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Sun Dried Tomatoes

15 years ago

I raise tomatoes for sun drying. I do about 1000 to 2000 lbs a year which I sell to the upscale restaurants in Cody Wyoming & Billings Montana. I wanted to pass on my favorites for you considering doing some drying. Any tomato can be used for drying but some varieties are better than others.

I grow 15 mainstay varieties that I have kept as I culled others that did not meet my criteria.

I also try at least 5 new varieties of paste types each year and am lucky if one makes it into my gherdÂh. I am looking for specific things:

 Meaty with a low moisture content

 Few seeds

 A rich and tangy flavor

 Size-Small tomatoes are just more work for me.

 Not fussy-Take heat and cold and wind. No primadonnas!

 Bloom well and set lots and lots of fruit

 Indeterminate

 Dry to a nice pliable consistency

These are my Top Five

Chinese Giant

Carol Chyko

Cuoro D Toro

Opalka

San Marzano Redorta

I wanted to add that were I to be stranded on a desert Island with only one tomato it would be Russo Sicilian Togeta. This is my allstar that sets fruit first, ripens the earliest, bears heavy crops in any weather and is producing right up until hard frost. It is not a true paste but rather a stuffing tomato. None-the-less, the flavor of these dried is as good as it gets. It is also wonderful for just eating or slicing and the fruit is extra large.

For those wanting to know my Secret Recipe for drying, here you go:

Wash, stem and slice each tomato into 1/4" thick slices. Place in a very large bowl or clean bucket and cover with cheap red wine. I use Merlot but if you prefer something else, knock yourself out. I have a friend that swears by cheap Chianti! Soak tomato slices 24 hours in the wine. Drain well. Lay tomatoes just touching on dehydrator shelves or on screen in your sun-drying apparatus. Sprinkle each slice with a mixture containing equal parts of dried basil-oregano-parsley and then sprinkle each slice with Kosher Salt. You may choose to forego the salt if you wish but tomatoes will take longer to dry. Dry tomatoes until they are firm and leatherlike with no moisture pockets, but NOT brittle. (If you get them too dry, soak them in lemon juice for a few minutes.) To store, place in vacuum bags or ziplock bags and freeze.

IMPORTANT!!! If you will be storing sun-dried tomatoes in Olive oil you !!!MUST!!! dip each slice in vinegar before adding to oil.

To pack in oil:

Dip each tomato into a small dish of white wine vinegar. Shake off theexcess vinegar and pack them in olive oil adding 1/4 cup red wine. For tomatoes in oil I am selling, I put the tomatoes into the oil two weeks ahead of time and store in the refrigerator. Make sure they are completely immersed in the oil. When the jar is full, cap it tightly. I use my vacuum sealer to seal the canning lids on. Store at *cool* room temperature for at least a month before using. They may be stored in the refrigerator, but the oil will solidify at

refrigerator temperatures (it quickly reliquifies at room temperature however). As tomatoes are removed from the jar, add more olive oil as necessary to keep the remaining tomatoes covered. I have stored oil-packed tomatoes in m root cellar for over a year. . I have tried a number of methods to pack the tomatoes in oil, but the vinegar treatment is the difference between a good dried tomato and a great one. It is also important from a food safety standpoint, as it acidifies the oil and discourages growth of bacteria and mold. Soaking in the wine also acidifies them.

****** WARNING ********

Do *NOT* add fresh garlic cloves or fresh herbs of any kind to oil-packed dried tomatoes, UNLESS you store them in the refrigerator and plan on using them withing 7 days. Garlic is a low-acid food which, when placed in oil, creates a low-acid anaerobic environment just

perfect growth medium for botulinum bacteria if the mixture is not refrigerated. Be safe and add your garlic to the dried tomatoes as part of the recipe for them *after* they come out of the oil.

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