Sun Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil (Rain or Shine)

As I know its summer elsewhere I thought I’d put some of our favourite summer preserving recipes on the site. So while I dream of future harvests those in the Southern Hemisphere can get preserving now!  I’m not jealous at all…

Sun-dried tomatoes are gorgeous but really expensive and sun-blush tomatoes are even worse – just a daft name for a ‘not so dry’ sun-dried tomato!   I wish I’d thought of that marketing gimmick – they’re even more expensive!

Much as I really love sun-dried tomatoes (with tagliatelle and prawns – drool) I will not pay for them.  If you have a bumper crop of toms (and are a tad frugal) dry them yourself.  There really isn’t anything easier and the tasty reward will make you feel like you’ve done something truly gourmet!  These would be lovely tasty treats for friends too.

It doesn’t really matter what variety of tomato you use, just go with whatever you have the most of.  My favorites are cherry tomatos and the more tart yellow varieties, but there isn’t a tomato that doesn’t taste good dried.  And, if its raining with you, don’t worry the domestic oven can give fantastic (though not strictly authentic) results.

Homemade Sun Dried Tomatoes

  • Sundried Toms in Olive OilMake your sun-drying apparatus.  An oven rack or barbecue grill is ideal.  Raise the rack on bricks or similar so the air can circulate underneath the fruit.
  • Arrange some form of flying insect barrier.  Mosquito netting/fine muslin/fly screening is ideal.  Arrange it over the sun-drying grill arrangement, high enough that it will not touch the fruit.  We just put another ‘wall’ two bricks high, around the sun-drying platform on which to rest the netting.
  • Prepare the tomatoes.  For cherry tomatoes simple cut in half.  For larger varieties cut into 1cm wide slices.
  • Arrange tomatoes cut side up, on the grill.
  • Get fancy? You can leave the tomatoes plain and they’ll taste great or you can get imaginative and they’ll taste great and different.  Top each tom with a sprinkle of salt, pepper and a few torn fresh herbs of choice – basil is always a firm favourite in the DirtyBoots house.
  • Rearrange your insect proofing material, so nothing can land on the tomatoes and leave the sun to do its thing.
  • Drying should take one to three days depending on the weather.  Bring them in at night to prevent any dew dampening them again.

The amount of drying is a matter of personal preference.  You can leave them quite juicy or snappably hard.  I let ours get pretty dry but still bendy.  the drier they are the better they’ll store.  And, they will soak up some of the olive oil once you bottle the tomatoes so they will plump up again.

If you don’t have reliable sunny weather you can dry the tomatoes in a slow oven.  Pop the sliced tomatoes on racks, in an oven set to minimum.  Leave the door slightly ajar and leave for five hours.  Don’t forget to deny this, and tell all your friends they were dried in the sun, it sounds nicer!  You won’t know the difference though!

Now you have two options.

  • Either pack all the dried tomatoes into sterilised jars and cover with olive oil (adding some woody herbs, chili or garlic to the jars as you like)
  • OR make up one jar as above and put the rest of the tomatoes in the freezer.  This way you don’t need gallons of olive oil or lots of jars.  Simply eat your way through the first jar and then top up from your supply of frozen fruits.

The advantage of freezing anything you dry outside is that you can kill off any insect eggs that were laid despite your anti-insect arrangements.  A month in the freezer will sterilise the fruits so you don’t have to worry if there was a hole in the mosquito netting.

To be honest, most cultures that sun-dry produce in bulk don’t worry about the insects anyway.  In Turkey figs are dried on sunny roofs and in South East Asia fish is dried just about anywhere with no protection, for example.  But I understand this can all seem a bit ‘dirty’ if you’re new to drying your own produce outside.

Sun (or even oven) drying tomatoes yourself means you can easily put by some of your best crops for use in the gloomier winter months.  The oil is fantastic in salads – it takes on a really fruity tomato flavour.  Best of all though you know what’s in them.  Even the most expensive shop-bought versions tend to be heavy handed with the preservatives.  Also you can ensure you store them in top-notch olive oil whereas any you buy are likely to be in a mixture of oils with only a hint of the tasty olive oil.

