Saturday, September 15, 2012
(Belated) Farm Fridays: Oven-Dried Tomatoes
Hooray for tomatoes! Now I can really get going on stocking my pantry for winter. (I know that my life is not Little House on the Prairie and we will not starve if we don't put up enough food for winter. Even so, I panic a little when I realize it's September and I have completed so few of the staple preserving projects I had planned.)
Welcome to our kitchen counter. This is the vast majority of the counter space we have to work with in our kitchen, and yesterday it was nearly full of produce from the farm. We got a ton of stuff yesterday - I knew a lot of it was going to be preserved rather than eaten this week. The jalapenos went straight into the freezer (easiest thing in the world to freeze, in my opinion). Today, most of the edamame were blanched and frozen as well. The tomatoes are the big project, since there are so many. We made yet another batch of heirloom tomato salsa today (which is incredibly delicious). We're probably going to can some chopped tomatoes later in the week. I'm waiting on those plum tomatoes to ripen so I can finally get going on canned whole tomatoes - I had planned to make a lot this year, and so far we haven't done any. But we can't start until we have enough fully ripe ones. So I wait.
Last week's plum tomatoes were finally fully ripe on Thursday, so I decided to oven-dry them. And since I'm a glutton for punishment, I went out to the farmers market and grabbed two more quarts of ripe ones to dry as well (I figured I might as well fill the oven). We made a batch of oven-dried tomatoes last year, froze them, and used them in lots of winter dishes. They bring an amazing pop of concentrated sweet tomato flavor to any dish (like Farfalle with Asparagus, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Boursin). Sun-dried tomatoes are expensive. Frozen oven-dried tomatoes are cheap and easy to make. All you need are some sweet plum tomatoes, a little oil and some time.
Time is the real issue. The recipe I used said 5-6 hours in the oven. I didn't get mine in until after 5 pm, and overloaded the oven with three baking sheets, meaning that by midnight, they still weren't done. Hence the belated Farm Fridays post. We tossed them in a tupperware, put them in the fridge overnight, and finished them off this afternoon. Overall, this batch took about 8 hours. What can I say? Good things take time. And these are a very good thing. Try them and see!
From Put 'Em Up.
any quantity plum or paste tomatoes (they will have to fit on baking sheets in your oven, of course - I did not weigh the quantity I used, but just figured out how many would fit on my baking sheets before I proceeded)
Preheat oven to 250° F.
Slice tomatoes in half lengthwise. Toss in a bowl with just enough canola oil to coat.
Lay the slices out on parchment-lined baking sheets, cut-side up.
Place sheets in the oven for 5-8 hours, until the tomatoes are shriveled and caramelized (it's ok if some of them turn black around the edges - they're not really burning and still taste fine). The length of time will depend on the size and moisture content of your tomatoes as well as how many you attempt to squeeze into the oven. Keep checking them and be patient. You want them to be dry to the touch and a little rubbery, not gooey or oozing.
When the tomatoes are done (or most of them - a couple big ones in the above picture are still a bit underdone, but I froze them anyway), stick them on parchment-covered baking sheets (the same baking sheets are fine, if they fit in your freezer) and put them in the freezer overnight. The next day, remove the tomatoes from the baking sheets and transfer to a labeled freezer bag for storage (freezing them individually first allows them to freeze faster and prevents them from sticking together in the bag later).