Bernie, Christchurch

To make the most delicious sun-dried tomatoes you’ve ever tasted, you need firm, ripe tomatoes, salt, dried basil, a metal oven tray with a lip, and a cake rack that fits inside the oven tray. Cut tomatoes in half from the stem to the bottom. If large, cut in half again. Remove any tough bits around the stem area.  Use a spoon to remove the seeds and give them to the chooks.  Insert the cake rack into the oven tray.  Place the prepared tomatoes on the cake rack cut side up and fairly close together as they will shrink as they dry.  Sprinkle with salt and basil.  Put the tray on the dashboard of your car (or on the rear window sill if it’s wide enough).  Roll up all the windows and park in a sunny spot.  Start first thing in the morning and bring the tray inside at sunset. It may take two days for them to dry properly.  When ready, they should be flexible like a raisin, leathery not brittle.  Cool to room temperature then package in 100g lots in plastic bags, excluding all air, and store in the freezer. When you are ready to use them, you will need to pack them in oil first – just take out one bag at a time and layer the tomato slices in a small sterilised jar with a bay leaf, 3 peppercorns, a whole peeled garlic clove and a red chilli.  Pour in sufficient extra virgin olive oil to cover the tomatoes.  Cover tightly with a lid. Store in refrigerator and wait at least 3 days before using. Use within 2 weeks.