Preserving your own produce is a key activity to achieving a self-sufficient lifestyle.  There is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to have sun-dried tomatoes all year round!

Since my top photo turned out so lovely I’m definitely making prawns, sun-dried tomatoes and tagliatelle for supper tonight – yum!

For a more self sufficient future

17 Responses to “Sun Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil (Rain or Shine)”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. JoHart says:

    Yes they are so yummy. I have done about 5 kg already this year (Australia) – I use a dryer though – arranging somewhere outside to sundry is just too hard. I also lightly salt before drying. When semi dry I pack into jars and cover with olive oil. However I put herbs, sliced garlic and peppercorns in the oil and bring to “sizzling water” heat before pouring over tomatoes. This infuses herb flavours into oil and helps toms absorb a little oil. After using the toms I then use the oil for cooking – by then its delish all herby and tomatoey. I think the heating also helps the keeping – they seem to improve with age – we still have some from opur last super-bumper crop 2 years ago – they have darkened but the flavours are intense

    JoHart’s last blog post..Audio and video comments

    • Oh wow 5kg – think I’ll try a smilar amount next year. Though without a drier it probably takes a little longer!

    • Denise says:

      Do you keep the tomatoes in olive oil at room temp or put them in the fridge?

      • I keep mine at room temperature unless its very hot inside – then pop them in the fridge just in case (but take out an hour or so before use or they are solid!). But I only ever have a jar or two in oil, as the rest as sat in the freezer waiting to be decanted to oil (saves on space).

  2. Sweet idea, I never honestly thought of making them myself, but you made it seem easy. I am gonna try this because the ones you get from the store just don’t taste right!

    Football Cards’s last blog post..GEORGE WASHINGTON 2008 RAZOR OVAL OFFICE CUT AUTO 1/1

  3. Jeff says:

    I am sort of new to this so if this is a foolish question please forgive me. Once you have your yummy tomatoes in oil can they be stored in your pantry ort will they need refrigeration? Thank you so much for your time and effore with all of these great ideas!


    • Hi Jeff – I store mine in a cool cupboard, a pantry will be fine, just keep an eye on them if it gets too warm. In the fridge is safer I suppose, but the olive oil tends to partially solidify so they need to come out again a good while before you want to eat your lovely sun dried tomatoes!

  4. I like to use the sundried tomatoes in salads. I cut them up in smaller pieces. Even though fresh tomatoes are delicious – the home grown kind – they are not available year round nor are they as concentrated in nutrition.

  5. Lori says:

    it is possible to boil bath these tomatoes and oil to seal the jars. I live in a very hot summer climate. from 95 to 107 degrees in the summer months.

    • Lori,

      I think it would be better to keep the sun dried tomatoes in the freezer and just decant a small quantity into a jar of olive oil as and when needed. I’m sure technically you could put them through a boiling bath sterilization process but I’m guessing it would really affect their texture.

  6. Bev says:

    Garlic, onion and herbs are not recommended as additions to olive oil sundried tomatoes unless they are soaked in vinegar for at least 24 hours. If not acidic enough, botulism spores may occur–better to be safe than sorry. This info is from the US Food & Drug Admin.

    • Yep, the US Food & Drug people are very wary of giving any advice which could end up in court…

      I think freezing the toms once dried works out the best. Just decant enough into a jar of oil (with or without herbs depending on your nerve) to use in a matter of weeks. Saves on oil as well.

  7. Alan says:

    Another great idea for storing my bumper crop of tomatoes, I just need to find lots of olives to press

  8. Joanne says:

    Has anyone ever tried putting basil in with the oil and tomatoes? Would it be too strong a flavor?

    • Hi Joanne, I do make basil infused olive oil every so often, and it is wonderful. Storing the tomatoes in that would be nice. But if you leave basil leaves in the oil they tend to go a bit slimy, so I prefer to heat the oil, add leaves, leave for a few days and then strain to get the leaves out.

  9. Joanne says:

    Great! Thanks very much for you input. I have a massive amount of cherry tomatoes that i am going to try drying in a food dehydrator. I can start the oil with the basil and by the time the tomatoes are dried, the oil should be ready to go…. Thanks Again for the response!