No Fuss Sundried Tomatoes Dehydrated in Your Car
Folks, I know you're gonna love this one. Yes, you can make gourmet sun-dried tomatoes in your car!
Fresh sun-dried tomatoes retail for $5, $10, or even $20 a pound. Whether you grow your own tomatoes or take advantage of seasonal sales, making your own sun-dried tomatoes is hands-down the easiest way to preserve the bounty of the season.
When it's too hot to drive, take advantage of the summer heat and preserve tomatoes. In the middle of winter or before the next harvest, there's nothing like the delicious sourness, saltiness and rich flavor of sun-dried tomatoes. Tomatoes of all sizes from cherry to beefsteak can be sun-dried in the car in a few days. Unlike sauces and soups that require tomatoes to be blanched, peeled, and cooked extensively, sun-dried tomatoes need only be sliced, salted and placed in the car for passive solar drying and long-term preservation. I hope you enjoy this new take on an age-old technique.
History of the Sundried Tomato
Origin of the Fruit and Preservation Methods
The sun-dried tomato or pomodori secchi is a one of the specialty ingredients used by gourmet cooks and Italian restaurants. Although tomatoes are associated with Italian foods, they are native to South America, which means there was probably salsa before pasta sauce.
The tomato was brought back to the old world and introduced to the Mediterranean in the 1500s by the Spanish Conquistadors.
Because the first tomatoes brought to Europe were golden yellow, pomodoro, which is the Italian word for tomato, literally means golden apple. In the 1600s, the tomato was first described in the English language using the name love apple, a term that stems from French pomme d'amour a possible corruption of the original Spanish word for tomato, which was pome dei moro or apple of the Moors.
The archetypal red tomato was unknown in Europe until Jesuit priests brought seeds on their return trip from missionary work in Mexico. The modern word tomato originates from tomati which is the name used by tribes in Central America. When the tomato was first introduced, many people believed it was possibly poisonous because it is a member of the solanacae or nightshade family. Until the 1800s, cookbooks instructed a minimum three hours of cooking time to eliminate the raw taste. Today, it's hard to imagine a fruit or vegetable that is loved more.
Before the days of electricity, canning, and modern food preservation,
sun-drying would have been one of the preferred preservation methods. Commercial manufacturers hire workers to spread tons of machine cut tomatoes on the ground or on elevated tables with mesh screens. Outdoors sun-dried tomatoes take about one week to fully cure depending on the humidity and temperature. The processing of dry tomatoes by removing the water and curing with salt can also be achieved in the car or in standard household oven on the lowest setting.
Ingredients and Supplies
Not too many, but you will need:
- Fresh tomatoes one pound or more
- One cup of Kosher salt
- Baking dish
- Cutting board
- One very sharp paring knife
- Cheesecloth (optional)
- Herbs (optional)
Sun-dried tomatoes provide pure, intensified flavor. For the best results, use vine-ripened tomatoes which are the most flavorful. Because tomatoes have more than 80% water content, it takes a few pounds to make a substantial quantity of sun-dried tomatoes.
Salt is the second most important ingredient for sun-dried tomatoes. Salt acts a desiccant and preservative that pulls water from the fruit and prevents mold or bacterial growth. I prefer Kosher salt for several reasons: It's made from pure sea salt, it's economical, and the large flakes seem to be more effective. Salt will be applied several times throughout the drying process for a pleasantly salty finished product, however the majority of the salt will be washed off by the tomato water.
To dry your tomatoes, use a non-reactive baking dish preferably made from glass. Pyrex dishes and pie plates work great because the sides are high and they're easy to pour from.
Cheesecloth is completely optional. Inside the car there is very little risk for bug infestation compared to drying outside. Cheesecloth can also make it easier to pour of the water without losing any tomatoes. If you choose cheesecloth, you'll need several large, strong rubber bands and some other makeshift devices, such as binder clips, to hold the cheesecloth without letting it drape in the tomatoes.
Sundried Tomato Preparation
1. Wash tomatoes to remove any surface dirt from the skin.
2. Cut tomatoes in halves or quarters. (removing the seeds and gel is not necessary. In fact, much of the tomato's flavor is retained in gooey liquid that surrounds the seeds.)
3.Arrange tomato pieces across the baking dish as tightly as possible. The tomato pieces will shrink dramatically and shift so it's not important to be precise.
4.Salt liberally until all of the piece are coated with a thin layer of salt.
5.Place baking dishes in a sunny part of your automobile, such as the dashboard or rear window of a hatch-back station wagon.
After 2-4 hours check the tomato pieces and drain off water as necessary. I have found the most dramatic water-loss occurs in the first eight hours, so draining the dishes frequently during the first day is extremely important. At night, bring your trays inside and dose liberally with salt. I find it's convenient to store the drying tomatoes in the oven where they are out of the way. As the tomatoes begin to dry, your will notice the raw smell fading and a delicious, tomatoey sweetness developing. Once the majority of the water has drained off, you can add thyme, oregano and other complementary herbs if desired.
If the sun decides to hide while you're drying your tomatoes, simply bring the baking dishes inside and dry inside the oven with the lowest setting, which is approximately 150 to 200 degrees. If any strong odors develop while oven drying, turn the heat off and allow the oven to cool briefly. On average, it take approximately 5 to 7 days before the sundried tomatoes lose their tackiness. The ideal moisture levels allow the sundried tomatoes to remain supple without supplying enough moisture for spoilage to occur. When in doubt, allow the tomatoes to dry further. Removing too much moisture will make the sundried tomatoes brittle. However, it's better to err on the side of dryness.
