How to dry your home-grown tomatoes

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Last Updated: 
December 12, 2008

EUGENE, Ore. – Sun-dried tomatoes are not just an exotic import from the Mediterranean. It is easy to create the flavor and aroma of dried tomatoes at home at a fraction of the cost of the imports. All you need is access to a food dehydrator, your oven or even a sunny day.

The Oregon State University Extension Family Food Program recommends the following simple and safe method for drying your garden-grown tomatoes at home.

Select ripe tomatoes of good color. Meaty "plum" varieties such as Roma, Oroma or Saucy work the best. Remove the skins, if you wish, by dipping the tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds. Chill immediately in cold water then peel.

Cut the tomatoes into slices that are one-fourth to one-third inch thick. Place them on food dehydrator trays. For seasoned dried tomatoes, sprinkle fresh tomato slices with herbs or garlic powder.

Dry them until leathery, with no moisture pockets. Store them in a cool, dry and dark place in plastic or glass containers.

If you have trouble with tomatoes darkening or turning black during the drying process, heat the fresh slices before drying. Steaming, blanching or heating in a microwave oven until the slices are heated throughout but not cooked, will reduce the enzymatic reaction that causes the blackening.

When you want to use the dried tomatoes, soak them in hot water until softened. They make great pizza or pasta sauce and liven up creamy dips.

Want to make dried tomato-flavored oil? Dried tomatoes can be packed safely in vegetable oil and stored at room temperature, as long as you added no fresh herbs or vegetables to the tomatoes while you were drying them. You can safely dry fresh herbs along with the tomatoes.

To soften "crunchy" dried tomatoes before putting them into oil, dip them in bottled lemon or lime juice first. Add only dried herbs or garlic to your tomatoes in oil – do not use fresh garlic or herbs as they can introduce potentially harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning.

The flavored oil can be used on pizza, pasta salads, appetizers, Italian dishes, in vinaigrette dressing or in a marinade sauce. It is also wonderful as a dip for crusty French bread.

The Lane County office of the OSU Extension Service offers many publications online to help you safely preserve your garden bounty.

And, OSU Extension has a Food Safety/Preservation hotline to answer your food preservation questions, operating between July 14 and Sept. 30. Call 1-800-354-7319, Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (except holidays). Trained Master Food Preserver volunteers and Extension staff from Lane and Douglas Counties operate this service.

Author: Carol Savonen
Source: Nellie Oehler