It’s tomato season in the Great Pacific Northwest! One of the ways that I preserve the bumper crop of tomatoes grown in our gardens is by “sun drying” them–in the oven. It’s a very simple process, and once these tomatoes are prepared, the natural sugars in them will have carmelized, making them sweet as candy!
First, I slice ripe tomatoes about 1/4 of an inch or so thick, and then I place them on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet. Next, I sprinkle them very lightly with sea salt, a pinch of dried herbs, and a tiny spritz of olive oil, but this step can be individualized to suit your own tastes. Like them spicier? Add crushed red pepper flakes. Restricting your sodium intake? Skip the salt.
Next, into the oven they go! I have a convection oven setting, which bakes by blowing hot air around, but these absolutely will turn out perfectly baked in a conventional oven as well. On the convection setting, I bake at 350 degrees for at least an hour, or until the tomato juices have cooked off and the tomato feels a bit like fruit leather to touch. Any higher than 350 and I’ve found that the risk of burning the tomato is high. Lower and slower makes the tomato sweeter–by far.
I allow the cookie sheets to cool, and then place the tomatoes, cookie sheet and all, into the freezer. I allow the tomatoes to freeze overnight, and then I pop them off the parchment paper and store them in the freezer in a plastic bag. Pre-freezing them individually means that you can pull out exactly how much you want, rather than a clump of frozen tomato, and they look so much prettier in your home-cooked meal this way! They’ll taste great stored this way until your next batch of tomatoes is ready at the end of next summer.
During the long, gray winters of the Pacific Northwest, nothing brightens a meal more than the addition of these sun dried tomatoes to cooked pasta, quinoa, or to a handmade pizza. And they’ll remind you that winter doesn’t last forever…