Italians and Greek people have a wonderful approach to produce, treasuring the flavours of the individual items and almost reverently preparing them. Traditionally, the approach has been seasonal, and many of the practices continue even today. I love my semi-local Greek Warehouse and their range of not only produce but also equipment – for baking, drying, preserving, squishing, squashing, rolling, and flavouring. From there I get the best jars for all sorts of storage, but also for my pickles and preserves. Recently they also gave me a small booklet of preserving recipes, Mediterranean style.
The recipes are very simple, but it prompted me to share one or two with you. For example, this one. We dry tomatoes routinely – it is a great way to use up excess produce – and often use cherry tomatoes. Sometimes we keep them dried in a jar, ready for nibbling or for intense flavour injections into dishes. Other times we put them under oil, where the tomatoes flavour the oil and the oil flavours the tomatoes.
Now, there is nervousness in the US about keeping foods under oil. Certainly do your research, I won’t recommend a practice one way or the other. It is up to you.
Preserving this way is a traditional and very common practice in parts of Europe. In the rest of the Western world sun dried tomatoes came into fashion in the 1990’s, went out of fashion by 2000 due to over production of poor quality dried and semi dried tomatoes, and are now, apparently, making a comeback. In my kitchen, they never went out of fashion, but we make our own. We do use the dehydrator at times, but I find the moist atmosphere of a low gas oven gives a much better result. Using sun power is the best of all.
Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil
Wash the tomatoes, dry, cut in halves and drain upside down for 45 mins. Arrange the drained tomatoes on an oven tray, fruit drying rack or fruit drying tray for a dehydrator with the cut surface facing up. Sprinkle a little salt over the tomatoes.
Either: Place in the oven on the lowest heat until fully dried, turning them occasionally;
or cover with linen voile and expose to the sun for some days, bringing in overnight, turning them occasionally, until fully dried;
or place in the dehydrator and dry at the recommended temperature until dried.
Put a bay leaf into sterilised jars, then add the dried tomatoes, and add another bay leaf on top. Fill with extra virgin olive oil. Tap the jars to remove any air bubbles, close tightly and store in a cool and dry place protected from direct sunlight. (I like to make in small quantities, and keep them in the fridge.)