Friday, June 24, 2011

Homemade Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Drying tomatoes the old-fashioned way

Normally, the thought of dried food does not bring to mind a gourmet meal. However, a relatively small amount of sun-dried tomatoes gives a gourmet touch and a burst of flavor to a variety of recipes. Easy to make, store, and use at home, this is an item you may wish to consider a staple in your pantry.

Before modern canning methods were available, Italians dried tomatoes on their tile roofs for use in winter when fresh tomatoes were not an option. Nowadays, sun-dried tomatoes (pomodori secchi in Italian) are not as popular in Italy as they are in America, where they are mostly relegated to antipasto or as a flavor-booster for sauce. These dried, concentrated vessels of flavor have enjoyed a popularity boost in the United States in the past couple of decades, initially as a gourmet item but fast becoming a favorite of home cooks.

Large tomatoes can lose up to 93% during the process. As a result, it takes anywhere from 8 to 14 kilos of fresh tomatoes to make a single kilo of sun dried tomatoes.
After the procedure the tomato fruits will keep their nutritional value. The tomatoes are high in lycopene, antioxidants, and vitamin C and low in sodium, fat, and calories.

Homemade sun-dried tomatoes basic recipe

It is worthwhile to make your own at home, particularly if you have a tomato garden. The basic process is easy enough. Most prefer to begin with Roma tomatoes, as there are less seeds and a higher ratio of flesh, but you can use any type of tomato, including cherry varieties. Choose tomatoes of a uniform size so they dry at the same rate.

Simply slice tomatoes in half, place on a raised screen, lightly sprinkle with salt and optional herbs, and place in the hot sun until dry. Depending on your weather conditions, this could take anywhere from four days to two weeks. You'll want to cover them with cheesecloth, raised so it does not touch the tomatoes, to keep out any critters and provide proper ventilation. You will also need to bring them in during the night, lest the evening dew undo your drying process. Plan on 10 standard tomatoes to get one ounce of dried tomatoes.

Should sun-dried tomatoes be seeded before drying?

To seed or not is really a matter of personal preference. Some methods require scooping out the center flesh and seeds, leaving only the tissue along the outer walls of the fruit, being of the opinion that the seeds contribute some bitterness and acidity.

The juice surrounding the seeds concentrates into just that much more flavor in the end product, and eliminates some labor. The decision to seed or not to seed is yours.

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