How To Dry And Store Tomatoes In Olive Oil: The Video

Dried-Tomatoes-in-Olive-Oil

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.

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This is linked to Tasty Tuesday and Pennywise Platter.

Comments

  1. mary w says

    Storing dried tomatoes in olive oil wouldn’t both me a bit. Not sure why I don’t do it. First time I dried tomatoes I stored at room temp but not in oil. A couple of months later they were moldy. :-( Not as dry as I thought.

    Now after drying I store in the freezer. A quart freezer bag stores a lot of dried tomatoes. It’s an option for any of your readers that are hesitant (for whatever reason) to store in oil.

  2. HA says

    After reviewing you video i consulted with a large olive oil company that makes flavored
    oils. They sell many different varieties of oils. Not infused though. There is a very big
    difference in this, thus creating problems for the DIYers. Spoilage and mold can be tricky
    and deceiving as well. Caveat is a big word here, and standing behind ones product is
    a great risk. Back to the olive oil company. Their oils whether one uses herbs or tomatoes
    as in your case, do not appear in the containers, as a safety issue. Contamination of the
    driest herbs etc….does not insure what can happen. Now for those that go forward with
    this, it would be highly advisable to store as you mention in the fridge or freezer.

    The olive oil company of whom i have bought hundreds of dollars over the years does not
    add any preservatives. Adding to this….never have i ever had one of the larger bottles go bad.
    Keeping the container on my counter for months at a time, still did not bring on any problems. I buy by the gallon. Just some input…..

    • Jami says

      Appreciate your take on this HA, as each has to make their own food choices. There is risk in everything we do everyday, if you are going to take it that far. The risk is so minimal with tomatoes, that I choose to take it – and without fear. I believe it to be as safe as drinking raw milk and buying chickens from my neighbor, but you might not want to do those things, and that’s fine. Which I hope I was able to make clear in the video as well as here – please only do what you feel comfortable with after doing research and looking into it if it’s a worry.

      I don’t know about olive oil companies – they are selling a product and have a different standards to be accountable for than I do. I DO know however, that there have been NO studies done on this method and NO illnesses or deaths when only tomatoes in oil were involved and that up until a few years ago, it was regularly mentioned as a safe way to store tomatoes. And I believe it still is.

  3. Sandi says

    I have a question for you. Though they are in olive oil (things have been preserved for centuries in oil, I know), I wonder if you have any suggestions for instructions for preserving these oil immersed tomatoes for long term storage. Do you know if they can be canned in the oil? Thanks.

    • says

      They most definitely can NOT be safely canned at home, Sandi – sorry! We keep ours for up to a year (if they last that long!) and while they grow darker with age, they still taste great.

  4. J says

    Why not dry your tomatoes and make your tomato, oil, garlic, herb, etc. infusion as needed? Make ahead so flavors meld and tomatoes plump; steep and store in the fridge. This requires a modicum of planning but sets aside your worries. Leftover oil is delicious in pasta of all kinds. Cherry tomatoes are my favorite as they require no slicing and dry quickly.

  5. Jeremy says

    I followed your instructions on the video about dehydrating tomatoes and I covered them in olive oil after giving them a vinegar bath. I have a question about using the oil after you have eaten the tomatoes. I was wondering if I can use the oil for cooking as I usually do with olive oil? I use olive oil for general cooking when I am frying in a cast iron skillet. Will the olive oil have a tomato taste when you are cooking with it? Thanks, Jeremy

    • says

      Yes, Jeremy, the olive oil has a definite dried tomato smell and taste (and even a hint of red color). I use it in things that the tomato flavor will be great in – anything tomato based as well as salad dressings and such. It’s good, it’s just flavored olive oil. :)

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