How to Make Sun-Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil
The garden has been generous this year, particularly with tomatoes. We've been making sauce for weeks now and have been eating a steady stream of fresh tomato slices with mozzarella and basil. In addition to my own tomatoes, I also got tomatoes from my local farm market to can and make sweet tomato jam. I'm almost looking forward to winter so I can reap the rewards of these summer food preservation activities.
Tip: Your local farmers or farm markets may sell boxes of "seconds." These are mildly distressed tomatoes that are still delicious and perfect for canning or making jams and sauces with. They're considerably cheaper than the tomatoes on the shelf (I got over 25 pounds for $15).
This year, I grew HM Marzinara tomatoes, which are similar to Roma tomatoes. While I got LOTS of them, they weren't fully turning dark red as I expected. I tend to take tomatoes indoors once they start to ripen and put them into paper bags to fully ripen. I do this to keep the squirrels from getting them before I do. While this method has worked for other tomatoes, this only worked moderately well for these. While the texture has been ripe, their color doesn't seem to fully get there. Because of this, I thought drying them to make "sun-dried" tomatoes would be a great way to use them as this method makes the flavor more intense.
Drying tomatoes is easy to do, but can take some time. Tomatoes can be dried in the sun, the oven or using a dehydrator. Sun drying takes a very long time (weeks), so the other two methods are probably a better fit for your schedule. I don't have a dehydrator, so for me, it's the oven method.
How to Dry Tomatoes in the Oven
Ingredient amounts will vary based on how many tomatoes you have, but count on getting about 1 ounce of dried tomatoes for every 10 standard tomatoes. Although you can use any tomato variety, saucing tomatoes such as Roma, Marzinara or San Marzano tomatoes work best.
Olive oil (for storage)
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cover baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Cut tomatoes in half and remove the seeds.
- Place the tomatoes cut side up on the baking sheets and sprinkle lightly with salt.
- Place the tomatoes in the oven and roast for approximately 6-7 hours, checking on them and rotating trays periodically for even cooking (or use the 'Convection' setting on your oven to avoid having to rotate trays).
- When all the moisture has been dried out of the tomatoes but before they get crisp, remove the tomatoes from the oven and let cool.
Storing Dried Tomatoes
Dried tomatoes can be stored dry or packed in olive oil. It's really a matter of preference which you choose. They can be kept longer if they're stored dry (about a year), but I prefer the texture and flavor packed in oil, so this is the method I used. I've read varying recommendations and methods for long-term storage of oil-packed tomatoes. Making your own and storing is different than buying them in the supermarket -- storage recommendations are very different.
Homemade dried tomatoes packed in oil (without added herbs or garlic) should be shelf-stable for up to 6 months. However, once you've opened them, they should be refrigerated and, after opening, they'll be good for about 1 month. I add red wine vinegar when I pack them to introduce more acidity and hopefully make them last longer, but homemade dried tomatoes in oil will not last as long as store-bought.
I decided to refrigerate one of the containers and freeze the remaining jars. (Make sure your glass jars are labeled "Freezer Safe.") When I'm ready to use the frozen jars, I'll thaw them and refrigerate them immediately. If you plan on freezing them, you may want to do it in small quantities so you can take out only what you'll need at the time.
Red Wine Vinegar
- Using tongs, dip tomatoes in a bowl of red wine vinegar to fully cover, then shake off excess vinegar and place them in the jar.
- Continue to layer tomatoes, adding olive oil along the way. Continue until the jar is fully packed, covering the tomatoes completely in oil.
- Secure the lid on the jar tightly.