At the risk of sounding very middle class, I have to confess that we have a gardener. A gardener who grows broad beans, strawberries and tomatoes in large numbers. Depending on the time of year, he brings over bucketfuls of whichever one he has surplus. So now we are in to tomato season, albeit a polytunnel-induced one.
The wonderful little red and yellow cherry tomatoes are amazingly sweet and always disappear quickly. They have the same addictive qualities as grapes – that is, they are sweet, juicy and there are lots of them. As lovely as they are fresh, I wanted some way of making them last for longer.
So as I was pondering (a terribly middle class word) what to do with them, I stumbled upon a recipe for drying tomatoes in the oven. Even though oven-dried tomatoes are the less poetic cousin to sun-dried tomatoes, I hope the effect will be the same.
I found this recipe in a wonderful cookbook called Salt, Sugar, Smoke by Diana Henry, all about preserving fruit, vegetables, meat and fish. This recipe was in the ‘under oil’ chapter, along with such mouthwatering things as spiced feta in olive oil and Persian marinated olives. I’ve adapted the recipe slightly, as I am using cherry tomatoes, and I opted to keep the tomatoes in just oil, rather than oil and vinegar, as I didn’t think (correctly) that they would stick around for four weeks.
Makes enough to fill 1x 250ml jar.
1 kg cherry tomatoes
2 tsp sea salt
freshly-ground black pepper
2 tsp caster sugar
100ml olive oil
Preheat the oven to 100°C. Now for the fiddly bit- halve the tomatoes, and scrape out most of the seeds – I find the point of a sharp knife works well. Lay the halves down in a baking tray cut side up, and sprinkle with the sea salt and sugar, then grind over some pepper. Put in the oven for 2-2 ½ hours. The tomatoes should be ‘shrunken but still a little plump, and not at all brittle’. Sterilise the jar by pouring boiling water over it. Put the tomatoes in the jar and top up with olive oil. One opened, keep in the fridge and eat within a week.