Tomatoes of all kinds are gaining steam in the market, in all sizes and colors. When I have a surplus of smallish ones like plum or cherry, I often make them into “tomato candy” — a chewy, intensely tomato dried fruit —by drying them the same way we dry herbs for tea or kale chips: slicing them and drying them on racks in the heat of my pilot lit oven, a constant 150-175′. Dried to the max, they are an addictive candy. Dried a little less, they are the perfect way to freeze fresh tomatoes, much of their juice evaporated and the texture concentrated enough to hold up to freezing.
It is beyond easy to do. Here’s the method:
Cut the tomatoes in half, and arrange them on a racks on a sheet pan. Brush them lightly with olive oil and sprinkle them with some kosher salt. Then put them in the oven preheated to 150-175′.
After about 14 hours (overnight) and up to about 24 hours, they remain enough juice that they wouldn’t be stable at room temperature. At this stage they are great frozen, to preserve a fresh tomato flavor in winter.
Pack them into a plastic container and drizzle them with a little olive oil. Then freeze. The tomatoes will be easy to separate, and delish when defrosted.
If you dry the tomatoes for about 48 hours, the extra time causes them to lose much of their liquid, becoming chewy like dried fruit. Because they lose so much of their volume, they are easy to store in a jar or plastic bag.
These remind us of the sun-dried tomatoes we used to buy in Italy: deep tomato flavor, almost a candy. The hold up fine at room temperature for several weeks, IF you are able to stop eating them. After that, it’s best to refrigerate them to prevent the oil from becoming rancid.
If your oven isn’t warmed by a pilot light, you can oven-dry the tomatoes at a constant 150′ (possibly 175′-200′) OR use a food dehydrator.
It’s a great way to transform or preserve the smallish tomatoes that are in abundance right now.