Dried Tomatoes (yields about 1 pint)
Wash carefully and wipe dry:
7 or 8 pounds of firm, ripe (preferably Roma) tomatoes.
Cut out the stem and scar and the hard portion of core lying under it.
Cut the tomatoes in half, lengthwise. If the tomato is more than about 2 inches long, cut it in quarters.
Scrape out all of the seeds that you can without removing the pulp.
Arrange the tomatoes, with the cut surface up, on non stick cookie sheets (glass or porcelin dishes are OK. They will have to withstand temperatures of a few hundred degrees F if you are going to oven dry the tomatoes). Do *not* use aluminum foil, or bare aluminum cookie sheets. The acid in the tomatoes will react with the metal.
Mix together thoroughly:
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp salt.
Sprinkle a small amount of this mixture on each tomato.
(You may customize this mixture to suit your own taste.)
Dry the tomatoes in the oven, dehydrator, or in the sun. Directions follow for each of these methods. However, no matter what method you choose, be aware that not all of the tomatoes will dry at the same rate.
They do not all have the same amount of moisture, nor do they experience the same temperature and air circulation while they are drying.
They are done when they are very dry, but still pliable about the texture of a dried apricot. If dried too long, they become tough and leathery. If not dried long enough, they will mold and mildew, unless packed in oil. So watch them carefully while they dry. Try to remove them on an individual basis, before they become tough.
Here are the drying methods. There is a time listed with each method.
This time is approximate, and can vary significantly depending on the moisture of the tomato. Do *not* rely on this time as more than a rough guide.
Oven drying (approximately 12 hours):
Bake, cut side up, in 170 F oven for about 3 hours. Leave the oven door propped open about 3 inches to allow moisture to escape. After 3 hours, turn the tomatoes over and press flat with your hand or a spatula. Continue to dry, turning the tomatoes every few hours, and gently pressing flatter and flatter, until tomatoes are dry.
Dehydrator method (approximately 8 hours):
Place the tomatoes, cut side up, directly onto the dehydrator trays. Set dehydrator temperature to about 140 F. After 4 or 5 hours, turn the tomatoes over and press flat with your hand or a spatula. After a few hours, turn the tomatoes again and flatten gently. Continue drying until done.
Sun drying (approximately 3 days):
Dry in hot weather, with relatively low humidity. Place tomatoes, cut side down, in shallow wood framed trays with nylon netting for the bottom of the trays. Cover trays with protective netting (or cheesecloth). Place in direct sun, raised from the ground on blocks or anything else that allows air to circulate under the trays. Turn the tomatoes over after about 1 1/2 days, to expose the cut side to the sun. Place the trays in a sheltered spot after sundown, or if the weather turns bad.
After the tomatoes are dry, store in air tight containers, or pack in oil.
To pack in oil:
Dip each tomato into a small dish of white wine vinegar. Shake off the excess vinegar and pack them in olive oil. Make sure they are completely immersed in the oil.
When the jar is full, cap it tightly and store at *cool* room temperature for at least a month before using. They may be stored in the refrigerator, but the oil will solidify at refrigerator temperatures (it quickly reliquifies at room temperature however).
As tomatoes are removed from the jar, add more olive oil as necessary to keep the remaining tomatoes covered.