Since between my own backyard garden and my generous neighbor who has a football-field-sized garden I still had a bumper crop of tomatoes, even after canning oodles of quarts and pints of sauce and tomato broth and salsa, I decided to try my hand at oven-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil.
Dried tomatoes in olive oil are delicious little flavor bombs to add to garlic bread for a simple bruschetta, toss into salads or pasta, or top a pizza. The oil itself can also be used in salad dressings or anywhere tomato-flavored infused oil would be tasty. Very popular in the Mediterranean region such as Greece and Italy, this preservation method has been around for a very long time, and I had bags of romas just begging to be bathed in high quality oil that was on sale.
But a jar can be quite pricey, up to $10 in the supermarket. It is far cheaper to can your own! You must invest in the jars and good-quality oil, but it is worth it for the superior taste and nutrition of using local tomatoes, and you can re-use jars forever.
All you need is some wire racks, an oven, and some time. If you have the oven on anyways, to make a roast or cookies, or perhaps to heat the house in the chill of autumn, this is the perfect project. This oven heat is conducive to drying many things, so you could also make a platter of dried apples or sweet potato chips at the same time.
There is some debate over the safety of dried tomatoes and botulism risk. It is possible that small droplets of water may stay inside the tomato and provide a medium for botulism or bacterium to grow. Obviously read up on facts and use your own best judgment when deciding whether to refrigerate, process, freeze, or store at room temperature. This article is not advice, just what I chose to do in my own kitchen with my own produce.
- 40-50 tomatoes, Roma are the best for drying
- 2 wire racks (cookie sheets work too, you’ll just have to flip them halfway to make sure they dry on all sides)
- 2-3 cups extra virgin olive oil
- 1-3 canning jars, lids, & rings
Step 1: Cut the tops & cores out of the tomatoes, slice them in half, and push out as many seeds as you can with your fingers or a knife. Save the seeds for planting, drink them, use in a soup, or compost.
Step 2: Place the tomato halves on a wire rack or baking sheet, cut side up, and put into the oven at 200 degrees. Crack the door open if you don’t mind the heat to allow more air circulation. Let them dry for 1 hour, then flip them if using baking sheets and check the dryness levels.
Step 3: Take the completely dry tomatoes and begin packing them into sterile mason jars. The tomatoes are ready if they are rubbery with absolutely no water when squeezed, but you don’t want them so dry they are crunchy with no give. If you choose to use a vinegar dip, use tongs to dip each tomato prior to placing in a sterilized jar.
Step 4: Pour in olive oil to cover the tomatoes. Make sure they are completely covered. If you feel okay with it, you can now store your tomatoes this way in a dark cabinet, or in the refrigerator.
You may also choose to water-bath or pressure can your jars at this point. Totally up to you.
These little jars will store for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator, and potentially up to a year in the cupboard if processed. They make lovely presents, if you can bring yourself to part with them. I recommend putting them somewhere easily accessible as you are likely to want to use them all up within days.
For ideas on how to use these, start here: