Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Drying tomatoes

Last week I discovered drying tomatoes. It's one of those things I knew was possible-- that the intrepid Domestic Goddess could, by her own hand, create some of those delicious, gourmet morsels they sell in grocery stores for approximately $5 an ounce-- sundried tomatoes.

Just the name is enough to throw you off. Hear sundried tomatoes, and what do you think? I conjure an Italian courtyard of ancient terracotta buildings, maybe a fig or an orange tree in the center, and around the perimeter, trained on wooden supports, a lush, languid tomato vine, fruits ripening perfectly in the Mediterranean sun.

Maybe to make Tuscan sundried tomatoes, or Milanese sundried tomatoes, you need a courtyard like that. But to make Binghamtonian sundried tomatoes, all you need is an oven.

Oh, and tomatoes. Some of those, too.

I've been using the plum kind, which are a little smaller and not as juicy as regular old beefsteak tomatoes. I slice them in half. I lay the halves out on a cooling rack (you know, for cooling cookies). I sprinkle them all with salt, and with dried thyme (optional, but worth it for the potpourri effects). I put my oven on its lowest setting (170 degrees). I stick the tomatoes in there, and I wait. It's been taking about twelve hours to dry a batch-- I check after about eight hours and pull any that are satisfactorily leathery and wrinkled, and let the rest go for longer.

Here's a picture of the action:

I can't get over how easy it all is. Once they're done, you just stuff them in a baggie (or a clean jar, or a tupperware) and store them away until you need them. I have a feeling we are going to be eating well this winter.

So, who wants pesto?


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