2.5 to 3.5 hours, or until the tomatoes are dehydrated and leathery, but not crispy. Check them every hour during drying.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool. To store, transfer the sun-dried tomatoes to a jar or jars. If using garlic or herbs, tuck these in and around the tomatoes as you pack them. Pack the jars until full, but not too tight. Fill with a quality olive oil until the tomatoes and any extra ingredients are completely covered. Fasten lids and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Alternatively, cooled tomatoes may be placed into freezer bags and frozen, without oil or additional ingredients, for up to 3 months.