1. Pick smaller tomatoes…big cherries are the best…little grape tomatoes are hard to dry, varieties like any Plum tomato, 4th of July, Cherry Grande and Butcher Boy do well.
2. Larger tomatoes dry well but u need to cut them at least 1⁄4 inch thick….thicker if they are watery, the overall dimension should be about 3⁄4-1 inch square and 1⁄4 to 1/3 inch thick. Meaty varieties like Brandywine or Big Boy dry better than more juicy varieties.
3. While its possible to dry tomatoes on a very hot roof in Providence in the middle of summer….basically its impossible at any other time. They will just get moldy being left out. Don’t even think of it. To dry, heat oven to 230F. Prepare cookie tins by spraying with olive oil along edges for about two inches all around lightly, then put aluminum wrap down covering sides of tin as well, shiny side down….this makes clean up later a breeze. Spray the aluminum lightly with olive oil. If u don’t use the aluminum wrap clean up is a bear and getting the dried tomatoes off is difficult so use aluminum but be sure to recycle it.
4. Chop the tomatoes in the appropriate sizes…try to leave the largest side being the skin when you have to cut irregularly….a chopping board about the same size as the cookie tins is convenient for estimating one batch at a time accurately.
5. Put the filled chopping board across from u on ur countertop and push the cookie tin next to it aligning the long edge, then simply drag all the cut tomatoes onto the tin, then turn those tomatoes that did not land on their skin over so the skin side is down if possible, move them around so they cover surface evenly, if u have too many return some to the cutting board. Sprinkle with dry Italian herbs, then a very light olive oil spray. Dry Italian herbs cost 99cents at CVS. They flavor the tomatoes and also help to preserve them.
6. I find it best to start this project around 6 or 7pm. Heat the tomato slices for two to three hrs in the preheated oven at 230F, then turn it down to anywhere between 140-160F and leave them overnight, they should be done by morning. Most will be like slightly bendable potato chips but if they are like raisins or even a little moister that’s ok. Don’t forget to turn the temp down or u will have only burned unedible dried tomatoes the next day. You need to stick a wooden spoon in the oven door to keep it open a bit so steam escapes. U may have to experiment a bit at first with temps and times.
7. Since batches vary its best to store them all in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until uve dried all ur going to dry, mix them by turning now and again….this “cures” them and makes them more uniform for cooking. When u have all u want…you put them in a baggie with a good seal, gently press the air out as u seal the bag…store in the refrigerator until needed….for lesser amounts and for gifts save ur mayonnaise and jam jars and pickle jars etc. They store indefinitely like this but can also be frozen.
8. The're good in salads anytime,on pizza, on pasta with grated cheese or with pesto, with seafood like mussels, clams and shrimp…..lots of dishes are transformed from routine to special when u sprinkle in some dried tomatoes! Some people like to soak the tomatoes in olive oil for a few days before using in pasta dishes but don’t store them longer in olive oil…they will go rancid.