Introduction: Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Nothing says "mouth watering Italian food" like sun-dried tomatoes.

Full disclosure, the tomatoes in this instructable are not actually dried by the sun, but they taste like they have been! One of the many upsides of drying tomatoes (or anything) inside, is that you don't have to worry about bugs, daytime humidity, or nighttime moisture ruining your batch.

Let's make some delicious things!

Step 1: Safe Home Food Preservation

This is a project that I made to go with my Instructables Canning & Preserving Class. I will not be going over all the safety ins and outs of drying and dehydrating for food perservation in this instructable, so I highly recommend that you read through Lessons 1 & 6 of my class before you give this a go!

Step 2: Supplies

Step 3: Using a Dehydrator or Oven to Dry Tomatoes

If you plan on doing a fair amount of dehydrating, I highly recommend investing in a good quality electric dehydrator. It doesn't have to be the fanciest on the market, but things to look out for are:

  • metal racks (if you're concerned about warm/hot food touching plastic like I am)
  • a side mounted fan* instead of a bottom mounted fan

*A side mounted fan more evenly distributes the air to all racks so that you don't have to shuffle the racks throughout the drying process.

Using an Oven Instead

If you'd rather try out these recipes to see if you like the results before investing, not to worry! The oven will work just fine, but will require some extra attention during the drying process.

The dehydrating processes can take anywhere from 6-24 hours (depending on what you're drying) and most home ovens don't have low enough settings to replicate the dehydrator settings, so you end up having to use (and monitor) an oven thermometer and attempt to keep the temp low enough by turning the oven off and on repeatedly, so that it doesn't over heat the foodstuffs.

But it IS possible and a good way to start out if that's the only resource you have. If you are lucky enough to have a convection setting on your oven, always use that for dehydrating, as the air flow created cuts down the oven drying times by almost half.

Step 4: Recipe

All you need for this recipe is TOMATOES and a bit of vinegar!

I like to use vine ripened and cherry tomatoes, but other great 'maters for drying are roma, plum, or any paste tomato. I had never tried an heirloom varietal before, and they are so delicious fresh...so added one into the mix. The best thing about drying tomatoes, is that they don't need to be blanched first, so they're quite quick to prepare.

The results are in on the heirloom test: It turns out its water content is much higher than its vine ripened cousins and it required way more drying time than their smaller, less moist counterparts. Not worth the extra expense and energy output in my opinion.

Recipe

  • tomatoes
  • vinegar

Step 5: Prepping the Tomatoes

To remove any surface spoilers, wash the tomatoes and place them in a large bowl of cold water mixed with one cup of white vinegar for 10 minutes. Be sure to periodically flip the tomatoes that are floating so that both sides get soaked.

After the 10 minutes are up, drain the the tomatoes and rinse them in fresh water.

On a clean cutting board, use paring and chef's knives to remove the stem end and slice them into 6-8 wedges.

NOTE: We'll be standing the pieces up on their skin sides, so the wedges have to be wide enough to stand without falling over.

Step 6: Laying Out, Loading, and Drying

Place a fruit leather sheet or some tin foil in the bottom of the dehydrator to catch any drips.

Lay the wedges, skin side down, on the dehydrator trays or on baking sheets layered with oiled parchment paper. Leave plenty of space between the pieces so theres a lot of air circulation around each piece. This will help them dry faster and prevent mold.

If you're using any cherry tomatoes, slice them in half lengthwise and lay them out skin side down on the trays.

Like so! Now you're ready to bring the heat. Turn your dehydrator or oven to 140°F.

If you're using an oven, don't forget to prop the door open a bit. And because of the high moisture content in tomatoes, it also helps to set up a little fan to blow into the oven opening if you don't have a convection oven.

They will take anywhere from 6-18 hours to dry depending on the thickness of the pieces and moisture content of the tomatoes you chose. Check in with them at 4 hours and then monitor them every couple of hours after that until they're done.

To rehydrate your dried tomatoes for use, place them in a heat-proof bowl and cover them with boiling water. Let them sit for 15 minutes. Remove them from the water and use.

NOTE: As they soak in the boiling water, some of their vitamins and minerals AND flavor leach out into the water. So don't throw the water out! Save it and use it in a sauce, to make risotto, or a delicious soup.

Step 7: Storage Tips

Place the COMPLETELY dried tomatoes in airtight containers, label/date them and store in a cool, dry, dark place like a cupboard or pantry. As long as moisture doesn't get introduced into the containers, the dried foods should last indefinitely.

PRO TIP: After the dried tomatoes have been in the airtight jars for one day, check to see if there is any condensation on the inside walls of the jars. If there is, it means that the tomatoes are not 100% dried and need to be put back in the dehydrator/oven for a few more hours.

Step 8: To the Pantry and Beyond!

