Drying tomatoes and storing them in olive oil remains one of my favorite preservation techniques. They are so full of flavor and are ready to be added to salads, appetizers (like this Goat Cheese Appetizer) or any recipe without rehydrating first. Plus, when the tomatoes are gone, the oil makes a super tomato-flavored base to salad dressings or tomato sauces.
I originally wrote a tutorial for how to dry and store tomatoes in olive oil that pictured all the steps a couple years ago, but because of reader questions about what the tomatoes should look like and a reader’s suggestion (thanks, Sakura!) Brian and I put together a 5 minute video that outlines each step and also goes into detail about what the tomatoes should look like when dry enough to store in oil.
I hope this video makes it clearer for you and that you’ll see how easy it is to make and store tomatoes this way. It’s just another awesome way to put up our garden (or market) produce for the winter!
Here’s more on the safety of this technique that I mentioned in the video:
I’ve stored dried tomatoes in olive oil, unrefrigerated, for probably twelve years now after reading about it in The Oregonian (our large newspaper here) and being sure of it’s safety. Last year, however, I read on a blog that it wasn’t considered safe anymore. Sigh.
I did a fair amount of research at that time – even contacting the preservation writer who originally wrote about this technique all those years ago in her newspaper column. Last September I updated my original tutorial with the information I found which include these highlights (please read the original post for more details):
- This is a time-honored preservation technique that I feel good about for two reasons: tomatoes are naturally acidic (and I never add any fresh garlic or herbs), and I dry them until they are pliable, but no liquid comes from them when I test them with my fingers. I also, as per Ms. Dominguez’s recommendation, dip them in red wine vinegar to help extend their shelf life (and just so happens to increase the acidity).
- The recommendation that storing tomatoes this way is no longer safe was not backed by any studies and I wasn’t able to find any other site or research to back up this claim.
- The reasoning didn’t make sense: potential for water droplets to contain botulism – in dried tomatoes that exude no moisture when touched? Or oil affecting the lid gaskets when the oil doesn’t touch the lid?
- A book on preserving followed up on this as well and found that the idea that botulism will occur in dried tomatoes seems to be an internet phenomenon with no science backing up the claim.
To my other research about the safety of this time-honored preservation technique and to make sure that you are able to make an informed decision, I’m adding this recommendation from Colorado State University Extension:
Dried tomatoes in oil are less of a safety concern than other mixtures in oil because the pH of tomatoes is generally 4.6 or lower. In addition, by sufficiently drying the tomatoes, conditions become even less favorable to growth of C. botulinum due to a decrease in water activity. Dried herbs in oil also are less of a safety concern because of their low water activity. However, to ensure safety, it is recommended that all tomato in oil and herb in oil products be stored at refrigerator temperatures and used within three days.
Obviously, I don’t agree with all that they state, though I do agree with the “dried tomatoes are less of a safety concern” part.
But here’s my biggest concern overall- for thousands of years we have been in charge of the food that we eat. It’s pretty much the one consistent thing throughout human history – freedom meant hunting, foraging, and preserving our food to feed us through the year. I’m not comfortable with government agencies deciding that I shouldn’t be able to buy raw milk or chickens that were butchered by my neighbor and that all of the ways of canning or preserving foods are not “safe” unless a government agency tells me they are.
Now this doesn’t mean that I’m going to can in my oven or turn over my jars to “seal” them – or even stop putting citric acid in my tomatoes. I DO want to be as safe as possible.
But I look at the jars of dried tomatoes stored in olive oil on my shelves and I think about some of the things passing as food on shelves in supermarkets that the government has deemed “safe”…
I think I’ll stick to my tomatoes, thank you.