Gardening Articles: Health :: Cooking
Drying Tomatoes (page 2 of 3)
by Shila Patel
The most convenient drying option, especially if you are not ready to invest in a dehydrator, is using a traditional gas or electric oven on the lowest temperature setting. If your oven can't be set below 150° F, slow-roasting (see below) will yield similarly tasty results. Oven-drying takes 6 to 12 hours, depending on the temperature and the fruits' size and moisture content. It's important to remove as much moisture as possible without allowing the fruits to dry completely, because the lower the moisture content, the longer the tomatoes can be stored safely. Dried fruits should be leathery and pliable.
Preheat the oven to 140° to 145° F Place the prepared fruits skin side down on a plastic-mesh screen, or on a baking sheet lined with cooking parchment or a silicon baking mat. Prop the oven door open slightly to allow the moist, hot air to escape. Check the tomatoes regularly, and rotate the baking sheet if necessary. Dried fruit should be uniformly dry and pliable but not sticky when cool.
The fruits can also be removed earlier. Although these moister tomatoes must be refrigerated, they have a rich flavor and are ideal for packing in olive oil for up to a week.
For uniform results, an electric dehydrator or a convection oven that offers a low temperature setting is matchless. Dehydrators have a heating element to produce the moderate temperatures (135° to 140° F) and low humidity critical for proper drying. The best dehydrators include a fan, temperature controls, and a timers. Depending on the model, drying can take 5 to 9 hours, but the results are evenly dried fruits well suited for long-term storage.
Convection ovens that can be set to temperatures of 110° to 140° F work similarly, but have less capacity. To obtain the best results from either appliance, follow the manufacturer's directions.
Never use a microwave oven to dry tomatoes; it can't provide the essential continuous, moderate heat and air circulation.
Storage and Uses
Store dried tomatoes in airtight containers and a cool location
Allow dried tomatoes to cool completely before storing. To maintain their low moisture content, seal cooled, dried fruits in airtight bags, squeezing out excess air. Store the bags in a cool (60° to 70° F), dry, dark place for up to six months. Dried tomatoes can also be refrigerated in airtight containers for up to eight months or frozen for up to a year.
Use dried tomatoes in pastas, sandwiches, salads, and sauces. Chop or julienne them to accent many dishes. Dried tomatoes can also be rehydrated before use. Cover them in warm water or wine, and soak about 10 minutes, until they soften and plump slightly.