For more drying/dehydrating projects – and to learn about other food preservation methods like:

  • Canning
  • Vinegar Pickling
  • Lacto-fermentation

Enroll in my free online Instructables Canning & Preserving Class!

Comments

author
Laura Smith 2010 (author)2017-07-06

I have a dehydrator and it is a tall standing one from Cabellea's , I don't remember the name of it. I have tried drying cherries, which turned out good, tomatoes, bannanas, strawberries etc., but i can't seem to get it just right. The strawberries i wanted them like the ones you get in cereal, they didnt harden up enough, the others didnt either. I put it on high and dehydrated it for over 20 hrs. I was thinking of doing less dehydrator and putting it in the over at the end for a few hours. I also found they molded very quickly. Any help woulld be great !! I really want to do the sun dried tomatoes again, i have lots of them right now.

Thanks, LauraSmith2010@gmail.com 7/6/2017

author
Oncer (author)2017-05-31

Thank you for this. When I have seen sun dried tomatoes in the shops they have been in oil. Would this be another layer of preserving or just because it's really really nice?

author
Paige Russell (author) Oncer2017-06-05

Hi Oncer,

Certainly dried tomatoes stored in oil are DELICIOUS! Unfortunately, the ones you see in stores have been commercially processed in a way that is impossible to replicate at home. Oil in and of itself isn't a a safe food preserver as it is an alkaline environment that creates perfect conditions for botulism toxins to develop (anaerobic + low acid).

Having said that, there are tons of folks who do store their dried tomatoes in oil and have lived to tell the tale. This is a hotly debated topic on the internets, but this article does a great job of covering the pros and cons and giving a tutorial for how to do it safely:

http://anoregoncottage.com/drying-tomatoes-and-sto...

One important note to reiterate here is that to do this safely, NEVER add anything in with the dried tomatoes when storing them in oil (aka garlic or herbs). These other items can introduce moisture to the mix and that is how botulism can occur.

Happy making!
Paige

author
Oncer (author)Paige Russell2017-06-06

Thanks!

author
soumitraseth (author)2017-05-30

Very Very Good Article. Thank A Lot .

author

Thanks! :D

author
amm4467 (author)2017-06-01

Very GOOD!

author
Paige Russell (author)amm44672017-06-05

Thank you! :D

author
mikecz (author)2017-06-02

Some vacuum sealers for plastic bags and tubes have an attachment that lets you vacuum seal "mason" jars. Do you think this process would help for long term storage of these dried tomatoes?

author
Paige Russell (author)mikecz2017-06-05

Hi mikecz,

Certainly less oxogen can be desirable when preserving food, but in this case, unless you already have a vacuum sealer and just want to try it, it isn't necessary. Foods appropriate for the drying method that properly and thoroughly dried – and kept in a dark, cool, moisture-free environment (aka well sealed container) – can be stored indefinitely.

But like I said, there's no harm in trying it if you already have the machine!

author
WallySchiel (author)2017-05-30

I usually wait for summer, then slice tomatoes thickly, lay them on a fly screen then put them on a sheet of corrugated metal roofing for about a day. Summer temps about 35C will dry them in about 6-7 hours.

author
panakanic (author)2017-05-30

Parchment paper also works well, in the bottom of the dehydrator, to catch any drippy juices. My old Excalibur dehydrator has nylon/plastic racks that work just fine, as the temps used for drying foods are supposed to be kept low. Otherwise, you are cooking rather than dehydrating. I always use the lowest temp I can safely use for dehydrating.

author
gralan (author)2017-05-30

I am very glad for this instructable, thank you. I especially liked the clue about checking for condensation after storing in a cool place to make sure they were dried properly.

Per google: According to the USDA, few, if any store-bought "sun dried" tomatoes are actually sun dried (but the regulations allow them to call them that!).

Thus the name of the product is "sun-dried tomatoes", more than describing the process.

author
mooster (author)2017-05-30

This is a nicely presented instructable for when the big crop of tomatoes comes in during a rainy period or when a person's schedule might only allow for after daylight hours, and I'll bet very few of the nitpickers would be able to taste the difference. Perhaps the title should be simply "Dried Tomatoes".

author
GTO3x2 (author)2017-05-30

So, they're not "sun-dried". Are the typical producers as misleading? - I REALLY don't like that. Yes, I read it in the preface.

author
Joe Byers (author)2017-05-30

This is a nice treatise on "machine" drying tomatoes. Actual "sun" drying is drying in the sun. I consider using a machine to be safer and less labor intensive.

About This Instructable

5,238views

76favorites

License:

Bio: Made in Canada, I grew up crafting, making, and baking. Out of this love for designing and creating, I pursued a BFA in product design ... More »
More by Paige Russell:3D Printed BobbleheadImport McMaster-Carr Components Into Tinkercad5 Minute Homemade Soap
Add instructable to: