It's late Summer and we're at the peak of an abundant Tomato season.
This is the perfect time to take advantage of the heat wave by making your own fresh Sun-Roasted and Sun-dried Tomatoes at home... and outside, of course!
Even if you aren't a gardener, there's no reason to deny yourself. Visit the local Farmers' Market or the produce section of your supermarket. Tomatoes are on sale right now so stock up and get busy.
Naturally sun-roasted and sun-dried tomatoes have a richer taste than their watery blanched/canned-tomato cousins. The flavor is more tomato-intense and there's just something magical in every rich, meaty, sensual bite.
This simple process can take anywhere from 6 hours to a several days, depending on the humidity and how hot your weather is, but these savory tomatoes are well-worth the wait.
You'll learn how EASY it is to sun roast and sun dry tomatoes by harnessing solar energy right in your own backyard.
Take advantage of the sunshine while you can because neither Tomato Season or Summer ever seem to last long enough!
Step 1: Equipment and Guidelines:
There are several ways to harness sunshine without building anything special or elaborate.
I use the cargo area of my SUV, but the dash or backseat of your car will work just fine as long as you can keep the racks somewhat level.
No automobile? A BBQ grill or Hibachi (with a lid) sitting in the sunshine will also generate enough heat to get the job done without a dehydrator and without turning your oven on.
The maximum temperature when sun roasting or sun drying can be as high as 140 degrees. The minimum temperature should be kept above 100 degrees. A candy or meat thermometer can be helpful but it's not necessary. You already know what HOT is. ;-)
At Night: Bring the tomatoes inside when the temperature drops and the relative humidity rises. If the racks are portable, just bring the whole kit-and-kaboodle inside. Return them outside in the morning only after the dew has passed.
Drying racks are needed: They allow air to circulate around your tomatoes and expedite the drying time.
I re-purpose small freezer racks because they can be stacked together as shelves and they're portable. A sheet of foil, attached to the bottom, catches any drips
If you're using a BBQ Grill, just cover the grate with aluminum foil and cut slits between the bars.
If flies are a nuisance in your area, place a sprig of fresh Basil next to your roasting/drying tomatoes. No Basil? A few dried Bay leaves will repel insects, too. Here's an informative website that offers all kinds of helpful advice for repelling insects naturally... and it's not just about 'maters, either. ;-)
What Variety of Tomatoes to use:
Paste tomatoes such as Roma, Plum and Pear Tomatoes are the preferred variety, but just about any variety will sun roast and sun dry when properly sliced. Roma-type tomatoes are ideal because have a lot of pulp and few seeds. Even Cherry and Grape tomatoes roast and dry beautifully because of their small size. Beefsteak-type tomatoes are wonderful, too, but they need to be sliced thinner and de-seeded first.
Ripe tomatoes are preferred. Even over-ripe tomatoes are fine! I've never tried to sun-roast or sun-dry green tomatoes before, so if you decide you'd like to experiment, I'd love to hear the results!
A few tips to remember:
- Start your tomatoes in mid-morning to take full advantage of the entire days' sunshine.
- Once your tomatoes are settled on the drying rack and blissfully soaking up the heat, just leave them be. Don't open the doors on your car or the BBQ Lid for at least 6 hours unless you are bringing the racks in for the night. Frequently opening the door/lid to check on your lovely tomatoes will slow the roasting/drying time immensely. Resist the urge. They are doing just fine... really! ;-D If you are using tiny tomatoes, go ahead and check them after 4 hours.
- Always bring your tomatoes inside at night.
P.S. I'll be repeating the above mantra in every step of this Ible just in case you didn't read this far. ;-)