Aug 19, 2014

Preserving the Harvest - Overn Roasted & Dehydrated Tomatoes

Unlike our basil, our tomato crop this year have been less than stellar. It;s not that we haven't yielded high number, just that the actual fruit has been small. Our Early girls, which should be the size of a vine-ripened tomato found at the store, ended up looking like extra large cherry tomatoes. In fact, I think we had cherry tomatoes last year the same size!

We also planted Romas. These didn't grow very large either - not even to the size of what you find in the store. But, given this was a learning year (more water earlier on, and fertilizer/nutrition for the soil next year) and that we still have plenty of tomatoes from last year frozen in our freezer in the garage, I decided to experiment in ways to use these tiny tomatoes this year.

We eat Greek salad for lunch on a weekly basis, and I've been using our home grown tomatoes for this salad each week - using up 6 to 8 at a time. And even at that rate we couldn't use them up, we do have that many. After reading my September issue of Martha Stewart Living, I decided to give Oven-roasted tomatoes a try. 

So last week, I set about rinsing, slicing and spicing up our tomatoes, laying the tomatoes halves, skin side down on cookie sheets lined with parchment. With the oven set at 250 degrees, it took 3 hours to get the tomatoes to a perfect sun-dried tomato-like consistency. And the house smelled delicious. I then canned the halves up in 1/2 quart canning jars, surrounded by 1/2 olive oil and 1/2 veggie oil. Because I jarred the tomatoes straight from the cookie sheets, 2 or the 3 jars sealed from the heat. The 3rd ended up sealing while in the refrigerator (we even tested it by taking it out of the fridge and letting it come to room temperature throughout an entire day). 

But given that our oven is gas and we are on propane, over-dried tomatoes isn't exactly economical, even in summer (especially given that we then have the AC going more).

We recently had solar installed, so I decided to give the dehydrator a second go, this time set up in the garage. That way I could poke my head in on the progress versus going absolutely batty listening to the fan in it. We put the tomatoes in for 5 hours at 160 degrees. After that, the tomatoes were almost done. An extra hour in the oven at 250 finished them off and provided the charred edges that I love so much. 

Again, I jarred the tomatoes immediately, with 3 of 5 sealing that night. The other two jars I simmered in water on the over for 30 minutes to get them to seal. 

I can't wait to use these on food soon. I love sun-dried tomatoes, whether blended with garlic and used as a spread with or without cheese, or mixed in with Alfredo sauce and pasta. Honestly I could just snack on these suckers. We tried a few right off the cookie sheets and they were delicious.

The recipe I followed from Martha Stewart is a simple one. Simply sprinkle sugar, salt and assorted Italian seasonings (I literally just used Italian Seasoning) over the cut-side of the tomato halves and bake at 250 degrees 1-6 hours, depending on how dried out you want them.

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