Every spring I get carried away with ordering seeds for the garden. If any of y’all have seen the Baker Creek rare seed catalog, you understand where I’m coming from. I think theses folks could convince me to buy a chicken turd if they were so inclined. Worst of all is my addiction to unique sounding heirloom tomatoes, most of which I’ve never seen or tasted. How can an Outlaw resist the Royal Hillbilly, Black Mountain Pink, or Persimmon?
Every summer as gobs of gorgeous, gnarly, overripe fruit hangs on the sprawling vines and piles up on every available surface in the kitchen (and who am I kidding the living and dining rooms too) I wonder, “What the heck was I thinking? Next year, I’m sticking to my favorite three varieties and that’s it!” In times like these the Outlaw Goddess taps me on the shoulder and reminds me to be deeply thankful, as a good farmer always is, for the bounty of the harvest.
And like a good farmer, I’ve taken up the art of canning. I’m certainly no expert but I’ve manage to save a few Hillbillies from the compost pile. Canning is pretty easy and fun but I haven’t figured a way to can the hundreds of cherry tomatoes I get. My goodness they just keep coming and coming. So last summer I started making sundried tomatoes on my back deck. It’s works like a charm. If you’re like me and get overloaded with these little jewels, try this:
Take your tomatoes (cherries, pears and small plums work the best) and slice them in half lengthwise. Lay them skin side down on a cookie sheet or screen. I put mine on a piece of tin roofing. Drizzle lightly with a high quality olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and cracked pepper. Set outside on a table or bench in a very sunny location. Of course you need to make sure your setup is protected from insects and passing birds. I use our southwest facing back deck. As the tomatoes begin to dry, turn them every couple of days or so until they are completely shriveled up. This may take up to a week, depending on the weather. Don’t forget to cover them if it rains. When they are ready, you can marinate your homegrown sundried tomatoes in a jar of seasoned olive oil or store in an airtight container. They will last a good while.
As an alternative to drying outdoors, you can put your prepared tomatoes in the oven on a low setting for several hours, turning them every so often. This process is quicker and eliminates the insect/bird issue. Plus, your oil will be fresher. As a typical old-schooler, I prefer to slap ‘em on a piece of tin and let the sun do the work. The only thing is, I’m not sure about leaving the oil out in the sun for a week. Can anyone tell me if that is a no-no? I’ll probably do it anyway, but it would be good to know.