Make The Most Of Your Harvest! Making "Sun-Dried" Tomatoes
Tomato season - eagerly anticipated amongst all Northern gardeners - is here in all it's bounty! You may be overrun with ripe, luscious, juicy tomatoes, which is a good problem to have. But what to do with all those summer fruits?
You could can tomato sauce, or crushed tomatoes. That is usually not a route I explore, because during the short New England summers, the last thing I want to be doing is sweating in a steamy kitchen when I could be outside, enjoying the sunshine. Instead, I choose to freeze and dry my tomatoes, and do my serious cooking during the winter, when I can enjoy the warmth of my cozy kitchen rather than cursing it.
To freeze my tomatoes, I simply throw whole cherry tomatoes or chunks of slicing tomatoes in small freezer bags (use whatever size bags holds enough for one recipe), and process them later in the fall/winter as needed. This method works great for sauce, soup, etc.
However, my favorite way to enjoy summer tomatoes in the dark depths of winter is to dry them. This concentrates the rich tomato flavor, which adds a delightful layer of flavor to your dishes. You may have seen the expensive, tiny jars of oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes at the grocery store - luckily, there is another way to get that amazing flavor without the expense.
How To - Dehydrator
To "sun-dry" your tomatoes, you can use a dehydrator or an oven. Simply halve the cherry tomatoes and cut the beefsteaks/paste tomatoes in 1/2" - 1/4" slices, and lay them on the rack of the dehyd
rator (cut side up, in the case of cherries). The timing is very variable depending on your model of dehydrator and the ambient atmosphere, and the most reliable method is just to keep an eye on their drying progress. You want the tomatoes to be dry and flexible, but not crunchy and burnt. For me, with my super simple dehydrator (which I found for $3 at a thrift store!) that only has "on" and "off" settings, it usually takes around 24 hours. However, if you are using another, fancier model, times may vary.
How To - Oven
For oven drying, set your oven to the lowest temp and figure out a way to prop the door open - a wooden spoon usually works for me. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper, or use a wire rack, and cover with tomato slices. Bake at the lowest temp possible for 4-6 hours.
If your tomatoes are very dried out, they will last in a sealed container at room temperature for a few days. Or, you could preserve them in olive oil in the fridge for a few weeks, or (my personal choice) freeze them in a freezer bag for use during the winter.
Tip - if you are having trouble with your tomatoes fully drying in the oven, try a sprinkle of salt, which brings out the juices.
There are so many ways to use your preserved tomatoes! Chop them up small and throw them into a sauce or soup at the beginning of cooking so they have a long time to rehydrate and release their flavor. Or, blitz them in a food processor or blender and incorporate into homemade pasta, meat dishes, or more refined sauces. Or, just soak them in olive oil, and use them on a pizza (pro tip - don't throw away that olive oil! It's very tasty).
Sun-Dried Tomato Buffalo Short Ribs
1 pckg (2-3lbs) buffalo or beef short ribs
1 small handful "sun-dried" tomatoes
1 medium can crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
1-2 tbsp red wine (optional)
1/4 - 1/2 cup broth, if needed
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Instant pot - place all ingredients in Instant Pot and pressure cook for 1 hour. Remove short ribs, let cool, and remove meat from bones. Meanwhile, simmer sauce until it reaches desired consistency. Add meat back in, and cook on low for another 1-3 hours, or until meat is tender and falling apart.
Dutch oven - Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place all ingredients in Dutch oven. Cook for 3-5 hours, adding additional liquid (wine, broth, or water), and stirring occasionally, until meat is fully cooked. Remove short ribs, let cool, and remove meat from bones. Meanwhile, simmer sauce on stovetop until it reaches desired consistency. Add meat back in, and cook on low on stovetop for another 1-3 hours, or until meat is tender and falling apart.
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