Article: Betty Cornhill (Canberra Organic – Winter 2001)
All the working spaces in my kitchen were covered with tomatoes, and Gary at Northside garden had fired me with enthusiasm to try sun-dried tomatoes, especially as we have had so much very hot sun lately. I cut up some tomatoes, placed the slices on a black plastic tray in the sun in the greenhouse. It was very hot in there -good for drying, I thought.
Of course there had to be a thunderstorm in the night, and this morning there was no sun, so I thought. ‘My tomatoes will go mouldy.’ I fetched Sigrid’s article in the last quarterly which had also fired me with enthusiasm to try oven-dried tomatoes, deciding that I would do that instead. I put the little tray full of tomatoes in the oven, turned it to 250 degrees F, and started cutting up tomatoes on a plate. Soon the plate was full of juice, so I fetched a mug and strainer to strain out the seeds
A lot of the tomatoes were ones I was saving seeds from, so I got out a plastic cottage cheese container, and carefully separated out the seeds from Roma, Maria’s, Grosse Lisse, Gold Dust, Siberian, and some Peruvian tomatoes, a Heritage variety given me by Gary the day Rod invited me to their barbeque, at Northside garden, as a thank you for getting them 10 free loads of manure and straw from the Canberra Show! Some of the tomatoes were not suitable for drying, so these I chopped and placed in a large saucepan. Later I would add onions, a bay leaf, some thyme, sage and oregano from the garden, some pieces of pumpkin and several zucchinis, sliced and some vegetable salt, or sea salt. Cook them till tender, to make a dish my mother used to do. She called it ‘Tomato and Breadcrumbs’. It was a great favorite with the whole family.
So here I am in the kitchen surrounded by utensils and tomatoes in various stages. I am cutting and straining and saving seed (and labeling it), I am putting the unusable bits in the chooks’ scrap container… What about the tomatoes in the oven? I get a pot holder and open the oven. Sigrid said they would take 5 or 6 hours at 250 degrees F, so they shouldn’t be done yet. Oh dear, some are burnt, but most are shriveled and very dry, so I put these in a jar and pour olive oil on them and add a sprig of thyme and a bay leaf. I’ll have to add the rosemary next time I go to the Cotter Garden where I can pick it.
There was no salt on those ones, but the next lot has had their salt on for an hour as Sigrid said, and are ready to go in, but this time at 120 degrees F.
I have finished! The tomatoes are cooling in the kitchen. Every working surface is covered, I started at 8.30am, and took them out of the oven at 2.40pm. They took only 3 and a half-hours at 120 degrees F. Now I must go out and buy some more olive oil. And the sun is shining brightly! Postscript. I’ve just had bread and dried tomato and home cured ripe olives. Yummy!
Editor’s Note: Sorry to hear about the charcoaled tomatoes Betty. Every oven cooks differently— if the temperature is set at its lowest for drying, all should go well.
Tomato and Breadcrumbs
- In a large greased casserole place a layer of the tomato mixture made as above (remove the bay leaf.)
- Cover completely with about 2 cm of freshly made wholemeal bread crumbs, then another layer of tomato mixture and another of bread crumbs till the dish is full, ending with a bread crumbs layer.
- Sprinkle a little more vegetable or sea salt and a little pepper. Dot with butter and cook in a moderate oven until brown on top—about 15 or 20 minutes.