Typically, pomodori secchi is common in the south of Italy, obviously because of weather conditions that are appropriate for the artisanal sun-drying technique.
Many types of tomatoes can be used, later to be stored in olive oil to preserve during long periods of time, without the tomatoes acquiring oxidation and subsequently mouldy taste.
The ones I made, however, were in an oven. I don’t believe we have the right conditions to do them in the blazing sun even though southern Portugal is hot. Health safety issues arise quickly and I am not about to gift my friends and family with unsecure edible presents. You should always keep this in mind.
Plus, this means you can also turn this into a hobby for the rainy days.
▪ Plenty of tomatoes, chopped longitudinally in half (as many trays you can get in your oven at a time);
▪ Dash of sea salt;
▪ Dash of freshly-ground pepper;
▪ Dash of brown sugar;
▪ Dried herbs (if you wish).
Preheat the oven to 120°C. Lay the halved tomatoes, pulp side up, on a tray with parchment paper and season with the salt, pepper, sugar and herbs. Bake for at least three hours. This will depend on the size of the tomatoes, moisture content, how many trays you make, the ability your oven has to circulate the heat and how many times you turn the tray around to even the dehydration – this part in particular also helps the excess moisture escape from the oven every so often. However, if you feel that your tomatoes have reached your desired consistency, take them out, set to cool, then store in olive oil.
Keep in mind that if you want to buy jars that have an airtight seal, your preserves will last longer. But don’t forget to sterilise the jars. After opening any jar, make sure to store it in the fridge (the olive oil will solidify, but it doesn’t go bad).
Another fabulous thing about making this recipe is the fact your olive oil will taste like the sweet, chewy, savoury pomodori, so pick a good extra virgin one that you can later use to dress a salad, dip bread or drizzle on a freshly-baked pizza.
As you can see, a few droplets of moisture remain on the sheet. Also, some tomatoes have become so dry, and others are still a little plump. You have two options for this:
▪ Start picking out the tomatoes that have reached the desired consistency;
▪ Let them be, and have batches of rustically different tomatoes.
By Megan Melling
Megan Melling’s journey into the food world started in 2011 when she decided to enrol in Cookery and Food Production in Estoril. She was born American, but grew up in the Algarve, so she gets the best of two opposite culinary cultures. She has worked as a cook in Lisbon for the past year and is currently in the process of opening up a gourmet project in Lagos. Check out all of her personal recipes on her blog www.melsvittles.wordpress.com and facebook page Mel’s Vittles for some yummy photos and food facts.