The Public Hearth
By Bob Saar
Making your own sun-dried tomatoes is this simple: wash, halve,
remove pulp and dry in the sun. There are, however, some other
things you might consider before ruining a bag of fresh Romas
or accidentally poisoning your family....
possess a tangy chewiness that
provides any dish with flavor and color. healthy little
things, too, high in vitamin and an antioxidant, lycopene.
Dried tomatoes re-hydrate in liquid, as when cooking soups or
stews, and the intense flavor powers up any salad. And if you
over-dry a batch, keep them around to powder up anything from
cottage cheese to fresh fish.
Drying tomatoes is simple and requires little thinking or effort.
Basically, all you do is remove water before plant matter rots and
add some natural preservatives along the way, flavoring them in
Any kind of tomato can be dehydrated, but the best are Roma,
or paste tomatoes, due to a high flesh-to-pulp ratio, fewer sides,
meatier walls and less water.
If you wish, you can use your gut-busting Mortgage Lifters by drying them on Silpats, the ultimate non-stick baking mat.
Look into Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way for details.
There are three basic methods for making homemade sun-dried
tomatoes: in the in a food dehydrator or oven.
The food dehydrator is to sun-dried tomatoes what the smartphone is to the telephone: it gets a simple job done with overblown accelerated technology. Using a dehydrator is cheating, in
a say do
also the cleanest and safest method. More about safety in a bit.
To use a dehydrator, consult your instruction book.
the oven-dried version:
Preheat oven to 170 degrees Fahrenheit, or whatever the lowest
setting generates. This is equivalent to turning the temperature
knob (on an analog machine) to ON or spinning a digital dial to
its lowest setting.
As with smoking foods, if the temperature is too high, the
tomatoes will cook, not dehydrate. If necessary, prop the oven
door open to keep the temperature low, somewhere between
Wash and halve the tomatoes and squeeze or scoop out the
seeds and pulp with a spoon. Arrange the tomatoes on a non-
24 :: Harvest 2014 :: EdibleIowa.com
stick cookie sheet that's pre-sprinkled with salt, arrange so they
do not touch each other, and dust with any herbs you prefer,
such as dried basil or oregano.
Bake the tomatoes until leathery, but not so long that
they turn crispy like potato chips. Depending on the size of your
tomatoes, the temperature of the oven, the relative humidity
and your own basic karma, this can take all day, or night, or days,
depending upon when you put them in the oven.
Tomatoes are fruits, not vegetables. The U.S. Supreme Court
trumped science in 1893 by ruling the tomato is a
biologically it's a the 1883 Tariff Act taxed imported vegetables, but not fruit. Talk about raw science!
To make sun-dried tomatoes using pure, unadulterated light and
heat from Mister Sol, what you do and why:
Rinse, halve, and scoop out the pulp. Some people suggest
skinning their tomatoes first, but all that does is increase your
workload without adding any noticeable difference to the end
Dip each half in white vinegar and place on the selected drying
surface so they touch. Tomatoes are high in acid, but the
vinegar helps prevent mold while drying. Sprinkle with salt and
other desired flavorings.
Place on the drying screens in direct sunlight, skin side down
without touching for maximum ventilation. Proper drying requires adequate air flow for each individual piece of tomato.
The hotter the day, the better. Cloudless sky good, looming
thunderstorm bad. An ambient temperature over 90 degrees
and humidity less than 60 percent make for a beautiful moment.
The amount of dry-time depends on water content, temperature,
thickness, and air circulation. At the end, your tomatoes should
be like raisins: flexible, not brittle.
A window screen placed on bricks or two-by-fours is ideal because it achieves two major goals: air can circulate all around the
tomatoes, which is why cookie sheets preferred, and they
fall through as they shrink, which is why oven racks
An old window screen hosed clean does the trick.
Place the screen in all-day direct sunlight, preferably on a
heat-radiating surface such as the hood of a black car. A black