"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sundried Tomatoes, Sans-Sun

It's tomato season...we're rolling in them. I am to the stage where I have started packing a small container of tomatoes to take with us when we leave...just in case any of our friends want tomatoes. (Yay friends!) Almost time for making tomato sauce. I'd be all over it this week except we're wildly busy with Vacation Bible School at church every single day so, all other major accomplishments (hello Laundry!) are out for a while. Next week will be sauce week, and our counter will be splashed with tomato seeds, and we'll have tomato skins dropped all over the kitchen floor and the house will smell like tangy, sweet sauce for days on end, long after the jars are sealed and rinsed and making their way to the pantry shelves.

 But, I just couldn't wait to do something with tomatoes...they beg to be used, and loved and enjoyed. So, I decided to try making my own "sundried" tomatoes. It's been raining this week and the heat is finally down a bit so I decided to skip doing it outdoors (maybe another year) and just do it simply, in my oven.

Now, this week is insanity at our house so low key was really important if I was going to be working on anything at all. Is tomato sauce intimidating but you'd like to dip your toe in the water of food preservation and old fashioned home-making skills? Dry a few tomatoes. They're dead easy and so luscious good.
 I took some really beautiful plum tomatoes (from the Farmer's Market, not our garden) and sliced them in half. I laid them on a cake rack, to give them good air circulation, set it in a cookie sheet....and popped the whole shooting match into my oven on the lowest setting which on my oven is 150 degrees Farenheit.

They slowly, slowly wrinkle and darken and after a day or so, depending on the humidity, the moisture content of the tomatoes, the heat level of your lowest oven setting...etc. they'll be done! I rotated the cookie sheet around in a circle sometimes to make sure they dried evenly, and towards the end I checked more frequently so that I could start picking finished tomatoes off the sheet as they started to stagger towards done. I turned my oven off at night just because that's a long time of unsupervised cooking and I worried they'd finish somewhere around 3AM and then keep toasting away till I woke up and found them sadly dark and hard. When they're finished they're this sumptuous lipstick red, beautiful, just teetering on the edge of burgundy. And the flavor has intensified to a wonderfully  deep, zippy sweet...almost like fruit leather.

You know they're done when they feel like nice flexible, leathery dried fruit....nothing gushy left to them. I am keeping these in a ziploc bag in the fridge at the moment but next week...when all that tomato canning happens, I'm planning to take them up to the next level and try making this amazing looking tomato confit with them....slobber slobber slobber! I forgot to pick up a couple of heads of garlic at the Farmer's Market today but otherwise I have all of the ingredients ready and waiting...it's just a matter of time.


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