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Sunday, 16 June 2013

SUN DRIED TOMATOES

Good Morning to you,


What would you do, if you were given two kilos of tomatoes?

Would you add onions, garlic, oregano and make a tomato sauce?

Would you add chopped onions, spices and vinegar to make a tomato relish?


Would you remove the tomato skins and seeds and turn them into passata?

Of course, you could do any one of these things, but have you ever thought of drying tomatoes to change their texture and to concentrate their flavour?  

Well if you have not done this before, you are in for a treat, as today, I have an easy method to turn fresh tomatoes into sun dried tomatoes and you do not need the help of the sun.


As it is Father's Day, and I know how George loves sun dried tomatoes, I thought I would surprise him with a jar.   If you are ready, let's put on our aprons,  oh, and don't forget the music, well we might as well sing and enjoy ourselves in the process. I have chosen some Billie Holiday music.

The photograph was taken from the CD cover (MCA Records Inc)

I love listening to Billie Holiday and I adore her rendition of the song, Porgy.

INGREDIENTS


2 kg (4.4 1bs) of ripe, but firm tomatoes


Sea Salt
enough to sprinkle over the tomatoes


400 ml of good Olive oil
(you might find you need a little more
or a little less)


a few cloves of garlic... dependent on your taste
a spoonful of chilli flakes ... again dependent on your taste
a handful of dried oregano
If you are using shop bought oregano
you will find you will need more,
as I used oregano from my garden
which I dried and which has a more intense 
flavour

If you would like to see how to dry your own oregano

EQUIPMENT


Oven temperature 50 C / 120 F
(or the oven's lowest setting)
1 large, oiled baking sheet


1 Kilner jar (sterilize in your normal way)

LET US BEGIN


Wash and cut the tomatoes in half,
then remove the stem of the stalk,
(you can see what I mean by the photograph above,
do you see the little "V" cut out of the tomato)


and then cut into quarters


Place the tomatoes, skin side down,
onto an oiled baking sheet


Sprinkle with sea salt

Place  the baking sheet into the oven at
 your lowest setting for 8 - 12 hours.
This may seem like a long time, but remember,  you are going to dehydrate the tomatoes
and not cook them.  I also left the oven door
open just slightly to allow the steam to escape.

Just as a guide, I placed my tomatoes in the 
oven at 10 o'clock in the morning 
and by 7 o'clock in the evening they were perfect.


After 6 hours remove the tomatoes
from the oven.  You can see how they are
 beginning to dehydrate.

Add the garlic cloves to the tray

Adding garlic is optional, remember
you are making something which
you will enjoy eating.



Sprinkle with dried oregano 

Return to the oven for a further
5 - 7 hours



You can see how the tomatoes have dehydrated
I know they do not look very appealing,
but trust me, you have just enhanced the
sweet flavour of the tomatoes.



Place the dried tomatoes in a sterilized jar, I used
a Kilner jar, but use whatever jars you
have available to you. If I do not have a spare
Kilner jar I use sterilized, jam jars, with lids.

Also add the garlic cloves, the chilli flakes
and the oregano as they will infuse a 
lovely flavour to the olive oil.


Cover the tomatoes with olive oil and 
make sure they are completely submerged.
I used the top of a tea strainer to press the
tomatoes down a little, then seal and leave
for 3 days before enjoying them.

If kept in a cool environment the tomatoes will last for several months, but I can assure you they do not last that long in our house.  In about a month's time I will be making some more. When you have eaten the tomatoes, you can add the oil to salad dressings as it is full of flavour.

Were you surprised to see how the tomatoes had reduced.  When you start the process the baking tray is full of ripe tomatoes, but as dehydration takes place, the tomatoes become smaller and smaller. Now you can understand why sun dried tomatoes are so expensive to buy, as so many are needed to fill a jar.

Now I can hear you thinking, Daphne has called these tomatoes "sun-dried tomatoes" and not a drop of sun reached these little tomatoes!  

Let me explain, in hot countries, the tomatoes are dried outside in the sun, but of course most of us do not live in a climate which is conducive to drying tomatoes, so we have to think about the tools we have.  I don't own a dehydrator, so the next best thing for me to use, is my oven.

Although, when I lived in Cyprus, from June to the end of September, I was able to dry my tomatoes in the sunshine.  Cypriot farmers used to grow big beefy, juicy, tomatoes.  They did not look pretty like the tomatoes I buy in the local market, they were very mis-shapen, but the flavour, well they were so delicious. On a hot day, I liked nothing better, than  a slice of tomato covered  with a slice of fresh Feta cheese. The saltiness of the Feta cheese really enhanced the flavour of the tomato..... but I am digressing, as we were talking about drying tomatoes.

George made me a square box, which I covered in muslin, to allow the sun to reach the tomatoes and also to keep the insects out. I had a large tray which we inserted inside the box.... this is where I laid out the tomatoes to dry. The box was placed on the terrace in the sunniest spot and left to dry, for usually, about three days and at the end of that time we had delicious sun dried tomatoes.  We used our own olive oil, to cover the tomatoes, but that is another story, for another time.

I think normally plum tomatoes are recommended, but I am a firm believer in using what you have, and I find everyday tomatoes, such as the ones I have used today, are fine.

The other thing you tend to read about is the removal of the seeds, again, I do not do this because I prefer the texture with the seeds remaining and also it is fair to say, I do not like waste.

A little tip, if you want to cut the sun dried tomatoes to add to a salad, snip them with a pair of kitchen scissors as this is much easier than using a knife.

I will let you know what George thinks of his gift , but before I leave you.

I would like to wish
 George
a
Happy Father's Day
and
for being
the 
most 
PERFECT
Father 
to 
our daughters,
Natasha and Danielle

Take care and I will see you later in the week.

This week I shall be joining, 

and
and
and







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