Summer is filled with fragrant herbs and ripe tomatoes, amongst other luscious fruits and veggies. It’s hard not to stock up on all the fresh items you see throughout markets and grocery stores—especially when you consider the weekend road trips you may be taking—after all, who can refrain from fresh local farm produce? And, guess what, there’s a bonus: you don’t have to limit summer’s bounty to just this season. With a little bit of ingenuity—and an oven—you’ll be able to preserve it for year-round enjoyment!
More herbs than you know what to do with?
Fresh herbs are tough to resist, come summertime. You can often smell them before you see them this time of year, as you stroll through a farmers’ market or even a local food store. You buy them in bunches, but usually need just a bit for various recipes… Or perhaps you have your own herb garden, which may also produce more herbs than you know what to do with just about now.
Not to worry: it’s easy to dry your herbs for long-lasting flavor. All it takes is a couple of hours in the oven. Watch the quick video below for simple, step-by-step instructions:
If you’re short on time or your oven is otherwise occupied, even your microwave can do the job:
- Take a microwave-safe plate, line it with a paper towel, and place your herbs in a single layer on top of it—then cover the herbs with another paper towel.
- Your plate will go into the microwave for 30 seconds at a time on high power until the herbs are thoroughly dry. (The length of time to dry them this way will vary based on moisture content.)
- Be careful not to burn your herbs. Once they’re dry, crumble them and place them in jars, just like in the video above.
Sun-dried tomatoes in your kitchen
Now is the season when tomatoes come into full bloom—and before you know it, you may have too many on your hands—especially if you grow your own. They’re ripe, red, and beautiful (well, sometimes, yellow and green, but still ripe and beautiful) so why not take advantage of these fruits (yes, technically they’re a fruit!)—this is as gorgeous and delicious as they will get all year. How should you preserve them, you ask, and how difficult will the process be??
Your answer is to make sun-dried tomatoes. They can add a gourmet touch to many a meal or salad, are scrumptious in seasoned oil, and they’re really easy to dry! (“Sun-dried tomatoes” happen to taste just as good when dried in an oven.)
- Pick your own ripe, yet firm tomatoes or visit a farm or farmers’ market for the freshest fruit.
- Cut the tomatoes in half and then cut out the hard part around the stem, as well as any bruised sections. You can then cut the tomatoes in half one more time, depending on their size (smaller tomatoes may not need another cut).
- Preheat the oven to 150° F. Arrange the tomatoes on cookie sheets or cake racks. Spread them out so that they aren’t touching. If you want, you can sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and add some spices.
- You’ll leave the tomatoes in the oven for 10 to 20 hours, checking on them periodically. It’s best to flip them once in a while and rotate the trays for even heating. You can also speed things up by turning up the oven to as high as 200° F—but then you’ll need to watch the tomatoes more closely.
- The length of time it will take for your tomatoes to dry depends on their water content and how thickly they’re sliced. You’ll know they’re done when they’re no longer watery but are flexible and leathery like fresh raisins, and have a deep red color.
- When the dried tomatoes have cooled to room temperature, pack them in airtight, storable plastic bags. You can keep these in the freezer or a cool, dry cupboard.
Do you have any tricks for preserving the season’s bounty year-round? Tell us in the comments.