Once the drying process is complete, simple store the sundried tomatoes pieces in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. To prevent excess moisture, I add one silica desiccant packet to each jar. Although it's unsafe to eat silica pack, they are excellent for prevent moisture buildup in the packaging of moisture sensitive food products. Once dried, tomatoes have an extremely long shelflife. Add a cut ribbon or decorative cloth cover, and gift your sundried tomatoes to someone special.
Sundried Tomato Consumers - Pros and Cons
9.44 in. x 11.8 in.
Sundried tomatoes are gourmet food items, so they can be vary costly in specialty markets or the grocery store. Does the high cost of sundried tomatoes prevent you from cooking with them more often?
Cooking With Sundried Tomato - Fabulous Ideads for Using Sundried Tomatoes
A handful of hundred tomatoes will spice-up any meal. Crunch a handful of sundried tomatoes into your favorite quiche batter along with drained spinach or a few tablespoons of bacon bits. Sundried tomatoes don't need to be rehydrated for quiche and moist recipes. However, sometimes it's useful reconstitute sundried tomatoes for spreads, dip or dry sandwiches. To rehydrate sundried tomatoes, soak with a few tablespoons of boiling water or hot water from the tap.
Sundried tomatoes are versitle flavoring ingredients. A simple sundried tomato tapanade spread on a slice of French bread, sprinkled with cheese and heated in the toaster oven will turn into instant Mediterranean baguette pizza and dinner for the family in about 20 minutes.
Sundried Tomato Taste Test - To Eat or Not To Eat? That is the Question!
Tell Me how you really feel!
Do You Love 'em or Hate 'em?
Sundried Tomato Nutrition Information - What's in a Cup of Sundried Tomatoes?
Sundried tomatoes are extremely rich in vitamin, minerals, amino acidsand essential fatty acids, which are great for preventing signs of aging and promoting healthy skin. Although sundried tomatoes are vitamin-rich vegetables, they also contain very high levels of sodium. However, the intense saltiness is great for flavorful dips or spicing up your favorite Italian dish.
The following nutritional information is provided by the USDA.
1 cup or 54g of Sundried Tomatoes Contains:
583 grams of Protein
7.62 grams of plant-based fat or lipids
6.80 grams of Carbohydrates
30.11 grams of dietary fiber (excellent source!)
6.6 grams of Sugars
59 mg Calcium
4.91 mg Iron
105 mg Magnesium
192 mg Phosphorus
1851 mg Potassium
1131 mg Sodium (almost enough salt for an entire day)
1.07 mg Zinc
0.768 mg Copper
0.997 mg Manganese
3 micrograms Selenium
21.2 mg Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid
0.285 mg Thiamin
0.264 mg Riboflavin
4.887 mg Niacin
1.127 mg Pantothenic acid
0.179 mg Vitamin B-6
37 mcg Folate, total
37 mcg Folate, DFE
24 mcg Vitamin A RAE
283 mcg Beta Carotene
472 IU Vitamin A
24787 mcg Lycopene
766 mcg Lutein + zeaxanthin
23.2 mcg Vitamin K (phylloquinone)
0.230 g Fatty acids, total saturated
0.002 g 14:0
0.176 g 16:0
0.052 g 18:0
0.263 g Fatty acids, total monounsaturated
0.006 g 16:1 undifferentiated
0.257 g 18:1 undifferentiated
0.602 g Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated
0.596 g 18:2 undifferentiated
0.006 g 18:3 undifferentiated
0 mg Cholesterol
0.056 g Tryptophan
0.193 g Threonine
0.183 g Isoleucine
0.279 g Leucine
0.280 g Lysine
0.066 g Methionine
0.099 g Cystine
0.198 g Phenylalanine
0.195 g Valine
0.185 g Arginine
0.116 g Histidine
0.217 g Alanine
1.057 g Aspartic acid
2.809 g Glutamic acid
0.188 g Glycine
0.144 g Proline
0.203 g Serine
Search Amazon for the Hottest Tomato Related Products - Everything from Books to Gourment Foods
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Do You Love Sundried Tomatoes? - Share Your Recipes and Fond Tomato Memories
KonaGirl from New York on May 12, 2013:
Who knew that something that taste so incredibly good could be so nutritious? The best is sun drying in the car instead of building a screen drying frame. Totally cool. I have to try this! *Squid Angel Blessed* and pinned to my "Stocking Up" board.
Cara on October 30, 2012:
Something I'd love to try.
anonymous on September 03, 2012:
What an absolutely unique idea, I was looking for information on canning tomatoes and saw this and just had to come on over for this very cool idea!
Ellen Gregory from Connecticut, USA on July 19, 2012:
This is great information. I never heard of this before. Great lens.
QuiltFinger (author) from Tennessee on July 19, 2012:
@CuppaJo: Awesome! Thanks so much for sharing your results! You're going to love them, and so much cheaper than store bought! Thanks for stopping by!
Jo Gavilan on July 10, 2012:
Hey, just wanted to say it totally worked...and it only took like 8 hrs (spread over 2 days). It's been way hot here.
Jo Gavilan on July 07, 2012:
Thanks for this lens! I've got them baking in my car right now, hope they come out ok!
Valerie Bloom from Pennsylvania, USA on February 08, 2012:
blanckj on July 05, 2011:
Interesting. Thanks for sharing.
Teri Villars from Phoenix, Arizona on December 12, 2010:
When you can grow things in your car, it's time to clean the floorboard! ha! Cool lens.
Karen from U.S. on November 26, 2010:
I've just recently started cooking more with sundried tomatoes, and I love the taste. I'm looking forward to drying our own sundried tomatoes next summer, using your method of drying them in the car. Some of the recipe links you included here sound very good too!