Tasting oil-packed sun dried tomatoes for the first time, I fell deeply in love. Chris Cantelmi brought me some from one of his adventurous trips. He was known for introducing me to delectables like this, not to be found anywhere locally. Times have changed and you can purchase these tomatoes in most large groceries. Back then, almost three decades ago, sun dried tomatoes in any form were almost unknown in this neck of the woods.
That same summer, Tony Mendez gifted us with two lugs of ripe Romas, perfect for drying. Now we just needed to know the process for this amazing oil concoction.
In the middle of all the drying and canning projects I got a call from a panic-stricken older woman who needed a ride to her doctor. How can you say “No!”, even when it meant tying up a whole day?
As I sat in the doctor’s waiting room waiting for Helen, I stumbled on a tiny article in the back of a food magazine: How to Pack Dried Tomatoes in Oil. I nearly went through the office ceiling in delight and then read the article 3 or 4 times.
The concept is just so quick and simple. How could anything that easy be so delicious? Within a half hour of arriving home, I had a large jar of sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil. There were enough oil-packed tomatoes for me to eat all I wanted with no concern of running out. And guess what? The home-made version out-classes the store-bought version any day!
Just about any home-grown vine-ripened tomato will give you tasty results. However, for the most intense tomato flavors go with the paste-type tomatoes. Roma falls in this category as do Amish Paste and San Marzano. There are a number of varieties of paste tomatoes available if you want to start the plants from seed. This season I am loving the Amish Paste for drying. They are dark, dark red and densely flavored.
Sun drying is not essential to the process. You can dry your tomatoes in a dehydrator or even in your oven if it has a pilot light. No garden? No problem! You can order dried tomato chips from Just Tomatoes (here). I love those folks!
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