I’ve spoken before at great lengths about my tomato sickness. Simply put, tomatoes are my crack. So much so that I grow a ridiculous amount of them in my small garden and when my quest to grow as many heirloom tomato varieties as possible got out of control, I started selling my extra seedlings at the Market Square Farmers Market. Last year, we ended up selling over 1500 heirloom tomato, pepper & eggplant seedlings. That’s some hardcore tomato love right there. In fact, I was delighted to find out this spring from a couple of people that they had been told to look for the crazy tomato lady at the market. If George Clooney himself had stopped by to tell me how beautiful he thought I was, it would have been a bit anti-climactic after the high praise of being called the crazy tomato lady.
Needless to say, I’ve had to come up with quick ways to preserve my harvest. The simplest way I’ve found is to simply toss whole tomatoes into the freezer and deal with them when the temperatures get a little cooler. I have two chest freezers so I’m lucky enough to have room to do that. Another way of dealing with them is to make Roasted Tomato Sauce. And still another is to dry them in my dehydrator. I dry plenty of them plain but I also love to marinate them and dry them.
I’ve marinated all kinds of tomatoes and dried them. My favorites tend to be the meatier tomatoes, even the meatier cherries like Black Cherry tomatoes. However, I’ve tried them all because I’m not going to waste a tomato just because it’s not “perfect” for this recipe. The only ones I haven’t had success with is currant tomatoes and the really juicy cherry tomatoes – there’s just too much skin to meat for my taste. This is also a great way to use up those tomatoes that have split but are just shy of being completely ripe. This has been a huge problem for us this year and I’m grateful to have a way to use these tomatoes. Some people remove the skins and seeds from tomatoes before drying them. I’ve never bothered to worry about it but you can do that if you like.
I use an Excalibur Dehydrator to dry my tomatoes. We used an inexpensive dehydrator that we found at a garage sale for years but a couple of years ago, we had a very exciting evening when it caught fire. Since we put up so much of our food, we went ahead and waited until Excalibur had a sale and bought a new dehydrator. We’ve been VERY happy with it and it was worth every penny. If you live in a drier climate than I do, you may be able to dry these in the sun (but you’ll need to shield them from birds and insects). Or you can also dry these in an oven. I’ll put directions for doing so at the end of the recipe.
What can you do with these morsels when they’re finished? To be honest, a lot of them disappear just as is. I end up popping a large amount of them in my mouth like potato chips. We also rehydrate them and add them to pasta sauces and salad dressings all winter long. You can make a wonderful cream sauce by re-hydrating them in heavy cream – this is great served over pasta and chicken. You can rehydrate them and buzz them with scallions and sour cream or cream cheese for a great dip or spread. I also use them to make a quick side dish with frozen broccoli or green beans by mincing them and adding them right before I heat the vegetables in the microwave.
Marinated Sun-dried Tomatoes
Source: Unknown(I got this from the internet at least five years ago and have made changes since then)
Servings: Never enough
- 1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Lemon juice
- 1/4 cup fresh chopped Parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped Rosemary
- Dried Pepper flacks to taste (I use Aleppo pepper flakes)
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- 3-5 cloves of garlic ( I love garlic so I use 5)
- Tomatoes, cut into bite size pieces(I usually do five pounds at a time)
Mix everything together except the tomatoes in a large bowl. Add tomatoes and marinate for at least several hours in the fridge(I usually marinate overnight). Remove tomatoes from marinade and spread out on dehydrator trays and dry until desired doneness. I usually remove half while they’re still fairly pliable and let the rest dry until they’re completely dry. These can take anywhere from 12-24 hours to dry. This last batch took 21 hours. Since there’s so much oil in the marinade, store the dried tomatoes in the freezer to keep all winter long.
Note: Save the marinade and use it to marinate vegetables or chicken before grilling or use as a salad dressing.
Directions for oven drying (I have not tested these so please keep an eye on them): Set your oven at the lowest temperature (200 degrees is the absolute maximum temperature you can use). Spread out tomatoes on cookie sheets and dry them for 12-16 hours.