You are in the right place if you are planning to dry tomatoes in the Sun. Here is everything you need to know about drying tomatoes in the Sun.
Drying is a process of removing moisture from food, wherein a hard outer layer is produced. It also extends the food’s shelf life by slowing down the action of natural enzymes which make the food soft and mushy. Drying concentrates the flavor adding richness to your dishes.
The different methods of drying tomatoes including:
- drying tomatoes in the oven,
- drying tomatoes in the microwave,
- drying tomatoes in a dehydrator,
- and drying tomatoes in the Sun.
This article is all about making sun-dried tomatoes.
The Process of Drying Tomatoes in the Sun
Selecting the tomatoes
Oval or pear-shaped Italian, Roma, or paste tomatoes are ideal for drying. Most people prefer to use Roma tomatoes because these have fewer seeds and have a higher ratio of flesh. But you can also use other varieties that are readily available.
Smaller tomatoes will obviously dry more quickly while large varieties will take longer. Make sure that you use uniformly-sized tomatoes within the same batch so that all the tomatoes will dry more or less at the same rate.
Drying tomatoes don’t actually need any special equipment, however, the process can be done faster with the use of an oven or a dehydrator. Prior to drying, tomatoes should be blanched before removing the skin. Moisture usually resides on the skin and if the skin is not removed, fruits will take longer to dry.
Tomatoes stand to lose about 88% to 93% of their original weight during the process.
Drying Tomatoes in the Sun
- Blanch tomatoes and remove the skin.
- Cut each tomato in half (squeeze out pulp and seeds is you don’t like them).
- Arrange sliced and peeled tomatoes on a raised screen or rack and lightly sprinkle some salt.
- Place the tomatoes under the hot Sun to dry.
- Depending on the weather conditions in your area, the drying process may take between four days to about two weeks.
- You can cover the tomatoes with cheesecloth, but you have to make sure that the covering is raised so that it does not touch the tomatoes. This will keep out critters from infesting the tomatoes while drying. This also provides proper ventilation.
Don’t leave the tomatoes outside during the night. You can take them inside at night and put them out in the morning.
If you don’t know how to blanch the tomatoes, here is a quick guide you can follow.
Things to keep in mind when drying tomatoes in the Sun
Sun-drying of tomatoes comes with a few challenges.
First, you’ll have less control over this drying method because Mother Nature is actually in charge. Drying would require dry air and consistently warm temperatures. Too much humidity makes the drying process more difficult if not impossible, take note if you live in an area that is humid.
When drying tomatoes outside you are attracting more than the Sun – you are risking of critter “infestation”. This is where the cheesecloth will come into play.
The bottom line is the use of this drying method is the best option for people living in warmer and dryer areas where the weather is more consistent and predictable. Depending on how hot is the temperature outside, it can also take a while, from a few days to a couple of weeks.
Should you add more flavor to your sun-dried tomatoes?
Aside from sea salt, you may add a few herbs of your choice. But you have to go easy on the salt. Make sure not to overdo it. Keep in mind that tomatoes may lose 90+% of their original weight, meaning the salt to add will be concentrated in what’s left of the tomato upon drying.
How to know if the tomatoes are done
The tomatoes are ready when they have really dried out yet still pliable. Squeeze the tomatoes between your fingers, they should be bendable, but not too brittle that they snap. If there is still moisture and the tomatoes are squishy when you squeeze them, they are not yet done.
It is important to check the tomatoes regularly during the drying period, particularly towards the end. If they are dried too long the tomatoes will come out tough and leathery. On the other hand, if they are not dried long enough, mold will grow quickly.
Storing Sun-dried tomatoes
Yes, dehydrated tomatoes may last longer but it can still spoil. Sun-dried tomatoes may last to about seven months provided that they are stored properly.
After the drying process, you should get perfectly dry tomatoes but not too crispy. The sun-dried tomatoes don’t have inner moisture, thus preventing bacterial growth.
You have to use bags or containers that seal completely to serve as storage. An opaque or coated container is your best choice, as this type prevents light from entering the tomatoes which can strip sun-dried tomatoes of flavor and color.
Your sun-dried tomatoes should be refrigerated. You may throw in some fresh herbs or garlic before keeping the dried tomatoes in the refrigerator, but don’t put them in the crisper drawer. You can store them in the freezer, it will further extend the shelf life of the sun-dried tomatoes.
Be wary of some signs of rot or mold on sun-dried tomatoes. Avoid using them when you notice the growth of molds. Discard moldy tomatoes immediately.
Packing Sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
Packing sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil will plump them up. They will be perfect for salad dressing or pasta salads.
- Use small jars as storage. Remember, less air exposure is your best option. Don’t use cans or metal jars lest you want your tomatoes to have a metallic flavor. Choose jars with tight-fitting lids.
- Reconstitute dried tomatoes using warm water for 30 minutes. Pat to dry with paper towels. Make sure to remove as much moisture as you can.
- You can dip the tomatoes in wine vinegar or lime juice to prevent the growth of bacteria, prior to adding olive oil.
- Layer the tomatoes in the jar with herbs and garlic. Pour in the olive oil, make sure to submerge the tomatoes entirely.
You can use the dried tomatoes after a few days. You can either keep them in the refrigerator (to extend shelf life) or at room temperature in your pantry. You know they are bad if the tomatoes taste rancid.