Sun Dried Tomatoes – How to Dry Tomatoes

We’ve all seen sun dried tomatoes, often sold in jars of oil or in sealed plastic vacuum packs. They’re really easy to make at home, great for adding really intense tomato flavour to pastas or salad dishes

Sun Dried Tomatoes

Sun Dried Tomatoes

When dealing with a glut of tomatoes, freezing (as a puree) or bottling are more practical storing methods. They are much faster ways to get the glut safely into store. Sun dried tomatoes are a gourmet product though that you can make easily at home.

Originally they were just what the name says, sun dried tomatoes, but nowadays they are often really oven dried tomatoes processed in a factory plant. In the south of Britain, in a good summer with a solar dryer you could make genuinely sun dried tomatoes but it’s far easier and more reliable to make them using a dehydrator or your oven.

The Secret of Sun Dried Tomatoes

The ‘secret’ to good dried tomatoes with concentrated flavour is slow, long drying to drive out all the water. The sprinkle of salt also helps extract the water from the tomato.

Best Tomato Varieties for Drying

The best tomatoes for drying are red, strong-flavoured varieties that aren’t too liquid and normal size. Small ‘cherry’ tomatoes are too fiddly and large beefsteak or plum varieties don’t seem to ever properly dry out. Ailsa Craig are one we’ve dried successfully. Gardener’s delight or Moneymaker should dry well.

Basic Method to Dry Tomatoes

  1. Take firm tomatoes and slice in half.
  2. Place on a baking tray cut side up and sprinkle with a little salt or garlic salt. Place a drop or two of olive oil on each tomato.
  3. Bake on the lowest heat your oven has until thoroughly dried and wrinkled. This can take quite a long time – 8 to 12 hours usually.

Gas ovens can be quite humid and you’d be better to use a dehydrator if you have one. Electric fan ovens are great for drying tomatoes.

Storing Your Sun Dried Tomatoes

Once dried you can store in an air-tight container but our experience is that they often develop mould, especially in humid areas. Our recommended method is to store in oil.

Pack into heated jars and cover with hot oil (see article on Storing in Oil). You can add a herb like rosemary – washed and thoroughly dried – into the jar to impart more flavour prior to adding the oil.

Your dried tomatoes will keep well for a year. Just remove with a slotted spoon from the jar as needed, keeping the jar sealed in between. A wide necked kilner jar with a clip down rather than screw lid is ideal.

Using Sun Dried Tomatoes

Rehydrate in water for an hour prior to use, chopping finely before adding into a pasta sauce or to sprinkle on a salad. A dressing of basil, oregano chopped finely and mixed with a little white wine vinegar really enhances the flavour.

More on Drying & Dehydration

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