Homemade sun-dried tomatoes are the way to preserve the delectable taste of sun-warmed, perfectly ripe, heirloom tomatoes plucked straight from the garden. Sun drying is a method that has been used to preserve and intensify that great tomato flavor for centuries, but store-bought sun-dried tomatoes are expensive and sun-drying at home can be problematic.
The sun doesn’t always cooperate and there are those pesky critters to worry about, it seems they like tomatoes too. Fortunately, for those with a supply of garden-fresh tomatoes, oven drying is an easy and cost-effective way to put the delicious taste of sun-dried tomatoes in our pantries.
Anyone with access to an oven can prepare high-quality, oven-dried tomatoes (see nutritional information for them HERE), and when compared to preservation methods like canning, oven drying takes minimal effort.
Benefits of Homemade Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Drying your own tomatoes will give you a much fresher product for a fraction of the cost of purchased sun-dried tomatoes. They will be infinitely better than the unknown produce quality of store-bought dried tomatoes.
The commercial process for sun drying involves adding sulfur to deter rodents and uneven temperatures, which create variables in the end product. By drying your tomatoes at home, you have complete control over the quality, flavor, and ingredients.”
THE BEST TOMATO VARIETIES FOR DRYING
Almost any variety of tomato can be oven-dried successfully; however, the varieties that are best for drying are solid, meaty, and thick-walled. This makes plum or cherry tomatoes tops for drying. Among them, it’s best to choose varieties that have low moisture content, few seeds, and rich flavor. Using smaller fruited, uniform size varieties also promotes more uniform drying.
It takes about five pounds of plum tomatoes to yield two cups of dried tomatoes, so growing indeterminate tomato varieties for drying is a good idea. Indeterminate varieties produce a steady, manageable harvest over a long period rather than a big crop all at once like determinate varieties. San Marzano, Napoli, and Roma are all tasty, open-pollinated, indeterminate tomato varieties that are typically well suited to drying.
HOW TO GET GET THEM READY FOR DRYING
Preparing tomatoes for oven drying can be as simple as washing, drying, and cutting them in half, or can be more labor-intensive if the seeds and skin are removed (most store-bought sun-dried tomatoes retain the skin and seeds).
Select fully ripe, firm tomatoes with no blemishes. Wash and dry the tomatoes to remove any dirt and chemicals, and remove the tomato stems. If drying with the skins and seeds intact, simply cut plum or cherry tomatoes in half, or cut slicing tomatoes into ¼” thick slices.
If the skins are to be removed prior to drying, lightly cut an “X” through the skin on the bottom end of each tomato, drop them into boiling water, and blanch for 20 to 30 seconds. Use a slotted spoon to remove the tomatoes from the boiling water, and then immerse them in ice water. The skins will then slip off the tomatoes easily. To remove the seeds, simply scoop them out with a spoon or your finger, being sure to leave the flesh.
OVEN DRYING THE TOMATOES
To oven dry tomatoes, preheat the oven to 200°F and lay the tomatoes out on a baking sheet or slotted tray so that the edges don’t touch. Using slotted trays and convection ovens help promote better air circulation and more uniform drying, but are not required for good results.
Plum tomatoes should be laid out with the skin side down. Cherry tomatoes are better dried with the cut side down. Some people prefer to season the tomatoes with salt and Italian seasoning prior to drying them for a more authentic “sun-dried” flavor, but by leaving them plain you have more versatility for the end-use.
Place the tomato-filled trays in the oven and bake the tomatoes uncovered until dried. It takes approximately 12 hours depending on the type and size of tomatoes used. Smaller tomatoes will dry faster, so it’s best to check them every few hours. Cherry tomatoes may dry in as little as 3 – 4 hours whereas plum or slicing tomatoes typically take 12 hours or longer.
When done, the tomatoes should be flexible (not brittle) but leathery with a deep red color. It’s a good idea to check them frequently toward the end of the drying time, and individually begin removing any that are ready until they’ve all dried adequately.
STORING HOMEMADE SUN-DRIED TOMATOES
After cooling completely, dried tomatoes can be stored long-term in either the pantry or the freezer. But, freezer storage maintains their flavor and texture best. If completely moisture-free, dried tomatoes stored in airtight containers in a cool, dry, dark pantry will maintain texture and flavor for about a year; however, most home-dried tomatoes still contain some moisture and tend to mold in the pantry.
The best method for packaging dried tomatoes for freezer storage is to vacuum seal them in bags. Or, they can be stored in airtight containers like zippered plastic freezer bags, jars, or plastic containers with tightly fitting lids. The goal is to minimize air exposure, so use the smallest container possible to hold the prepared tomatoes. Squeeze out any excess air if using freezer bags. Dried tomatoes properly stored in the freezer will maintain flavor and texture for about 18 months.
USING THE BOUNTY
Home dried tomatoes can be used in any recipe calling for sun-dried tomatoes, but they usually need to be rehydrated before use. Or, dried tomatoes can be added directly to recipes for soups or stews where the liquid in the recipe will rehydrate the tomatoes. You can also pulse dried tomatoes in a coffee grinder into a fine powder. This can serve as both a flavor enhancer and a thickener for soups and stews.
Dried tomatoes can be rehydrated in plain olive oil, or in a mason jar of olive oil and either Italian seasoning or pesto sauce. When rehydrating tomatoes in olive oil with or without spices, you will need to refrigerate them. Let them soak overnight; they are ready the next day. You should use dried tomatoes rehydrated in olive oil within two weeks.
