I don’t love eating fresh tomatoes. I know, that’s crazy for a gardener with more than a dozen tomato plants in his garden to admit. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like tomatoes. I would just rather use them for sauce, salsa and crushed tomatoes. I make and can all of these and that way, I get to enjoy my tomatoes throughout the year. I do make exceptions, however, because you can’t beat a juicy slice of a heirloom tomato on a grilled burger or BLT sandwich.
The first round of tomatoes came from the garden about a month or so ago. That’s when I prepared batches of roasted lime and tomato salsa and quarts of crushed tomatoes that are now safely stored away in my pantry for the coming months.
After the big harvest, my tomato plants were left looking bare. Some people may be inclined to pull the plants out at that point, but I still saw more flowers and the potential for more tomatoes. Now it’s a few weeks later, and I’m picking a couple of tomatoes each day in the cooler fall weather. It’s not nearly the quantity as before, but still a fair amount and certainly worth putting to use.
This time, I took one of the simplest approaches. I slow roasted sliced tomatoes in the oven for several hours. It’s the ideal method for when you don’t have a ton of time to dedicate to making something like sauce or commit to a canning process, but still want to preserve tomatoes to some extent.
The result is a bit like sun-dried tomatoes, with a sweet, intense tomato flavor that I find hard to resist eating right out of the oven. I like to cook them until they are a little crispy, but still chewy and not entirely dried out. They’re not at the point where they can be shelf stable and stored in the pantry, though if that’s what you’d like, all you have to do is continue roasting until entirely crisp and no moisture remains.
I just slice tomatoes to a quarter-inch thickness so that they’re all about the same size. This will work best with small- to medium-sized tomatoes and probably not with small cherry, which will cook too quickly, or large heirlooms, which will take longer. Yet if that’s all you have, just adjust the roasting time. With the small Roma tomatoes I’m getting from my garden, I just slice them in half. Then, I coat everything with a garlic-infused olive oil and salt. They spend then next six to eight hours in the oven, and that’s all there is to it.
When done, if you can refrain from eating them as they are — and there’s nothing wrong if you can’t — there are plenty of ways to use these slow-roasted tomatoes. They’ll make just about anything better. Chop up any large pieces, leave the smaller ones as is, and add them into soup, a frittata, salad, pasta dishes and on pizza.
You can keep these in the fridge and they’ll be good for up to a week. If somehow you think you need to store them longer than that, just cover them with olive oil and they should keep for a few weeks or longer. Alternatively, they also freeze well. To keep them from freezing all together, I would first spread them out on a baking sheet, put the sheet in the freezer and freeze for at least an hour. Afterward, transfer the tomatoes to an airtight container or bag and return to the freezer. Then, just take them out to use as you needed.
Slow-roasted garlic tomatoes
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- about a dozen small- to medium-sized tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
Use the back of a knife to smash the garlic cloves. Add the oil and the garlic to a small pan. Heat over low heat for about five minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the garlic to infuse the oil for 15 minutes or longer while you get the tomatoes ready.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Arrange the oven racks to the middle of the oven and line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats.
Rinse the tomatoes, wipe dry and slice them about ¼ inch thick. If you’re using small Roma tomatoes, just slice them in half. Arrange the slices on the two baking sheets in an even layer as you go. Depending on the size of your tomatoes, they may not all fit. Use as many as you can.
Remove the garlic from the oil. You can use these for something else or just eat them whole, as they should be soft, mellow and delicious. Drizzle the infused oil over the tomatoes, then sprinkle with salt.
Place the trays in the oven and bake for about eight hours. I like to check on the tomatoes every couple of hours, taste them and add salt, if needed. Though this probably isn’t necessary, especially if you let them bake overnight. However, depending on the size of your tomatoes and how well done you’d like them, it wouldn’t hurt to start checking periodically after about six and a half hours in the oven.
When cooked to your liking, remove from the oven and store.