On a pizza, in a pasta sauce, or tossed in a salad – however you like to eat them, sun-dried tomatoes are delicious.
But they can be quite expensive at the store and running your oven for a few hours isn’t cheap either. Dehydrators work, but not everyone has one and they don’t preserve the natural flavors in quite the same way. So what can you do to get quality sun-dried tomatoes? Put the sun back in sun-dried!
Why Sun Drying is the Best Way to Make Sun-Dried Tomatoes
That’s right, by far the cheapest, most environmentally friendly, and most delicious way to dry your tomatoes is to use the sun in your very own backyard. People have been using the sun for thousands of years to dry fruits, vegetables, and even meat.
If you live in a place that’s hot and dry, like the Midwest, you have perfect conditions for drying tomatoes outside, but anywhere with some heat should do fine. Of course, with more humidity in the air, it might take a little longer, but the end result will be well worth the wait.
The sun is better able to preserve the natural flavor of the tomato. You can taste the authenticity. Plus, learning how to sun-dry foods is a worthwhile skill to have.
You can of course sun dry almost any kind of food, including fruits, like apples, peaches, and apricots, but it’s a good idea to start with something easy like tomatoes.
How to Sun Dry Tomatoes
The actual process is really quite simple.
First you wash your tomatoes and then slice them. You can cut them into halves or thirds, whatever you want really. Just try to get them as close to the same thickness as possible so that they will take the same amount of time to dry.
You can use whatever variety of tomato you like, though Roma, Pomodoro, and other kinds of plum or paste tomatoes are generally thought to be the best for sun drying.
Once cut, simply place them on a stainless steel screen. If you don’t have a screen, you can use any kind of netting or cloth. The key here is that you want there to be airflow from underneath, but you also don’t bugs to eat all your tomatoes. So just use whatever you have on hand to make it happen.
Next, you can sprinkle on some seasonings of your choice. A little sea salt can be good, or some herbs, like basil, thyme, or oregano.
Then cover your tomatoes with a screen, or netting, or cheesecloth even and set them out in the sun, raised off the ground. You can use wood blocks or whatever you have handy, just so long as the tomatoes are lifted up, so that air can flow from underneath.
You’ll want to check the forecast beforehand to make sure you’re in for a few hot, dry days in a row.
Let the Sun Do Its Thing
Then sit back and let the sun works its magic. It should take about three days or so for your tomatoes to dry thoroughly, so place them out in the direct sun each day and then take them back inside at night. You can also flip them over halfway through to help them dry more evenly.
You’ll know they’re done when they feel tacky, or a little bit sticky, like sun-dried tomatoes should. Then store them in canning jars in olive oil, or in vacuum-sealed bags.
If you grow your own tomatoes, this is a perfect thing to try when they all ripen at the same time and you have more than you know what to do with. You’ll be glad you did.
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