During our stay on Naxos this summer, my boyfriend’s mother gifted us a large jar filled to the brim with homemade sun-dried cherry- and grape tomatoes. I sprinkled them over salads and added them as a topping to sandwiches, but I think I ate most of them straight from the jar as a snack as they were that tasty. Of course, they would be great in pasta sauces and soups as well. Since my jar was quickly emptying and the garden was still full of bright red little tomatoes, we decided to make some more I am sharing the process of how we did it here with you.
What Do You need to Make Sun-Dried Tomatoes?
All you need to make these delicious little dried tomatoes is some delicious ripe cherry- or grape tomatoes, some sea salt, a pinch or two of dried ground oregano, a metal tray or pie tin (or several, depending on how many you are making), and a cheesecloth or piece of insect screen. Oh… and some sunshine and dry heat are necessary too, of course.
You also need a little bit of patience. The process described below, took about 3 days with a mid-day temperature of about 30 to 32 degrees Celsius. Naxos is quite windy, so I am sure that helped as well. Any higher temperature will be fine too, of course, and will even decrease the time needed to fully dry these tomatoes. If you are living in a very humid area, however, this method might sadly not be for you.
While you can technically use any type of container, using a metal tray makes it so that you don’t have to turn the tomatoes every other day, as the tray itself gets hot in the sun and dries the tomatoes from underneath. Should you use a surface or container made from a different material, you might have to check if the tomatoes need to be turned every other day so that no moisture stays trapped and the tomatoes can be dried equally on all sides.
How to Make Your Own Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Step 1: Picking and Cleaning
Select ripe and sweet cherry-, or grape tomatoes and remove all the stems and crowns. Wash the tomatoes well and allow to dry slightly.
Step 2: Cutting
Slice tomatoes almost fully in half, starting at the round bottom side until up to where the stem used to be, leaving the halves attached on the stem-side. Fold open the tomatoes.
For larger tomatoes, remove (some) of the seeds if you like (I leave them in for the smaller tomatoes). Arrange sliced tomatoes cut-side-up in a single layer on a metal baking tray, or dish.
Step 3: Flavour
Lightly sprinkle the tomatoes with some (coarse) sea salt and dust with some finely ground dried (Greek) oregano, or other flavourings of your choice.
Step 4: Protect
Cover your tray(s) with a single layer of cheesecloth, a very thin piece of fabric, or a piece of mosquito net and secure with clothes pins or a piece of string. The piece of ‘cloth’ should protect the tomatoes from insects and birds so it should stay securely over your tray, but it should allow enough air and heat to pass through and allow moisture to evaporate.
Step 5: Dry (Approx. 3 days)
Place tray in a very sunny area, or move it around to sunny areas during the day to get as much sun as possible. After sunset and during the night, keep trays with tomatoes indoors and place them back into the sun as soon as possible the next day. Repeat until tomatoes have shrunk and are dry and chewy.
Mine were done after 3 days with a midday temperature of about 30 to 32 degrees Celsius for all of those days, but depending on the area you are living in you might need a day less (drier area and/or more heat), or a couple of days longer (more humidity, lower temperatures).
Step 5: Store (dry or in oil)
Place sun-dried tomatoes in an airtight jar or container and keep as them dry as they are, or cover with good-quality olive oil and extra herbs and aromatics to make softer marinated tomatoes.