If you grow your own Roma tomatoes, then right now you might have a bumper crop. Because of the cooler than average temperatures this summer, many garden tomatoes are just now starting to look ripe. Drying tomatoes is a good way to preserve some of your tomato crop, and it’s a lot less work than canning.

If you grow your own Roma tomatoes, then right now you might have a bumper crop. Because of the cooler than average temperatures this summer, many garden tomatoes are just now starting to look ripe.

Drying tomatoes is a good way to preserve some of your tomato crop, and it’s a lot less work than canning.

I have fond memories of my late grandmother teaching me how to can tomatoes, but I quickly learned that I have better things to do on a summer afternoon than slave over a large pot of boiling water.

I also discovered that it takes an astonishing amount of time to end up with just a couple of quarts of tomatoes. Finally, I never seem to use canned tomatoes, even for tomato sauce. The jars just sit in my kitchen cupboard until I throw them out.

Dried tomatoes, whether done in a food dehydrator or in your oven, are not really dry but have a texture more like raisins. They add concentrated bursts of summer tomato flavor to everything from salads to sauces.

Small, meaty tomatoes like Romas are best for drying because they have more flesh and less juice.

If you own a food dehydrator, follow the manufacturer’s directions for drying tomatoes. If you want to dry tomatoes in your oven, here’s the process:

Dried tomatoes

Preheat your oven to 150 degrees. Slice tomatoes in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.

Place the tomato halves upside down on paper towels to drain, then pat dry.

Place a wire rack on top of baking sheet. Place the tomatoes, cut side down, on the rack. Dry the tomatoes in the oven for 6 to 12 hours. When done, the tomatoes should resemble large raisins. There should be no moisture left on the tomatoes. 

Be sure to leave the oven door propped open a bit, so moisture can escape. A wooden spoon works well for this.

While the tomatoes dry out, get out of the kitchen. Go read a book or watch a movie or two, but don’t forget to check the oven every now and then.

The dried tomatoes can be stored in a glass jar for up to six months or frozen in freezer bags for longer storage. The dried tomatoes can also be stored in a glass jar with olive oil and a few cloves of garlic. Pour a good quality, extra-virgin olive oil over tomatoes and fresh, peeled garlic cloves in a jar. Keep the lid tightly sealed and store at room temperature no longer than a few weeks. 

Now that you have your own dried tomatoes, here are a few recipes to experiment with:

Dried tomato sauce

This sauce is terrific over pasta or chicken breasts.

1/2 cup drained, oil-packed dried tomatoes or plain dried tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
10 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

Place dried tomatoes in food processor. Boil white wine, white wine vinegar, black peppercorns and bay leaf in heavy small saucepan until liquid is reduced to 3 tablespoons, about 8 minutes.

Strain liquid into tomatoes in processor and puree until smooth. Return tomato mixture to same saucepan. Add whipping cream, chicken stock and thyme. Simmer until flavors blend, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

Dried tomato pesto

Try this pesto as a pasta sauce or as a bread spread.

1 cup dried tomatoes
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, chopped
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts

Place sun-dried tomatoes, stock, oil, cheese and garlic in a blender or food processor, blend until smooth. Pour over fresh, hot pasta. Sprinkle with green onions and pine nuts.

Got a recipe you would like to see published? Send it to: lainie@MacombJournal.com or mail to: 203 N. Randolph St., Macomb, IL 61455.