something out of nothing: oven-dried tomatoes

after last week's pop-up general store, i was left with a windfall of perfectly ripe dirty girl dry-farmed early girl tomatoes.  knowing that i wouldn't have time to can them or room to freeze them, i opted to dry them out.

one of my best discoveries while living in italy was at my local alimentari. the plump sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil didn't resemble their brittle american relatives one bit. seemingly half-dried, full of flavor and more like candy than anything else, those tomatoes quickly made themselves indispensable in my kitchen.  chopped up in pasta, strewn amongst lamb shoulder or chicken legs in the braising pan, pounded in a mortar and pestle and smeared on crusty bread--well, their uses are many.

oven-drying tomatoes is an efficient and tasty way to preserve a bit of summer's brightness.  i took some shortcuts and just cut them in half, removing any suspect bits as i went along, then sprinkled them with salt and a slight rumor of sugar.  i packed them snugly onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and stuck them in my oven at 200°F for about 12 hours.  at that point, some were a bit drier than others, but i like a little variety.  none of the tomatoes seemed soupy or wet, which is how i knew they were done.

when they were done, i let the trays cool before sticking them in the freezer.  once the tomatoes were solid, i peeled them off the paper and packed them into ziploc bags and returned them to the freezer.  that way, they won't all become one big mass of tomato gooeiness, and i can just pull out a couple at a time as i need them.  if you prefer, you can pack them into jars and cover with olive oil, but this is a more frugal, less messy way to deal with them so i chose this method this time.

i'll let you know when i cook with them for the first time!

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