Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Secret to Sun Dried Tomatoes

The truth is, I didn’t discover sun dried tomatoes until I was in my twenties. It was one of those Italian food items that didn’t make it into my family’s pantry. Sun dried tomato is not a taste that can be ignored in any dish with its powerful salty and meaty flavors and rare texture. Just a little chunk sends off an explosion of flavor in your mouth. And when they are packed in a good extra virgin olive oil, what a combination! I love to add sun dried tomatoes in my sandwiches of cheese and prosciutto, for example. I even eat them straight on a piece of bread.
What is now a gourmet food once had a utilitarian function. Sun dried tomatoes were conserved along with other foods to stock up on food for the winter season. In southern Italy, the tomatoes were dried in the sun and, to make them last even more, they were preserved in olive oil.

I’ve bought many jars of sun dried tomatoes in oil, but at some point I got curious about the sun dried tomatoes that were still dried. I had bought some and tried packing it in olive oil, but they were still too hard for my liking. Then I discovered you have to reconstitute them first before adding the olive oil. That means soaking them in hot or boiling water first. You can add white wine or white wine vinegar to the liquid combination. When you conserve them in olive oil, you can add any combination of condiments, such as garlic, hot pepper, fresh or dried herbs, cocktail onions and anything else you want to experiment with!

Although packing them straight in olive oil is one viable method, I still like the rehydration method better. It’s faster and helps release the flavor of the tomato.

For a description of the full process on how to reconstitute sun dried tomatoes and preserve them in oil, see the recipe Sun Dried Tomatoes in Oil.

To learn how to dry the tomatoes from fresh, ripe ones, here are a few online sources:



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