If you have an abundance of tomatoes and you aren’t big on canning, then drying them is a great way to preserve the taste of summer. Using a dehydrator is a great way to dry them, but it can be done easily in an oven as well. Once they’re dry you can store them in the pantry all winter long. These dried tomatoes can be softened with some boiling water and added to any recipe.
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If you’ve been following my recipes for the last little while you may have picked up on my love for dried tomatoes. There are times when I can barely hold back from adding them to recipes. Mixed into salads, pastas, risotto, and potato salads they really are one of my favourite additions to the winter pantry.
Sun-Dried Tomatoes vs. Not Sun-Dried Tomatoes.
So of course drying tomatoes using the heat of the sun would be great, but not everyone can. Personally I don’t notice a huge difference between sun-dried tomatoes that I buy in the store and the ones I dry in my dehydrator at home. SO honestly, the big difference between the two is that you can save a bit on your energy bill. All in all, I’d say for the sake of using less energy, building a home sun dryer would be a cool and worthwhile project. But drying at home in other ways is just as good taste wise, if you’re using good quality tomatoes.
For those interested in building their own sun dryer, here is a very detailed plan from Mother Earth News on building one for yourself. There are plenty of designs out there for sun dryers, but this one seems very effective and strong, as well as being able to hold a large quantity.
- A sharp knife
- A cutting board
- Dehydrator or Oven
- Dehydrator Trays or Baking Sheets
- Parchment paper (For oven drying)
For both oven drying and dehydrator drying you will cut the tomatoes the same way. Begin by cutting your tomatoes into thick slices. Aim for about ½” thick. For my romas that I used, this meant that most of them were sliced into 3 pieces. Larger ones got quartered and a very small number were good cut in half.
For Oven Drying:
Set the oven temperature to 200F. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper. Lining the trays is important to prevent the dried tomatoes from sticking. Lay your tomato slices out on the trays. You don’t need to worry about spacing them apart too much, they will shrink a lot as they dry. Place the trays in the oven, and prop the oven door open slightly with a metal spoon or pair of tongs. Allow the tomatoes to dry like this for 10-12 hours. End pieces take slightly longer to dry then center cut pieces, so after 8 hours or so you can check the center slices. The tomatoes should be fully dried without any squishy parts before storing them. Store in an airtight container, in a cool and dry pantry.
If you are new to dehydrating and living in a home with a smaller kitchen, I would recommend getting a slightly smaller model of dehydrator like this one. If you’re looking to up your dried tomato game you could go for a larger one like this.
Set the temperature of your dryer to 150-160F. Arrange the tomato slices onto the dehydrator trays, place them in the machine, and close the lid. Dry the slices for about 8-12 hours, checking the center slices after 8 hours. The end slices will take slightly longer. If your dehydrator trays stack onto a central heat source, I recommend rotating the trays after 8 hours or so. If your dehydrator blows hot air in from behind each tray, there’s no need to rotate. Once the tomatoes are fully dried, store them in an airtight container in a cool and dry pantry.
Et voila! Okay, it’s not super fast like that, but still! I usually spend about a week and a bit each summer drying all my tomatoes. Rotating out dried ones and adding new slices each day. And it’s so worth it! Now that you have your yummy dried tomatoes why not try out some recipes, like any one of these 4 Delicious Sun-Dried Tomato Sauces.