Sun Dried Tomatoes in the Sun Cook
A massive vine of Matt's Cherry tomatoes easily measures 12 feet across and as many high. It's taken over the south side of my house, and is still producing tiny, sweet fruit. Mini-Kosmonaut Volkovs grow in pots, (growing them in partial shade has stunted their growth, these are not a new variety!) as do Green Zebra, tiny yellow Blondkopfchen cherry tomatoes, and some lovely Black Plum tomatoes. My kitchen table runneth over.
Because it is impossible to eat them all right now, we want to preserve them either in a sauce or by drying. Today we're going to dry them using nothing but concentrated sun light.
I cut the tomatoes in half, exposing their juicy centres and seeds. The seeds are surrounded by a jelly that inhibits germination, preventing the seeds from sprouting inside the tomato.
This jelly is mostly water, and we will be drying it out today with solar energy. If we were trying to save tomato seeds for next year, we would squeeze out the seeds and jelly into a bowl and let it go mouldy for about 3 to 4 days, replicating the process in a rotting tomato to destroy the germination inhibitors. Today we're preserving not just the tomato seeds, but the tasty flesh. Sun dried tomatoes pack intense, savoury and tangy flavours, combining sweet and sour. These fruits will flavour the pasta dishes of January, February and March 2007, by which time I will be sprouting the same tomato varieties in my kitchen window, and the whole process will begin anew.
I placed the tomatoes inside the Sun Cook, and instead of locking the lid down as I would normally do during cooking, I placed a small twig between lid and oven case to prevent the oven door from closing completely.
This allows moisture to escape from the oven, and also keeps the temperature from rising high enough to cook the tomatoes. An ideal temperature for dehydration is just under 140 degrees F, the temperature at which food starts to cook.
Here are the tomatoes early on during the drying process in the oven.
Raw food vegans can use the Sun Cook to perform all sorts of food drying and dehydrating. While not a raw food vegan myself, I plan to use these tomatoes in pasta dishes over the winter.
After about 3 hours on a partly sunny afternoon with some intermittent clouds, I had produced gorgeous sun dried tomatoes that look like they just came from Italy. But we produced these results here in Toronto Canada, in the middle of October. The Sun Cook solar oven is the essential tool we used for this work.