Something has gone terribly wrong with grocery store tomatoes. They masquerade as plump, fire-colored fruit, but if you look closely, you’ll notice their hue is pale. Take one home—and this will put a pretty dent in your pocketbook—and you’ll discover it is mealy, tasteless, an utter waste of money.
But there is a silver lining: the awful quality of grocery store tomatoes make tomatoes the easiest fruit to eat in season. I am convinced that no tomato can taste good out of season, so during these months I usually opt for canned tomatoes or no tomatoes. When tomatoes started showing up at the Farmers Market and the prices dropped to $1/pound, I sang for joy.
A revival of home canning and preserving has been sparked by the push to eat locally-grown and in-season foods. In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver outlines three simple tomato-based recipes to preserve tomatoes. Even the local hardware stores are recognizing that canning is stylish again, offering special discounts on canning sets. While I contemplate whether I should try to tackle canning this year—I’m a complete novice—I tried a much simpler method of preserving tomatoes: oven drying. Baking the tomatoes at a low heat for several hours condenses the sweet, tomato flavor into a pliable, chewy tomato indulgence. Toss them in a salad, sneak them into a sandwich or just eat them as is.
Since these tomatoes aren’t completely dehydrated, they do need to be kept in the freezer for long term storage. Watch out when you make these, though—they’re so tasty they might not even reach the freezer.
salt and pepper
- Preheat your oven to 200° F or the lowest setting. (My oven’s lowest setting is 275°)
- Wash the tomatoes and remove the stems.
- Slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise and seed them.*
- Drizzle olive oil over a baking sheet and spread to cover the entire surface evenly.
- Place the tomatoes, cut side up, on the baking sheet, and sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. You can add other herbs if you like.
- Bake the tomatoes in the oven for 2-8 hours or until dry, soft and pliable, like a raisin. The baking time will depend on the type of tomatoes, oven temperature and your preference. I baked my cherry tomatoes for 2 ½ hours and the larger Early Girl tomatoes for 3 hours at 275° F.
- These tomatoes can be kept in the fridge for short-term storage; freeze for long-term storage.
*To seed a tomato, cut it in half lengthwise, push your thumb into the cavity and force the seeds of the tomato. This is best done over a compost pail or sink with a garbage disposal.