By Crystal Grobe
This is the time of year when I get re-energized about farmers markets. Not that I lack energy throughout the summer, it’s just that this time of year the offerings are abundant, the prices are low, and it’s a great time to preserve the tastes all winter long.
Over the years, I’ve tried my hand at some serious canning and preserving, but found it’s way too much work (for me, right now). So instead I do little preserving projects like dehydrating tomatoes, roasting red peppers, and making hot sauces.
My current obsession is slow roasting tomatoes in the oven and it’s so easy! I’ll tell you the steps I take and I must admit, I’m a little nitpicky. I prefer to remove the seeds and skins, but that’s just me. If you want to go the super easy route, skip those steps! Here’s what you do:
- Buy pounds and pounds of roma tomatoes. I always end up wanting more, so go a little crazy.
- Core tomatoes (I use a thing like this)
- Slice tomatoes in half lengthwise
- Using your fingers or a spoon, scoop out and discard the seeds
- Set tomatoes cut side up on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet (I use a cooling rack on top of the paper for increased air circulation)
- Liberally sprinkle salt and pepper on tomato halves
- Liberally sprinkle Italian herbs on tomato halves (I use Heather’s Original Dirty Goodness)
- Place in an oven set to Warm (approximately 170-200 degrees) for 8 or more hours
- Halfway through roasting, peel skin off tomatoes and flip so cut side is down
- Remove from oven when tomatoes are still soft and pliable but not wet
- Resist eating half of them straight from the oven
- Once cooled, store in a freezer bag or container for 3-6 months
- Repeat the process
These tomatoes are great stored in a freezer bag for use in dressings, rice dishes or as a garnish for hummus and other dips. If you want them still tender for use in soups, stews, etc, don’t allow the tomatoes to dehydrate as much – remove from the oven while still plump before storing in a freezer bag or container.
I’ve found the best place to buy roma tomatoes is at the Minneapolis or St. Paul farmers markets. They have the best variety and the lowest prices. Why romas? Because they have sturdy flesh and not a lot of liquid. Other varieties of tomatoes work too but might take a bit longer.