Oven-Dried Tomatoes

Oven-Dried Tomatoes

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.

Oven-Dried Tomatoes 2

Oven-Dried Tomatoes

Ingredients

tomatoes
olive oil
salt and pepper
herbs (optional)

Preparation
  1. Preheat your oven to 200° F or the lowest setting. (My oven’s lowest setting is 275°)
  2. Wash the tomatoes and remove the stems.
  3. Slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise and seed them.*
  4. Drizzle olive oil over a baking sheet and spread to cover the entire surface evenly.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

17 Thoughts on “Oven-Dried Tomatoes

  1. Those look so good! Now I want to try this too. Thanks for sharing, Andrea.

    • andrealein on August 5, 2010 at 9:37 PM said:

      They are amazing! Do try it if you get the chance. I honestly think this is one of the most delicious recipes I’ve ever posted!

  2. Mmmm! Those look delicious! I definitely will have to try this out. Are these kind of similar to sun dried tomatoes?

    • andrealein on August 5, 2010 at 9:39 PM said:

      Yes, try them out! They are really delicious. They are very similar to sun dried tomatoes, though maybe not as dried out (these are juicier) and not packed in oil (though they do have a bit of residual oil). I would say these taste better than sun dried tomatoes…but most homemade things do taste better!

  3. Brenda on August 5, 2010 at 4:45 PM said:

    Our home-grown tomatoes, although heirloom varieties and organically raised, have been just plain dull this year. Oven-drying just might be their salvation. Thanks for showing how it is done.

    • andrealein on August 5, 2010 at 9:42 PM said:

      Sorry to hear that the tomatoes have been dull. :( It’s no fun to wait for tomatoes for months and then have them disappoint. Yes, oven-drying might be the trick. I was amazed at how concentrated and intense and sweet the tomato flavor became, so maybe this will highlight all the good qualities of your tomatoes. Let us know how they turn out!

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  5. which farmer’s market are you getting tomatoes from for just a buck a pound?! Must be clued in, I share your reverence of the tomato!

    • andrealein on August 17, 2010 at 12:34 PM said:

      Hey Rachel! Sorry to be so delayed in replying! We’ve been going to the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market, which is at the SF Civic Center, Sundays and Wednesdays, 7am-5pm. Several of the vendors sell Early Girl and Cherry tomatoes for $1/pound. Heirlooms, of course, are more expensive. Check out http://www.hocfarmersmarket.org.

  6. Yummm…I am enjoying my oven-dried tomatoes on leafy greens with tuna and feta. Thanks for the great idea!

  7. just listening to Animal, Veg, Miracle on CD. It has sparked a baking/preserving frenzy at our house. We are spending tons of time together in the kitchen. A happy surprise has been all of the stories of our own family histories w/ food that have sprung out of our conversations.

    We did butter the other day. Now, waiting on our cheese kit.

    Tomorrow is a trip to the farmer’s market.

    Meanwhile, I’m planning on doing something with the apples growing like gangbusters down in the field.

    Oh, and tomatoes- hoping I can still get local Roma’s so I can start drying them. Thanks for the recipe!

  8. This looks delicious! Will have to give it a try.

  9. Thanks for the great post! I can’t wait to try this over the weekend. Quick question though, how long can you keep them in the freezer?

    Thanks!

    • andrea on August 26, 2011 at 7:44 PM said:

      Hi there! Hmm, the tomatoes are probably best within the first 6 months of freezing them, but I used some recently that had been frozen for 10 months and they tasted fine. Kind of a vague answer, but I hope it helps a little!

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