Sunday, September 11, 2016

Eats: Oven-Dried Tomatoes

Hello! In my last post, I talked about red bell peppers. Well, I'm still seeing red, but this time it's tomatoes. 

It's tomato time at our local farmer's market. It's easy to snare some good deals on them this time of year - especially if you go for the baskets or boxes labeled "seconds". These are less-than-perfect specimens, so they're dirt-cheap by comparison to pristine tomatoes.
I bought some "seconds" to try out in a recipe called "Oven-Dried Tomatoes".  This recipe was included in Barbara Pleasant's article "Freezing Fruits And Vegetables From Your Garden", Mother Earth News, August/September 2013. 

First, the directions, then my notes afterward:

Oven-Dried Tomatoes (adapted from Barbara Pleasant's recipe of the same name)

Preheat your oven to 250. Wash, dry and core ripe tomatoes. Cut paste tomatoes and cherry tomatoes lengthwise in half. Cut slicing tomatoes into quarters. Arrange the tomatoes, cut side up, on baking sheets that have rims to catch any juices. Sprinkle with sea salt; you can also add fresh herbs and a light drizzle of olive oil. Place in oven and cook 1 hour, then reduce heat to its lowest setting. Dry for two more hours, or until the tomatoes flatten and edges pucker. 

Freeze your half-dried tomatoes on cookie sheets, then pack them into freezer-safe containers. 

Notes: Besides the sea salt and olive oil, I also added a bit of freshly-ground black pepper and sprinklings of Italian seasoning and Aleppo pepper. I used slicing tomatoes.

I followed the oven temperatures and times specified in the recipe - and got tomatoes that barely looked reduced in size. Thus, I had to leave them in the oven longer. We had a lot of rain in August, so I suspect that had something to do with tomatoes that needed more drying time. In other words, I'd started out with very juicy tomatoes. 

For subsequent batches, I started at 275, then lowered the heat to 200. It still took awhile for my tomatoes to shrink down, but it was quicker than it would have been if I'd stuck to the original directions. 

The article had no pictures accompanying the recipe, so I wasn't exactly sure what flattened tomatoes with puckered edges should look like. But I'll show a before and after so you can see how my oven-dried tomatoes turned out:

Above, sliced, seasoned tomatoes are going into the oven. 

And above, after oven-drying. 

I froze the cooked slices on cookie sheets, then packed them into freezer bags. 

Author Pleasant suggested using these for pizza or pasta sauce. I'll try that, but I also thought these would be good on sandwiches and in salads over the winter. After all, as good as local tomatoes are, the decidedly non-local winter tomatoes are as bad. It'll be nice to bypass those mealy, tasteless numbers!


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