how to make sun dried tomatoes at home ...
Sun dried cherry tomatoes are a delight to have in the pantry. Sun dried Roma, plum or heirloom tomatoes have a different taste and texture and all of them can effectively be sun dried easily if you keep a few things in mind. Pick the best quality of tomatoes available and dehydrate them as fast as possible, sun drying is best if you get enough sun and microwave is your best friend otherwise.
Sun dried tomatoes or simply dehydrated tomatoes are a condiment I use in many ways. It is versatile and very very useful to have in the pantry. Toss up some in your egg scramble with some herbs and mushrooms or just blend it with plain hummus, the zing is unmistakable and so very rich and nourishing. Yes, the wide range of carotenoids (alpha- and beta- carotene, leutene and lycopene) remains intact even if you sun dry them or cook them. Cooking the tomatoes with healthy fats makes the availability of these carotenoids better as they are fat soluble.
Tomato peels should not be discarded as they contribute to the carotenoid content of tomatoes and make it bio available to the human gut(according to a study from Marseille, France) ~ source
Tomato skin also holds most of the flavonols as well, so it is sensible to not discard the skin most of the times.
As always, I grow tomatoes every year and get a good crop, both heirloom variety and cherry tomatoes and sun dry the extra. Some is distributed to friends and some I keep using here and there.
I have been getting requests from friends and readers for posting the procedure to sun dry the tomatoes. There is nothing complicated in the procedure as I dehydrate them both in sun as well in my microwave oven. I updated the simple steps in my facebook page update last year but somehow a few friends burnt it in the microwave and someone who tried drying them in sun the tomatoes got fungus infested. Now that can be really discouraging if you are doing it for the first time.
So here is the procedure in detail ...
If you get good sun in summers like most parts of India, it is good to use is a sun dry the tomatoes. For the desi tomatoes (Indian heirloom tomatoes), just quarter them, squish them to remove the seeds and arrange them in a porous plate cut side up. I use a bamboo platter I bought from basket weaver at Trade fair.
Be careful to remove all the green whitish pith that is just beneath the stalk. This pith has alkaloids (Solanine) that are not suitable for human consumption. You must be aware why nightshades are not suited for some people who are sensitive to these alkaloids. Removing the white pith is good for everything you do with tomatoes. See in the picture (top right in the collage above) how the green stalks/crowns and pith are removed. (FYI. green tomatoes also are rich in the harmful alkaloid, so it's better not to consume green tomatoes and let them ripen before consumption)
After removing the seeds you end up with a large bowl of seeds and some juice. I strain the juice and use for making a spiced up juice or adding it to soups or daal or Bloody Mary for a Sunday brunch**.
Back to the quartered, emptied tomatoes for drying. Now just keep this plate out in the sun or a sunny windowsill and let them dry. It might take 2-3 or 4 days to completely dry and become leathery and curled. See this picture...
But, some people experienced a few problems, I am addressing them one by one...
Problem number one ~ the hot Indian summers have humid night mostly and sun drying takes about 3-4 days. You need to keep the drying tomatoes indoors and cover it, and that causes fungal growth within a single night sometimes. Keep the half dry tomatoes in the fridge overnight (uncovered) so it keeps dehydrating and stays at a cool temperature nit allowing any fungal growth.
Problem number two ~ Indian summers are dusty as well and a moist cut tomato lying in the open attracts a lot of dust and small insects too sometimes. It is better to cover the tomatoes with a netted contraption so no dust or small insects are attracted to you precious work. I hang this bamboo platter of mine on the clothesline with the help of a contraption like this picture.
Just 5 pieces of cotton rope tied up at both ends, the upper end clipped on the clothesline and the basket or platter propped inside the lower part. And covering this contraption is easier as I just hang a cotton dupatta (thin muslin stole) over it.
Problem number three ~ If you sun dry a large amount of tomatoes, pickling them in Olive oil is quite expensive and the choices of it's usage are fewer. I dehydrate a couple kilos every year and never soak them in olive oil and just store them dry in an airtight container and refrigerate. This gives you a choice to use them in any cuisine you wish and in whatever way possible.
There is no salt in these sun dried tomatoes as well so you have full control over what to do with them. I cut them using a scissor and add to a pasta dish like this or a pasta style pearl barley like this or this griddle focaccia.
Cherry tomatoes I have mostly used for savory muffins, eggs scrambles, some stir fries with fish or vegetables etc.
See this pink salmon scramble dish, this polenta with stir fried vegetables, this roasted eggplant mash, this guacamole with sun dried cherry tomatoes, this quick soda bread with sun dried cherry tomatoes, this double textured egg scramble with sun dried cherry tomatoes and this frittata with sun dried cherry tomatoes too.
Here is how to prepare the cherry tomatoes for sun drying. Halved, pith removed and arranged cut side up on the same plate...
The seeds need not be removed in this case as there will be very little left after you remove the seeds from cherry tomatoes. Also, the seeds and the pulp has more taste in case of cherry tomatoes.
Here is my last years' stock of sun dried cherry tomatoes, dry, unsalted and plain. Use just as you please. Make Indian alu tamatar or daal in pressure cooker or toss them up in a pasta or a bread. This last years stash was dried in the microwave.
I have been using them for so many of my recipes. See this pink salmon scramble dish, this polenta with stir fried vegetables, this roasted eggplant mash, this guacamole with sun dried cherry tomatoes, this quick soda bread with sun dried cherry tomatoes, this double textured egg scramble with sun dried cherry tomatoes and this frittata with sun dried cherry tomatoes too.
And see how I make a Bloody Mary using the tomato juice that I saved after cutting the heirloom tomatoes for drying.
Now a quick list of things to do when you are 'sun drying' (technically dehydrating) them in microwave oven.
Cut and prepare the tomatoes as above.
Arrange them all cut side up in a microwave safe plate.
Set the oven at lowest power setting or wattage and run it for 30 minutes at a time. Take care that at any point of time the tomatoes shouldn't get hot, they should just remain warm throughout. You can check them after 5 minutes and then after 10 minutes again if the setting chosen by you is not heating up the tomatoes.
If the lowest power setting in your microwave oven heats up the tomatoes, it's better to warm it up for 10 minutes or so and then repeat the process for 4-5 times or till the tomatoes are completely dry.
Take care that even after dehydrating the tomatoes by any of the process chosen, they might contain some moisture. So keep them uncovered in the fridge for sometime so they get dehydrated further, then pack them in an airtight container and refrigerate or give away to friends.
If you plan to pickle them in olive oil, you can allow a little moisture in the dried tomatoes. Keep them submerged in oil in that case. Seasoning is also optional, add salt and garlic or more herbs if required.
Please do let me know if this post is useful for you. Your feedback is very instrumental in motivating me to keep updating the blog with information and recipes.