Tuesday, September 9, 2008

tomatoes for days

I know a cold front is on the way, and I know it's September, and I know I've already mentioned my excitement about the coming fall, but the truth is, I still have tomatoes. And after all the boiling, peeling, seeding, chopping, and canning, after the freezing and drying, salsa and soup, I wanted something a little less laborious to do with the last of the tomatoes. So I decided to try this:
Oil-Packed 'Sun-Dried' Tomatoes with Rosemary

To make these I sliced several pounds of Roma tomatoes into eighths (halves and quarters were too large for my dehydrator), laid them out on dehydrator trays, and sprinkled them with rosemary salt.*
I then put them in the dehydrator until they were dry but still pliable. My machine ran overnight and then for a few hours the next day to get them to this state. If you don't have a dehydrator, the tomatoes can be dried to this state by spreading them on a baking sheet and placing in a 200 degree (Fahrenheit) oven until done.
Once the tomatoes had dried sufficiently, I packed them into a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid, added two small sprigs of fresh (washed and thoroughly dried) rosemary, and filled the jar with a nice olive oil to cover the tomatoes by at least 1/4 inch.**

Easy, delicious, and the best way I know to eat September tomatoes.

*To make rosemary salt:
Combined the leaves of 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary with approximately 1 1/2 cups medium-grind sea salt in the bowl of a food processor until rosemary is finely chopped and incorporated into the salt. Store in an air-tight container.

**Notes on storage and safety:
I will be storing my oil-packed tomatoes in the refrigerator. They should keep in the fridge for several months, though the oil will solidify. I've read other recipes that claim they can be kept in a dark, cool pantry, however I prefer the safer route of refrigerated storage. In addition, some recipes recommend dipping each tomato slice in vinegar before packing into the jar. This method supposedly helps acidify the the liquid and inhibits the growth of bacteria. I haven't tried this, but would consider it for the next batch. I'm curious about the flavor the vinegar would impart and, of course, if it helps preserve the fruit, so much the better.

A good book on this type of food preservation is Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning.

I'd love to hear from anyone else who's made their own oil-packed tomatoes. What method do you use?


Hilary in Germany said...

I recently sprinkled some tomatoes with balsamic vinegar before dehydrating. Can't tell you how they did packed in oil. They didn't make it into the jar. Dehydrator tray--->mouth-->smile--->repeat.

L Vanel said...

Quite inspiring. I think I might try this with the last summer's basil.

Dragonfly Close said...

This looks amazing! So tell me, how do you actually use these babies? I keep wondering. Also, will the salt inhibit the re-hydration, or is there no re-hydration intended so the salt isn't an issue? I really would like to put some in oil, but I don't have any recipes or ideas at this time on what exactly what to do with them.

Chelsea said...

dragonfly - I have used them a few times so far. The first time I ate them straight out of the jar on crackers. The next, I chopped up a few to add to a sauce.

I'm not sure about the salt inhibiting re-hydration. I never fully dried the tomatoes in the first place - just to the point where they retained some flexibility - so they were still a bit soft when they went in the oil. I do have a few that are tougher than others, though. I don't find this to be a problem when adding them to soups or sauces, as the liquid there will help re-hydrate the tougher tomatoes. As for eating them right out of the jar, I definitely look for the softer ones.
Since this is the first time I've preserved in oil, I don't have too many tips or sage advice to lend. I can say that the tomatoes don't seem to be absorbing much of the oil - I don't know if this is a salt issue or not - but I would recommend being sure to pack pliable tomatoes, and save the 'crisper' ones for storing plain in a jar or baggie.
I bet Hilary has some good advice here, too...