Gardening Articles: Health :: Cooking
Drying Tomatoes (page 3 of 3)
by Shila Patel
Slow Roasting Tomatoes
Unlike oven-drying, slow-roasting requires gently cooking the tomatoes until their juices caramelize. It is the perfect technique for gardeners with less time or for those with traditional ovens that don't have very low temperature settings. However, storage time is short: roasted tomatoes keep up to a week in the refrigerator, up to six months in the freezer.
To roast, preheat the oven to 225° F. Arrange the tomatoes cut side up on a baking sheet lined with cooking parchment or a silicon baking mat. For added flavor, lightly dress the tomatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with herbs such as marjoram, thyme, or rosemary, as well as salt and freshly ground black pepper. For a spicy-sweet variation that brings out the tomatoes' berrylike flavor, drizzle flavored oil (such as lemon or orange) on the slices, and dust lightly with granulated sugar and cayenne pepper.
Slow-roasting takes 2 to 4 hours, but the fruits will remain very soft and moist. Allow them to cool completely before packing in a clean, airtight container and refrigerating. Roasted tomatoes are delicious in sandwiches and pastas, slipped into soups, and mashed into potatoes.
What About Canning?
Canning requires a significant commitment of time and energy, but if you have a large crop of tomatoes, it may be the best way to preserve them. The investment of labor and material offers unbeatable dividends: economical long-term storage and a reminder of summer at a moment's notice.
The canning process requires preparing and hot-packing tomatoes in a canning jar and sealing it with a special two-piece vacuum lid, then processing the jars in boiling water to destroy harmful microorganisms. Before beginning, consult a reputable guide that incorporates current information about safe, healthful preservation. Here are three excellent resources:
* The USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning (USDA, 1994; $20) is also available free on this Web site: www.uga.edu/nchfp/publications/usda/can_guide_order.html.
* Ball Blue Book:Guide to Home Canning, Freezing, and Dehydration (Alltrista Corp., 1997; $5). For answers to canning questions, call the company's hotline: (800) 240-3340.
* "Home Canning Online" (www.home-canning.com), sponsored by Ball, includes an online magazine, tips, product information, and links to other sites.
Shila Patel is a former managing editor at National Gardening.
Photography by Bill Lorenz and National Gardening Association.