Prepare your own Sun dried tomatoes – With or without the sun
I am a cooking fanatic, and my neighbor is a gardening fanatic. Together, we make an excellent team.
She is always bringing over fresh, home-garden produce for me to practice my culinary talents on, and I always find delicious ways to prepare her home grown goodies.
Recently, she brought over a huge basket filled with heirloom tomatoes. I have always wanted to make sun dried tomatoes, and this was a great opportunity to try out a couple methods and see what works best.
One of the things I like most about sun dried tomatoes are their nutritional value 
The sun dried tomato is chock full of antioxidants and other vitamins, high in fiber and low in fat and cholesterol. My vegetarian friends love them because they are almost a complete protein, and they can add a few bits of them to their salads or sandwiches to create a well-balanced meal.
Sun dried tomatoes originate from Italy where they put them on their rooftops to dry them out and keep them preserved for winter use.
They have since become popular in many places around the world.
Sun dried tomatoes have a variety of uses in the kitchen. They have a very strong flavour and are used to top salads for an extra kick, to make rich sauces, stuff meats, add flavor to sandwiches, and so much more.
Even though the name seems to imply that you have to dry the tomatoes in the sun, it is not necessary. You can make sun dried tomatoes in a food dehydrator like this one on amazon Excalibur 3926TB Food Dehydrator, Black or even the oven. I don’t have a dehydrator, so I decided to try both the oven and sun method to see what works best for me.
How to Sun Dry Tomatoes (Outside)
First I prepared all the tomatoes in one big batch. I washed each one with water and cut them in half. Some people remove the seeds, but I left them in so there would be no risk of loosing any of the pulp. I sprinkled a little salt on the cut sides of the tomatoes to add flavor and speed up the drying process.
I then took half of them and prepared them for drying in the sun. For the outdoor drying rack I used:
- cookie cooling rack
- cardboard cake carrier with a few holes cut in the bottom (you can use any container that your racks will fit inside of as long as it is breathable/allows airflow)
- cheesecloth (mainly to keep out dust and fruit flies)
- 4 small binder clips
- 4 equally sized rocks that I found outside
I placed the cookie rack inside the cake carrier.
Then I placed the tomatoes, skin side down, directly on the rack, making sure the tomatoes did not touch each other.
I covered the carrier with the cheesecloth, using the binder clips to attach the cheesecloth to the sides of the carrier to keep the cheesecloth from touching the tomatoes.
I then put it outside in an area that gets the most sunlight throughout the day.
I used the rocks for legs to give good airflow from below the carrier.
I brought the tomatoes inside every evening and returned them to their sunny spot outside each morning.
It took ten days for my tomatoes to complete their drying process in the sun. Depending on your climate it could take a couple days less or a couple days more for you.
Be sure to bring them in at night and never leave them out in the rain.
I knew they were finished drying when they had a very deep dark red color, and they felt dry and leathery, a bit like raisins.
If you stop the process too early, they will be a bit pasty or sticky on the inside.
If you leave them out too long, they will get too dry and become brittle.
For creating dried tomatoes using the oven dry method, I used the following items
- cookie sheets
- tin foil
- cooling racks
First, I preheated my oven to “warm” as 200 degrees is too hot.
If your oven does not have a warm setting and 200 degrees is the lowest temperature, then you will want to crack the oven door open a bit.
If you have temperature settings under 200 degrees, you will want to set your oven at about 130 degrees.
I covered my cookie sheets with tin foil with the shiny side down to prevent heat from reflecting off of the foil and unevenly heating the bottoms of the tomatoes.
Then I put the prepared tomatoes on top of the foil with the skin side down and put the cookie sheets in the oven.
I closed the oven and started checking on them about 6 hours later.
It took about 8 hours for the first few to finish and all of them were done within 10 hours of putting them in the oven.
As each one finished, I removed it from the oven with tongs and placed it on the cooling racks.
I left them all on the cooling racks for a couple hours until completely cooled to room temperature.
For storage, I put them in canning jars, these should be suitable Ball Quilted Jelly Canning Jar 4 Oz (Pack of 12) then covered them in olive oil, put the lid on, and placed them in the pantry.
I really like this method because the dried tomatoes will now flavor the oil and I can then use it to make a very tasty salad dressing, and it can be used as a cooking oil too (great for fried potatoes).
You can also store the dried tomatoes without the oil using a vacuum sealer or even a regular zip up plastic bag.
Just be sure to get as much air out as you can.
They will store this way for about 12 months in the pantry.
They can be kept in the freezer and stay good for up to 18 months.
I will probably never sun dry tomatoes outside again
It was a lot more work than the oven method, I almost forgot to bring them inside twice, and one time I just barely got them inside before it started to rain.
The oven method was a lot easier for me, but it kept the house hot all day.
Even still, it was well worth it.
These tomatoes are so much tastier than the ones from the supermarket, and they have no additives or preservatives.
Here is the first of my sun dried tomato recipes
Be sure to watch out for more on Real Food Freaks in the future
Made with my newly created delicious home made sun dried tomatoes:
Zesty and Creamy Stuffed Chicken Breasts
6 chicken breasts
10 ounces frozen chopped spinach
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped onion
16 ounces cottage cheese
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 ounces grated mozzarella
2 cups Alfredo sauce
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thaw spinach and squeeze excess liquid out. Mix spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, onion, cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, basil, oregano and pepper in a mixing bowl then stir until well blended.
- Cut through one long side of each chicken breast as deep as you can without cutting through the other three sides. Stuff about 1/2 cup of mixture into each breast and place in roasting pan. Leave some space between each breast so they do not touch each other. Pour an equal amount of alfredo sauce over each breast, then sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes until chicken is cooked thoroughly. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve on top of pasta or a side dish of your choosing.
Now all you need to do is get going making your own sun dried tomatoes or you could always buy some, ready prepared – Enjoy!
 Nutrition Data: Sundried Tomatoes – http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/3021/2