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Sun-Dried Tomatoes

It takes about 7 pounds of fresh tomatoes to make a single pint of
dried tomatoes This is part of the reason they are so expensive
(costing in the neighborhood of $20/pound around here). The best
tomato to use in this process is the Roma (also known as a plum,
pear, or Italian) tomato, because it contains less water and seeds.
However, you can use any tomato. They will just take a little
longer to dry.

Dried Tomatoes (yields about 1 pint)

Wash carefully and wipe dry:

7 or 8 pounds of firm, ripe (preferably Roma) tomatoes.

Cut out the stem and scar and the hard portion of core lying under
it. Cut the tomatoes in half, lengthwise. If the tomato is more
than about 2 inches long, cut it in quarters.

Scrape out all of the seeds that you can without removing the pulp.

Arrange the tomatoes, with the cut surface up, on non-stick cookie
sheets (glass or porcelin dishes are OK. They will have to withstand
temperatures of a few hundred degrees F if you are going to oven-dry
the tomatoes). Do *not* use aluminum foil, or bare aluminum cookie
sheets. The acid in the tomatoes will react with the metal.

Mix together thoroughly:

1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp salt.

Sprinkle a small amount of this mixture on each tomato. (You may
customize this mixture to suit your own taste.)

Dry the tomatoes in the oven, dehydrator, or in the sun. Directions
follow for each of these methods. However, no matter what method
you choose, be aware that not all of the tomatoes will dry at the
same rate. They do not all have the same amount of moisture, nor
do they experience the same temperature and air circulation while
they are drying.

They are done when they are very dry, but still pliable - about
the texture of a dried apricot. If dried too long, they become
tough and leathery. If not dried long enough, they will mold and
mildew, unless packed in oil. So watch them carefully while they
dry. Try to remove them on an individual basis, before they become
tough.

Here are the drying methods. There is a time listed with each
method. This time is approximate, and can vary significantly
depending on the moisture of the tomato. Do *not* rely on this
time as more than a rough guide.

Oven-drying (approximately 12 hours):

Bake, cut side up, in 170 F oven for about 3 hours. Leave the oven
door propped open about 3 inches to allow moisture to escape.
After 3 hours, turn the tomatoes over and press flat with your hand
or a spatula. Continue to dry, turning the tomatoes every few
hours, and gently pressing flatter and flatter, until tomatoes are
dry.

Dehydrator method (approximately 8 hours):

Place the tomatoes, cut side up, directly onto the dehydrator trays.
Set dehydrator temperature to about 140 F. After 4 or 5 hours,
turn the tomatoes over and press flat with your hand or a spatula.
After a few hours, turn the tomatoes again and flatten gently.
Continue drying until done.

Sun-drying (approximately 3 days):

Dry in hot weather, with relatively low humidity.

Place tomatoes, cut side down, in shallow wood-framed trays with
nylon netting for the bottom of the trays. Cover trays with
protective netting (or cheesecloth). Place in direct sun, raised
from the ground on blocks or anything else that allows air to
circulate under the trays. Turn the tomatoes over after about 1
1/2 days, to expose the cut side to the sun. Place the trays in
a sheltered spot after sundown, or if the weather turns bad.

After the tomatoes are dry, store in air-tight containers.

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