Monday, 8 June 2009

Oven-dried Cherry Tomatoes Preserved in Olive Oil

Oven-dried cherry tomatoes
Yes, I know sun-dried tomatoes are so last-century, and about as fashionable nowadays as Avocado Mousse and Prawn Cocktail. But what am I supposed to do when I come across mountains of gleaming, juicy, deep-red cherry tomatoes, going for a song, at my local greengrocer?

I spent a lot of time in the Nineties experimenting with drying tomatoes in my oven, with uneven results.

 The reason the results were uneven was because in those days I didn't have a fan-assisted oven, so the tomatoes took forever to dry out.

Now that I have an oven which, (although elderly, and missing its knobs) has a powerful fan, I have found that drying fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs is a breeze. A warm, super-desiccating breeze that turns plump little tomatoes into summery, sweet-sharp nuggets.

If your oven has a fan, try this recipe when cherry tomatoes are in season. These keep very well in a cool cupboard, if packed, while piping hot, into spotlessly clean, hot, sterilised jars with plastic-lined metal lids. (Preserving jars with loose disc-lids and screw-on rings are perfect.)

To halve cherry tomatoes in a hurry, line them up on a rack.
If you are dealing with a huge amount of tomatoes, a quick way to get them all sliced is to tip them onto a cake-cooling rack or oven rack set on a chopping board or your kitchen counter.

Shake the rack, and nudge the tomatoes so that they fall into neat, aligned rows. Using a razor-sharp kitchen, slice downwards along the rows so that each cherry tomato is neatly halved.

Oven-dried Cherry Tomatoes Preserved in Olive Oil

2 kg ripe, sweet cherry tomatoes
3 Tbsp (45 ml) flaky sea salt
2 tsp (10 ml) caster sugar
olive oil, to cover

Preheat your oven to 100 °C. Slice the tomatoes in half.

Arrange the halved tomatoes, in a single layer, cut side up, on baking trays. You can place them racks set over baking trays, which will slightly shorten the drying time, but this is not essential. Crumble the flaky sea salt over the cut tomatoes and sprinkle with sugar.

Place in the oven and allow to dry out for three to six hours (the drying time will depend on the size and ripeness of the tomatoes, and the power of your oven fan). Check the tomatoes every hour or so: they are ready when they are shrunken, dried on the outside, slightly leathery, but still bendy and a little moist on the inside.

Sterilise four glass jars by submerging them, and their metal lids, in a pot of rapidly boiling water for 10 minutes. Place three sheets of newspaper on your kitchen counter. Using tongs, remove the jars and their lids from the boiling water and place upside down on the newspaper to drain for two minutes. (Alternatively, you can place the jars and lids into an oven heated to 160°C, for 10 minutes.)

Remove the hot tomatoes from the oven, and, without allowing them to cool, tightly pack them into the hot glass jars, filling the jars to within 1 centimetre of their rims. Pour the olive oil over the tomatoes, pressing down firmly with with the back of a dessert spoon to remove each and every air bubble. Top each jar up with a 5-mm layer of olive oil, so that every scrap of tomato is submerged. Tightly screw on the hot metal lids (or the disks and the metal rings). Set aside for two hours, and then re-tighten the lids. Store in a cool cupboard.

Makes 3-4 jars.
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1 comment:

Nina Timm said...

You are one clever lassi for making the cutting of tomatoes so easy!!! I am also in a tomato mood, check my post!! Love sun-dried tomatoes.....last season or not!!