If you have a bounty of fresh tomatoes this summer, making homemade ‘sun-dried’ tomatoes is a delicious and practical way to preserve them. Laying cut tomatoes in the sun to dry out might sound romantic but comes with a whole host of concerns. With a few easy steps and a food dehydrator, you can make the most delicious sun-dried tomatoes whatever the weather! The Breeze Food Dehydrator allows you to control the temperature to achieve perfectly pliable and chewy tomatoes in a fraction of the time. After dehydrating, the enzymes, vitamins and minerals will be preserved and keep for months.
Tomatoes are around 90 percent water, so they take a long time to dry whatever variety you choose. The elongated San Marzano is the gold standard tomato used for traditional Italian sun-dried tomatoes because they have firm flesh and few seeds (so less water), making them ideal for drying. The San Marzano look like Roma or Plum tomatoes if you would like the traditional oval shape. We sampled several types of tomatoes and experimented with different slicing methods and found that truly anything goes. Here’s what we discovered.
The number one tip is to keep the temperature low. For best results the drying process should be long and slow. If the temperature is too high, the outsides and tomato skins dry hard while the middle stays moist. This same problem can happen if the tomato pieces are cut too thick.
The centre of a tomato is primarily seeds and water. Removing the juice and seeds is optional - doing so speeds along the drying process but comes with loss of flavour. The benefit of drying tomatoes with the seeds is that all of the nutrients remain inside the tomato and become more concentrated as they dry. It takes several hours longer to dry tomatoes with the seeds and juice left in, but they taste better for it.
If you have tomatoes that are especially juicy, or that fall apart, you can scoop out the seeds and juicy flesh with your fingers or a small spoon. The juice and seeds are too good to waste, so, save it and use it in other recipes. The juice can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days.
The variety of tomato will probably determine how you slice them but there is absolutely no hard and fast rule as long as they are consistent. Tomatoes must be cut by hand with a sharp serrated knife that cuts clean and fast. Smaller pieces will dry faster. If you have several varieties, arrange them on separate trays so that you can remove a tray when they are done. As a rough guide:
Small cherry tomatoes: slice in half lengthways. Cut away the white core if it is pronounced. You won't need to do this on tiny cherry tomatoes.
Medium sized tomatoes: cut in quarters and cut away the white core. Removing the seeds is optional.
Large tomatoes: remove the core (see below), then cut in segments or slices. Large tomato rounds dry quicker and more evenly than segments containing seeds. For segments: cut the tomato into eighths. Removing the seeds is optional. The seeds may just fall out when slicing large tomatoes. For slices: Cut into 1cm rounds. You can even cut the slices in half to speed up the drying process. Larger tomato rounds end up like a dried tomato skeleton. This style is often referred to as a tomato chip.
To remove the core: Remove the green stem from the top of the tomato. Insert a sharp paring knife at an angle about an inch into the top of the tomato. Cut in a circular motion while turning the fruit. The core should pop right out.
A light sprinkle of salt tastes great but also helps extract the water from the tomato. You can also sprinkle your tomatoes with dried herbs or spices before dehydrating. Basil, oregano, garlic powder, pepper, or a combination will all taste great. Our tomatoes have nothing added and have amazing flavour. Seasoning is completely optional.
Moisture is the enemy if the dried tomatoes are destined for long term storage. Like other dehydrated fruit and vegetables, dried tomatoes benefit from a period of conditioning to alleviate the risk of mould growing. If you are planning to eat the dried tomatoes in the next few weeks, conditioning is not needed. If you are drying for long-term storage, a conditioning process must happen to make the tomatoes ready.
Leave the tomatoes on the trays to cool for several hours. You’ll be better able to gauge if there is moisture inside them after sitting at room temperature. In humid weather your dried tomatoes may become sticky once again. If this happens, you will need to dry them for longer.
Further to this, to be extra sure that the tomatoes are adequately dried, place them in a large airtight container or jar. This may not be the container you plan to store them in. Shake the jar once a day for several days or up to a week. The excess moisture in some pieces will be absorbed by the drier pieces. If you notice condensation forming on the sides of the container or pieces stick together, place the tomatoes back in the dehydrator for further processing
To avoid bacteria growth the end product must be perfectly dry but not crispy, with no inner moisture. Once conditioning is complete, store the dried tomatoes as you normally would.
Your sun-dried tomatoes should last up to one year when stored in a cool and dark position. If the tomatoes are not completely dry, they might develop mould in storage.
Dried tomatoes can be added directly to soups and stews. Otherwise, to rehydrate the tomatoes, simply place the amount of tomatoes needed in a bowl and cover with hot water or broth. The tomatoes need to be completely submerged. Allow to steep in the liquid for 30 to 60 minutes then drain and use.
Fresh tomatoes - you can use any kind of tomato you want.
1. Wash the tomatoes and remove the stems.
2. If you are using larger tomatoes, you’ll also need to cut out the white core part that joined the stem.
3. Cut the tomatoes as uniformly as possible. Smaller pieces will dry faster.
4. Lay silicon mesh liners on the Breeze dehydrator trays.
5. Place the tomatoes cut side up on the trays, leaving a small space between for airflow. The tomatoes shrink to half the size, so it is not necessary to leave too much space between each slice.
6. Sprinkle on your seasoning (optional)
7. Set the dehydrator to 60°C (140°F) and the time to 8 hours to check in. It may take up to 20 hours to fully dry the tomatoes if the juice and seeds are left in. The dehydrating time will vary depending on many factors – the types of tomatoes you are using, the thickness of the slices and the humidity in the air.
Your fully dried tomato should be dry and leathery with no moisture coming out when you squeeze them with your fingers. You should be able to bend them.
8. Remove the dried tomatoes and leave the moist pieces on for longer. Continue checking in every 2 hours until they are all done. If noticeable moisture remains in the tomatoes after 12 hours, consider cutting them into smaller pieces. The easiest way to cut the dried tomato into smaller pieces is with kitchen scissors.
9. Condition the dried tomatoes (see the notes above) then transfer your dried tomatoes to air-tight jars or vacuum seal for storage.
10. Store in a cool, dry place for up to a year.