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.
I'm Catherine, a small-space urban gardener in New Jersey (Zone 7a) who started gardening out of upcycled wooden wine boxes. For years, I wanted to try gardening, but didn't know where to start. I got up the nerve to give it a try - starting small with a single wooden wine box that turned an idea into reality. That reality quickly turned into my filling every sunny inch of space of my postage-stamp size lawn and turning it into a garden oasis. I grow mostly vegetables and herbs with some exception for fruits (when the squirrels and rabbits don't get to them first). I love learning from gardening communities (and lots of trial and error).
I hope one day to take all that I'm learning and apply it to a larger plot of land. To help me get there, I'm extending my learning through the University of Massachusetts, Stockbridge School of Agriculture's, Sustainable Food & Farming program. (I'm addicted to learning as much as I am to gardening.)
This blog isn't just for gardeners (although I hope it inspires some of you to try growing a plant or two). The recipes (food & cocktails) in theRecipes section of this blog contain ingredients that don't have to come from your own backyard. If you like visiting your local farmer's market(or even your grocery store) and would like to get some new recipes you can use with the fresh produce and herbs you get from your local growers, this blog will have plenty for you too.
In addition to gardening and cooking, I also love to visit and photograph my surroundings. I feel fortunate to have so many amazing places here in New York/New Jersey, where I live and work. Visits to local farms, farmer's markets, and cycling through rural farming areas help me feel connected and refreshed. share these experiences in theExploring section of the blog so that you might visit through proxy or be inspired enough to visit yourself.
With very few exceptions, all of the photographs on this site are ones I have taken myself. (For the photographers out there, I shoot with a Canon 7D and sometimes with my Lumix DMC-ZS15 compact camera.)
I hope this blog inspires you to grow, create, explore, and try something new. The best way to stay up-to-date is to follow me using the social buttons above, or click Subscribe and sign up for my email newsletters.
Happy Gardening and Healthful Living!