I got an special request from Idiot/Savant the other day to post a recipe for semi-dried tomatoes. Luckily this is something I saw in the restaurants, and I know it’s easy as. It’s also extremely Frugal.

If you want a particular recipe shown in a step-by-step, just give me a yell and I’ll see what I can do. Within reason. Par-boiled yak might exceed by meagre skills…

In this case I used about 2ish kilos of tomatoes costing about $4, and 1kg of Rock Salt costing $1.50 (I used the rock salt twice, in two “shifts”). The real expense was probably running the oven for four or five hours. So all up we can assume this cost us about $6 or $7?

What I got from this was several hundred grams of semi-dried tomatoes. Considering that the “gourmet” tomatoes in the supermarket cost $7 for a smallish cryo-vac of 250g, this is a good deal.

Here’s what you’ll need.

  • A kilo of Roma tomatoes. You can use any tomatoes, but Roma are the best because of their low acidity. They’ll end up sweeter and generally just, plain, extremely delicious.
  • A matching weight of rock salt. This is generally pretty cheap.
  • Fresh herbs, especially Thyme.
  • A decent sized, sterilised jar to store them in.
  • A large amount of oil, vegetable oil is ok, olive oil is best.

And that’s it. We’ve been tucking into these on bread, with cheese. But you can eat them in a myriad of dishes.

To start,turn your oven on to bake at about 100 degree Celsius. Do not use fan-forced. The idea is to dry these guys really slowly.

Spread your rock salt across the bottom of a large-ish oven tray (this one is 36cm by 25cm on the base). You want the salt to be fairly deep, at least a centimetre. That way the liquids from the tomatoes will run into the salt, be held, and not burn. Here I’m re-using salt from a previous batch (two is usually the limit), and topping up with some left over from last time.

Next, carefully wash any dirt or grit off your tomatoes. Then slice them into sizable bits. These I quartered, but Roma tend to be a little smaller, so you could probably just halve them.

As you cut the tomatoes place them in a bowl, and add some fresh thyme leaves. Mix very gently with your hands.

Once you’ve cut and ‘herbed’ the tomatoes, lay them out in the prepared tray. Don’t fret if they’re touching each other. Really pack them into the tray, but keep them a little away from the edges (which heat up, and can burn the fruit).

When the tray is full, drizzle with a small amount of olive oil, whack it into the oven, and leave for about 5 hours! Simple! Just make sure you check on the tray every hour or so to see progress.

As you can see to the right, the tomatoes are starting to become ‘slack’, and collapse a little.

Actually… this shot is probably a little too dark. But the idea is for the tomatoes to start to look like they’re roasted, but without darkening too much.

What you’re doing to preserving these tomatoes, which are abundant this time of year, by salting and drying them out. To keep them we’ll store them under oil, but doing it this way ensures that they don’t rot badly while they’re stored, while also sweetening them significantly.

You can compare the photo below with the shot of them entering the oven. They’re shrunk a lot, and in some cases are actually dried.

Once they’re cooked, place them in a large, sterile jar. To sterilise a jar and its lid, place them into a large pot of water, and boil it for at least  minutes.

Don’t squash the tomatoes in, just let them fall into the jar. Fill to about half way with tomatoes, then stuff other fresh herbs like Pizza thyme, regular thyme, and rosemary into the sides.  Then fill with tomatoes, and top the jar up with you chosen oil.

And… you’re done.

PS!! Once you’ve opened the jar – refrigerate.