Dried tomatoes can also be rehydrated by soaking in water, stock, or wine. Allow the tomatoes to steep in the liquid until they are soft, about 30 – 60 minutes. Then drain the tomatoes (save the liquid for another use – it contains lots of vitamins), and use as directed in the recipe. If you’re looking for some inspiration on how to use your homemade sun-dried tomatoes, try this delicious Sun-Dried Tomato Dip!
As fresh garden produce production peaks in the fall, it’s comforting to know that there is an easy, economical, labor-saving way to preserve fresh tomatoes. Their intense tomato flavor will add a gourmet touch and rich taste to countless recipes. Once oven-dried tomatoes are in your pantry or freezer, the ways to use them are limited only by your imagination.
Healthy and at the same time delicious. This one is a really must try. And what’s best is this is very easy to prep.
my daughter and grandson love it it expensive for little bite.
Deon Monahan says
Love this. I planted 20 tomato plants this year (10 different types) and was looking for different ways to store them besides sauces and this is FANTASTIC. I thought it would be difficult and time consuming. WOW. Thanks.
Hi Deon, glad it’s going to help out – I really like that it’s so easy compared to canning 🙂
Thanks for sharing your tutorial with the HomeAcre Hop!
Hope you join us again,
Faye Burnett says
I’ve done these in my dehydrator. I always removed the seeds. This looks way easier.
another item I loved dried is onions…I think am going to try to do some this year…I always buy them from the Amish but I have tons of winter onions in my gardens, and if you don’t use them they get very hard and strong. Gosh this reminds me in the days my kids were little..We lived on the farm and raised beef, had a few dairy cows(Brown Swiss). I use to milk by hand, made butter, cottage cheese…etc…had a huge garden, chickens, ducks, geese, goats horses…Oh ya forgot the pigs…Oh and rabbits too…My kids showed them all in 4H..Then the kids grew older, I had to go back to work and the projects got smaller and smaller…Kids left to start lives of their own..We still had cows but then TB took them…I retired and now have more time and am starting to do more gardening and we are getting CHICKENS…and I am very excited….Am loving being retired…Oh yes, I have my beloved horses and ponies…am teaching my grandkids to ride and camp with horses…Well I guess I got off on a little tangent, but reading all your posts i get excited about getting back into “real” living. Thanks girls…
is there ar way to dry them without losing the brilliant red tomato color?
Darlene, when we were in Italy, they had hot peppers in olive oil and they drizzled it on pizza – it was delicious, so that’s on my list to make soon!
Wow you guys, what great tips and ideas…i am going to definitely try sun dried tomatoes…also I bought a jar of sun dried peppers they were packed in vinegar…I loved them was wonder if we could do the same with peppers as with tomatoes…i love the idea of packing them in olive oil with seasonings…
Jess Wilson Cowman says
Could I pack them in olive oil and store in the fridge and would they keep for any amount of time?
Pack them in olive oil and add basil, rosemary and a clove garlic. Store on your shelf not refrigerator. The oil will coagulate in refrigerator
What a fantastic idea – thank-you for sharing!! Hope to try this this summer. (And what a cute, creative blog name!)
Lisa, thanks for the complement on the blog name!
Darlene Alexander says
can you use a dehydrator for the tomatoes?
Darlene, I don’t know why you couldn’t use a dehydrator, but I haven’t done it that way.
Yes you can use a dehydrator. I did the tomatoes from my garden in the dehydrator last summer and they turned out great!
I put mine in oven on 275 for 5 hours. Works like a charm!
Becky, that’s good to know – thanks for sharing!
I live in Baja Mexico and have plenty of sun. I know you say to cook in the oven for 12 hours and the thought of running my oven for 12 hours makes me cringe…how do i do this recipe for leaving them out in the sun. Is everything the same except you place them outside covered?
I would be very great full for your input
Hi Beverley, I live in Northeast Ohio and don’t have plenty of sun – I don’t know long this will take in the sun – anyone else have any input? Give it a try and let us know how it works……
http://www.tomatodirt.com/storing-dried-tomatoes.html How to pack in oil SAFELY!!
All I have read about drying tomatoes in the sun is 1) cover or tent some cheesecloth over them to prevent bugs 2) it can take a couple of days; bring them in at night 3) to prevent blackening/darkening, heat the tomatoes in an oven or microwave until they are hot but not cooked — this disables the enzymes that cause darkening — then proceed with your chosen drying method. Wish I knew that 2 days ago! http://www.2createincolor.com/2012/09/15/diy-dried-tomatoes/ I just did this myself.
Hi Beverly, I am from South Africa and leave mine out in the sun! Works gorgeously. I just put a stocking type/muslin cover over the tray so the bugs dont get to it. I have a cheeky weaver in my garden who tries to eat them, lol. I bring them in at night and out again in the morning for the whole day. It takes 3 days though to properly sun-dry, but it is SO worth it! They turn out super sweet and delicious. I flavour mine with some salt and thyme or oregano
Caddie what is a cheaky weaver?
LOL, its a wild bird in my garden
I made these last year and still have some in my freezer. They are like CANDY!! Such a wonderful flavour. I will be making them again this year.
I tried this out today! They are awesome. I went the full 12 hours and they all dried nicely. I am considering packing half in 250ml jars with olive oil. I just took them out of the oven and I will bag or pack in jars in the morning! Thanks for the great recipe. I live in the heart of tomato country here in Canada. In our community you either work at the Heinz factory or are in some sort of agriculture. I still have a half a hamper of romas left and will make chili sauce with them. Happy Canning!
I’ve done this a few times myself — living in western WA we have the same problem with that darned sun! I’m glad you hear you say you stored them in the freezer. I don’t dry mine quite as far as you, so I felt they could still spoil and that’s where I decided I’d keep them.