It has been a few days since I have gotten out to the garden, so I knew there were some tomatoes that need to be harvested. I also checked the other plants and found quite a few long beans that were ready, and some zucchini as well. It was very exciting, as all this produce almost filled the half bushel basket I use. I really was not expecting so much. Some of these tomatoes will be used in cooking, some in sandwiches, but I have started to really research drying them and storing them in olive oil.
I love sun-dried tomatoes and that is what they will essentially be (minus the sun). I am fine with that – much cleaner and easier. From what I have read, there doesn’t seem to be much difference. Others will probably disagree… I will find out with my own experience. Our dehydrator has a setting as low as 105 deg F, which is supposed to preserve the natural enzymes. It may be the most similar to “sun-dried” process. It will probably take longer to dry, though.
Now we could just dehydrate all the way to being crispy and rehydrate with water as needed, but the tomatoes stored in oil soften up and are just too delicious. I really think we would add them to so many things.
But How to Store the Dried Tomatoes?
There seems to be some contention surrounding storing dried tomatoes in oil (without heating like traditional “canning”). I will preface my comments by saying I agree with the blogger at “An Oregon Cottage” – basically, people have been doing this for a long time, it’s time-honored and it has worked. There are some cautions, though.
In general, for long-term storage outside the refrigerator (like in the cellar), you need to keep moisture out of the jar because it could lead to the propagation of botulism, especially with low acidic vegetables (like garlic). So, considering the tomatoes is dried, that should not be an issue. Also, most consider tomatoes acidic enough, and most use a vinegar bath that you dip the dried. This helps preserve the flavor and color. Most do not recommend adding fresh garlic or herbs, as this adds moisture, has low acidity, and hence could increase the botulism risk. I would think using dehydrated garlic and dried herbs would be fine.
There is also a point that the tomato should not go beyond in the drying process, meaning if dried all the way to hardness, it would be better to store dry and rehydrate with water. The tomato suitable for storing in oil should not be wet, but should be like leather and pliable.
For storage in the refrigerator, though, using fresh garlic and herbs is fine and the Homestead Lady says it lasts for a year. But I will be having a lot of tomatoes come in, and I don’t know if I will have that much refrigerator space. Well, I think I will do a few that way with garlic and basil, seen here. The rest will be like seen at the Oregon Cottage blog.
Here are the links I found for dried tomatoes in olive oil: