The elusive perfect tomato. Even among varieties of heirloom tomatoes, not every bite is as worthy as it could be. As worthy as we want it. After all, we call them love apples for a reason. Expectations are high.
To the lucky few who find those delicious rarities where acid and sweetness are in perfect balance, texture is juicy but firm, flavor is strong but just mild enough, preservation is key. And with heirloom tomatoes only around for that short blip of summer (it always goes too fast, doesn’t it?) saying farewell can be painful.
While we can’t keep perfect summer heirloom tomato varieties fresh year-round, we can have the next best thing: dried tomatoes. These aren’t your store-bought-soaked-in-oil-and-salt variety. These are slow-dried at home, from your favorite batch of heirlooms.
Oven-dried Heirloom Tomatoes
Makes about one pint
7 -8 lbs firm ripe heirlooms
2 teaspoons sea salt
optional: one teaspoon (each or any) fresh dried herbs: basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, parsley
De-stem tomatoes and cut into quarters (for smaller tomatoes, simply cut in half, but generally, heirlooms are on the large side).
Lay the tomatoes cut side up on a non-stick cookie sheet (or oil a regular cookie sheet). But avoid an aluminum sheet as this will react with the acids in the tomato and compromise the flavor.
Mix the salt with any of the dried herbs and sprinkle the mixture atop the tomatoes.
With the oven door slightly opened to allow the moisture out, bake at 170°F (or 200° if that’s the lowest setting your oven allows) for approximately 3 hours.
Remove the tomatoes and gently flip to the other side. Put the tomatoes back in for another 3 hours with the door open. Repeat the process until dry. Note this can take up to 12 hours before the tomatoes are completely dried.
You want to avoid letting them become crisp or burned, so you need to watch them, especially in the last half of the drying process. Which means, start this early, perhaps on a slow weekend when you’re savoring the last of summer’s long, warm days.
Some tomatoes will dry faster than others; it’s okay to remove those.
You can store them in an airtight jar in the refrigerator.
Serve with lots of fresh olive oil on salads and sandwiches, in pasta and pizza dishes, or simply enjoy them by themselves.
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