I have more little cherry tomatoes than I can possibly eat right now. Instead of letting them go to waste in the refrigerator, I am drying them and will store them like the expensive sun dried tomatoes you see in the produce department of the grocery store. When I had to replace my stove the last time, I made sure I got an oven that had a convection option. I wanted to be able to speed up cooking times and dry herbs. I stumble across food ideas when I am researching a recipe. A couple of days ago I saw someone was drying cherry tomatoes in their convection oven on a food blog. I knew this was the solution to all these little tomatoes that was lingering in my refrigerator. So I did more research on line and found there is several techniques. You don’t have to have a convection oven or dehydrator to do this. You can dry tomatoes in a regular oven. It will take a little longer.
You start out by cutting the tomatoes in half lengthwise. You place them on a cookie sheet that is covered with parchment paper cut side up. You really need parchment paper or the tomatoes glue themselves to the metal tray. I didn’t use any herbs or salt on them because I wasn’t sure how I would be using them in my cooking. The oven should be preheated to 175 degrees and the convection turned on. 175 is the lowest temperature on my oven. I am using my convection setting on my oven. If you are doing this with out convection you will set your oven at 200 degrees and will have to prop your oven door open with a folded towel to keep the door cracked open. This is to help circulate the air and also let the moisture leave the oven. I had enough tomatoes to fill two large cookie sheets. I put them on two racks in the oven close to the center. I rotated them every couple of hours. It will take 10 hours in a convection oven and about 12 hours in a regular oven. So you need to plan to start this early in the morning and plan the whole day around this. You will have your oven tied up all day.
I watched many videos on how to store them after I was done drying them. I decided to just do one quarter pint of tomatoes in olive oil. The rest I left in two half pint jars. I made sure my jars was sterilized in boiling water for 10 minutes. You don’t have to have canning jars for storing dried tomatoes. Recycled jars with tight fitting lids will work fine for this. Just make sure you put the lids in the boiling water also. Old jelly jars are perfect for this. To dry the jars just turn them upside down on a clean kitchen towel or place the jars in a warm oven. I make jelly so I had small canning jars and lids for this to use. When the jars was cool and dried I packed the dried tomatoes in the jars. You can place them, if you have the freezer space, in bags and freeze them. I would have done that but my freezer was full. You can also put them in a baggie and roll a rolling pin over them to break them up in smaller pieces. When you oven dry them they are stiffer then the ones that you buy sun dried.
Olive oil is expensive so I only did a quarter pint jar of dried tomatoes in olive oil and stored the rest in jars. I placed some dried sweet basil, sea salt, and dried garlic in with the tomatoes. That will infuse the olive oil with flavors. I left that jar sit out for several days before storing in the refrigerator. When I go to use them I will let the jar warm up a bit on the counter because the oil gets thick in the refrigerator. I will probably use them in making salad dressings. I also have recipes for sun dried tomato bread. So there is many possibilities for using sun dried tomatoes.