Sun dried tomatoes are the essence of a southern Italian summer. Like deep red rubies these are jewels of #ThePugliaKitchen whose intensity of colour is matched only by the richness of flavour.
Our Puglia Kitchen garden tomatoes are the workhorse of our summer kitchen. We use them to make passata, the base for most of our pasta sauces. Cut and deseeded we sometimes drop them into our cooked pasta. Sliced, drizzled in oil and sprinkled variously with our freshly picked garden herbs they appear on our table in various salads, on friselle and playing supporting act to burrata.
But even as the supporting act they shine, packed with taste.
Tomatoes are a constant, and take us beyond summer. Nothing beats getting up each morning to put on our moka coffee pot. Before our outdoor summer kitchen fills with the smell of fresh coffee, its the harvested tomatoes we smell. We literally wake up and smell the tomatoes!
Sun Dried Tomatoes from The Puglia Kitchen
There are 3 simple stages to preparing these, not counting the growing and picking.
We use thick fleshed San Marzano tomatoes from our Puglia Kitchen garden.
Wipe them and slice in half lengthways. Arrange them on a rack or tray - we use bamboo racks that are made for sun drying our fruits - and sprinkle with salt to draw out the juice (table salt rather than salt crystals are better for this purpose).
Drying takes about 7 - 10 days. Rather than leave out at night we take our trays indoors. With a relatively flat terrain and sandwiched between the Adriatic and Ionian seas (Puglia is the heel of Italy’s boot) we have higher levels of humidity at night causing condensation.
After a few days we turn the tomatoes over.
We turn the tomatoes again after another couple of days.
If you use dried chillies you will know what you are looking for. If not, when they look like dried fruits you might hang from your Christmas tree, lightweight and sounding hollow to a gentle tap, your dried tomatoes are ready for the next stage.
Gather them up together.
Because our tomatoes have been dried naturally outdoors in the sun we need to sterilised by “quick pickling” before storing them. Prepare a liquor of 50% white wine vinegar and 50% water. Bring to the boil and drop your dried tomatoes into the liquor in batches.
Remove after 4 - 5 minutes and leave to dry on a clean dish cloth for half a day. Now the tomatoes are ready for storing.
You can store your dried tomatoes in airtight containers with a sprinkling of dried herbs. How long they will keep depends on how much moisture is left in the tomatoes. Check regularly and if any signs of mould appear, discard immediately.
Alternatively you can flavour and store in oil. But when using fresh rather than dried ingredients this will reduce storage life.
We are using pickled capers, fresh chilli and dried thyme from our #PugliaKitchenGarden and garlic which we will mince.
Layer the dried tomatoes. We press them tightly into sterilised jars.
Keep building up the layers and then top up with olive oil. We use the extra virgin olive oil from our olive grove.
The taste is incredible.
Alternatively sun dried tomatoes can be stored in an airtight bag or container. In a refrigerator they can keep for a few months depending on how much moisture is left in the tomatoes. Try to keep free of moisture, so avoid the crisper drawer.
Check the tomatoes frequently for any signs of mold and discard the tomatoes if you see any.
Stored in oil with or without dried herbs the tomatoes can be stored at room temperature. Keeping them in the refrigerator will extend their life. They should keep for at least 3 months. Don’t worry if the oil turns solid, this will liquify again at room temperature and does not affect the taste.
Stored in oil with fresh ingredients like the garlic we have used, or with fresh herbs, the tomatoes must be refrigerated and used within 4 days.