Most gardeners are well-aware of how productive cherry tomato plants are. A single plant can provide hundreds of small, juicy fruits, and gardeners often find themselves giving extras to friends and neighbors simply because we can’t eat them fast enough. If you’re looking for something else to do with all those cherry tomatoes that doesn’t involve knocking on the neighbor’s door, consider making homemade sun-dried cherry tomatoes. It’s easy to do and you don’t need any special equipment. With just a few simple steps, you can enjoy your own homegrown cherry tomatoes all winter long.
Traditionally, sun-dried tomatoes are dried using only the power of the sun. While this is possible for many gardeners in North America, most of us find it far easier (and faster!) to dry cherry tomatoes in the oven. You can also use a food dehydrator, too, if you have one on hand. Here’s the method I use to make my homemade sun-dried cherry tomatoes.
Pick the right tomatoes. Though just about any variety of cherry tomato will dry well, avoid using any fruits that are cracked open or blemished. Select plump, ripe fruits, and dry them within a day or two of harvest.
Wash and clean the fruits. Put the harvested cherry tomatoes in a colander and run cold water over them. Then remove any stems.
Cut the tomatoes in half. Though this step isn’t necessary, the drying time is greatly reduced by slicing each of the cherry tomatoes in half before the drying process begins.
Place the tomatoes on a cookie sheet. Spread the halved cherry tomatoes on a non-stick cookie sheet in a single layer. Line the cookie sheet with parchment paper for easier clean up if you’d like. Smaller cherry tomatoes will dry faster than larger ones, so try to keep smaller tomatoes on a separate cookie sheet from larger varieties so they can come out of the oven as soon as they’re finished drying.
Put the cookie sheet into a 200 degree F oven. Depending on the size of the cherry tomatoes and their moisture content, it will take anywhere between two and five hours for your homemade sun-dried cherry tomatoes to be finished drying. Begin to check for doneness after two hours and then check again every hour or so until they are finished.
Remove the pan from the oven. You’re homemade sun-dried cherry tomatoes are finished when they’re leathery to the touch (like a raisin). Squeezing fully-dried fruits should result in no juice production, and if you pop one into your mouth, it should be chewy, not crunchy (if they’re crunchy, they’ve been in the oven too long).
Cool and store your homemade sun-dried cherry tomatoes. Let the tomatoes cool on the cookie sheet and then move them into a clean, screw-top glass jar. Place the jar in the fridge where they’ll last for a week or more. Or, put the dried cherry tomatoes in zipper-top plastic bags and keep them in the freezer for even longer storage.
More Tips For Making & Using Sun-Dried Cherry Tomatoes
- Any tomato can be dried, not just cherry-types. But, the bigger and juicier the fruits, the longer they take to dry.
- You can rehydrate the tomatoes before using them in a recipe by soaking them in water (or wine!) for a few hours.
- Homemade sun-dried cherry tomatoes are excellent in omelets, salads and quiches as well as on pizzas, pastas and sandwiches.
- Some drying recipes call for coating the fruits in olive oil, salt, or herbs before putting them into the oven, but I find I get better results without it. I add those extras when I’m ready to eat the dried tomatoes instead.
Here are two of our favorite sun-dried tomato recipes:
Sun-dried tomato and walnut pesto
Harvest-time corn bread with sun-dried tomato spread