Technique: Sundried Tomatoes
As described in the technique description below, a piece of kitchen equipment called a dehydrator creates consistent and delicious sun-dried tomatoes. Though an oven at the lowest setting can be used, I prefer to dehydrate the tomatoes at 125˚, which is lower than most oven thermostats.
1) Wash up: Rinse tomatoes in a bowl of cool water.
2) Gather tools: Locate a large bowl for tomato scraps that will be discarded in steps 3 – 5. (Use the collected scraps for salads, as treats for the chickens or save for making tomato puree.) Locate dehydrator trays with mesh inserts. Locate a sharp knife, or if a very sharp knife is unavailable, a serrated bread knife works well for tomatoes. Gather sea salt or flavored sea salt, such as truffle sea salt.
3) Remove the base: The key to slices of sun-dried tomatoes is consistency without any rough bites. To achieve this, make a very thin slice across the bottom of the tomato to remove the base (opposite the stem.) The base is cut away because it has too much skin, plus heirloom tomatoes often have a rough brown patch at the base of the tomato. Set the base aside in a large bowl.
4) Slices: With the base removed, slice the tomatoes into 1/2″ slices. Though the slices may seem thick, they will shrivel dramatically when dried.
5) Remove the core: The slice closest to the stem may have a bit of core left in the slice. As mentioned in Step 3, removing rough bites is the key to a great sun-dried tomato! To do so, use an apple corer to remove the rough bit from the tomato center, as shown in the photographs above.
6) Arrange onto mesh inserts: Place sun-dried tomatoes onto mesh dehydrator trays. The pieces may touch, but not overlap.
7) Sea salt for added flavor: Sprinkle a dash of sea salt onto each slice for enhanced flavor. The flavor of truffle sea salt is a favorite in our family!
8) Dehydrate: Place dehydrator trays into the dehydrator and set machine at 125˚ for 18 – 24 hours. The tomatoes are finished when no moisture remains. If most of the slices are finished but a few are still a bit moist on the edges, simply remove the finished slices and return the slow-pokes to the dehydrator for a few more hours.
9) Finishing Step: When first removed from the dehydrator, the tomato slices will be crisp, like potato chips. Though delicious, I prefer to pile the dehydrated tomatoes onto a couple sheet trays (haphazardly stacked is fine) and cover with a thin cloth for 2 additional days. This extra step softens the tomatoes, just slightly. Now the tomatoes are ready to be bagged stored in the refrigerator.
A few tips for how to use your sun-dried tomatoes…