Sundried Tomatoes In Olive Oil

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Full disclosure: this is the least accessible recipe ever. It requires that you have a dehydrator. It takes ten hours. It calls for two solitary basil leaves, a rage-inducing quantity unless you’ve got an herb garden. Lastly, it requires perfect summer tomatoes- not only that, but it requires that you have so many tomatoes that when you’re done eating them plain/slow roasted/as bruschetta you have enough left over to preserve. Basically, you need my exact neighbors.

Also, it’s a huge pain in the ass.

Regardless, I’ve gone through the whole irritating process three times this month and a half-dozen more since Kellie discovered the method. Store-bought sun-dried tomatoes are not my favorite- even packed in oil, I find them leathery and a little bland. This is different. Dried tomato slices get a quick bath in vinegar, then are layered with some basil, pressed garlic and olive oil. A month later, what comes out of the jar is like concentrated summer- the tomato flavor so intense it will transform anything you’re eating. Any place you’d want a regular tomato slice- in an egg sandwich, on a cracker with some cheese, in a grain salad- these guys are more than up to the task. Also, it leaves behind this unbelievable tomato-flavored olive oil. It’s as different from the store-bought version as summer tomatoes from winter ones- which, now that I’ve said this out loud, might be the entire point.

So if you’re in the oh-so-common position of drowning in free, peak-summer tomatoes and borrow-able dehydrators, you have your marching orders. If you’re not, well, you’re probably a more productive person than I. Go eat a doctored can of beans and be proud.

 
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Also, not for nothing… the original recipe insists you dry your tomatoes in the ACTUAL SUN. I am not the craziest cat around.

‘Sun’-dried Tomatoes in olive oil

Adapted minimally from here

A note on food safety- technically, dried tomatoes in oil are USDA approved, but adding garlic and basil is an issue. The botulism bacterium likes warm, wet, anaerobic, low-acid, environments (which is the same reason garlic or herb-infused oils are supposed to be refrigerated). Basically, since there’s water in garlic and basil, gnarly stuff could grow there and kill all of us. That said, we are adding wet things in really tiny quantities, and adding also acid in the form of vinegar. My math goes like this- botulism is extremely rare, and I make sure to clean all my utensils well head of time. I have eaten a jar of these from the pantry six months later with no problem, but you should preserve at your own risk. If this paragraph has terrified you and you still want to make these, go for it! Just store them in the fridge instead of the pantry.

3-3.5 lbs best quality tomatoes
~ 1 cup white vinegar
1 medium garlic clove, crushed
2 basil leaves, torn into small pieces
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Using a serrated knife, slice your tomatoes into slices about 1/4 inch thick. How thick the slices are will affect how long they take to dry, so try to keep them uniform. Depending on the tomato, you might have to core them; with smaller ones, I find that lopping off the top is enough. You can decide whether to dry the tomato butts (the round end). Because of the skin layer they take another hour or two in a dehydrator, but I do it anyways, because WASTE NO TOMATO.

Arrange the tomato slices on your dehydrator, following the instructions for your specific machine, and dry. Dehydrators are different- on ours, it takes about 9 hours on 145 degrees, but I’d start checking around six hours. They’re dry enough when nothing is wet to the touch, and when you can squeeze the thicker bits without liquid coming out. Personally, I like to do this overnight.

Meanwhile, clean your utensils well! You’ll need an ~8oz jar with a lid- it doesn’t have to be a canning jar, but it works if that’s all you’ve got. You’ll also need a small bowl, a cutting board to work on, and a spoon. Pour the vinegar into the bowl, then toss in a handful of tomatoes. Let them soak for about a minute; again, this isn’t a very precise process. Layer the tomatoes in the jar, using a spoon to squoosh them down. Add a little garlic, a piece of basil, and a pinch of salt and pepper…. then throw another handful of tomatoes in the vinegar and start again. Continue until you’re out of tomatoes, garlic and basil; for the entire jar, I used ~1/8tsp kosher salt and about four grinds of black pepper.

Smoosh the contents of the jar down one last time, to remove air bubbles, and add olive oil a little at a time. I found I needed two tablespoons to fill in the remaining spaces in the jar, and another to make sure the tomatoes on top were submerged. Put the lid on the jar, throw it in your pantry (or fridge!) and wait a month for spectacular tomato goodness.

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