From local culinary traditions of the Mediterranean area to contemorary and haute cusine, the dried tomato has become a main ingredient of many dishes.
Whether it's used instead of bacon in a vegetarian carbonara or, in the classic version in oil, to accompany aperitifs or various dishes, the dried tomato is now an essential ingredient in our homes.
But how can homemade dried tomatoes be prepared, following the traditional popular cooking technique?
With the guidance and advice of the Apulian chef Tommaso Sanguedolce, directed by the restaurant of the Castello di Ugento, in Salento in Puglia, Italy, we discover how ...
HOW TO MAKE SUN DRIED TOMATOES
THE DRYING PROCESS
Firstly, you need to choose the right tomato variety. The chef recommends the San Marzano tomato,famous for its elongated shape, with a compact and fleshy pulp, with few seeds and less water, making the dehydration process easier.
Once the tomatoes have been cut in half, they are dried.
The tomatoes need to be exposed to the sun, placing them on light cloths or wooden boards, then sprinkled with coarse salt. The action of the salt, combined with that of the sun, will accelerate the dehydration process.
The tomatoes should be left in the sun until they are dry, for a period of time that varies according to the temperature and humidity level: "Thanks to this process - explains chef Sanguedolce - the tomato loses its water and the flavour is concentrated.
THE RE-HYDRATION PROCESS BEFORE BOTTLING
Once dried, the tomatoes must be rehydrated. Leave them in a bowl with two thirds of lukewarm water and one third of vinegar for 30 minutes or, at most, an hour. Take them out of the water, the tomatoes must be dried and, finally, the time has come to proceed with their preservation in oil.
CONSERVING SUN DRIED TOMATOES
As for the oil, the chef suggests extra virgin olive oil Peranzana (a medium fruity of Foggia origin), Leccino (a light fruity and Amaragnolo of Salento) or Coratina (an intense fruity of the north-Bari area). Since the latter is a very strong oil, Sanguedolce recommends, in case of use, to cut the olive oil with a third of sunflower seed oil.
Once the oil has been chosen, we proceed to put the washed tomatoes in a glass jar, cover them with oil to the brim, add a little vinegar to give it a pinch of acidity and flavor at will. To respect the tradition, the chef Tommaso Sanguedolce suggests aromas that bring back to the collective historical memory: garlic at will, basil and a pinch of pepper.
"In a 1 liter container, we put at most 2 garlic cloves and 3 basil leaves. They are flavors that go in concentration given that the container will go under pressure and it will leave it to mature. We must therefore pay attention to the quantities so as not to cover the tastes ".
Once the jar is closed, it must be sterilized by cooking it in water in a water bath for about 40 minutes. In this way the garlic and all the aromas will release their flavors.
Once removed from the water, the jar should be allowed to cool upside down: "This is an ancient technique that helps closing under pressure. I remember my grandmother doing it. It is part of tradition. Furthermore, this phase of maturation in oil serves to round off the tastes ".
After about a week your preserved tomatoes in oil will be ready to be enjoyed at home as in the restaurant!