At the height of the pandemic, I began to slow cook anything I could get my hands on: There were the lamb shanks I picked up from the butcher, braised over several hours until the meat was tender and falling apart; bunches and bunches of carrots from my farm share, roasted with herbs and spices until tender and caramelized; and lots of confit tomatoes and garlic, paired with pasta or spread on toast.
Confit is a French technique for food preservation, often accomplished by submerging an ingredient in fat at a low cooking temperature. This version of tomato confit, for example, involves slow-cooking cherry tomatoes on the vine in an oil bath until they are sweet and juicy.
The benefit of this technique is that the oil penetrates the tomatoes for a deeper, more complex flavor. The oven and stovetop work well for confit, but the former is a straightforward and hands-off method. As the tomatoes cook in the oven, they shrink and shrivel while retaining their juiciness.
Keep Those Tomatoes On Their Stems
Making tomato confit could not be easier. The tomatoes are ready for the oven in just a few minutes of prep.
- Arrange your tomatoes on the vine in an even layer in a baking pan. Add a head of garlic for additional flavor.
- Pour enough oil to submerge the tomatoes halfway.
- Place the pan into the oven at 275°F. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the tomatoes are soft and beginning to wrinkle on the surface. They should still be intact but easily smoosh when poked with a knife.
The Best Oil for Tomato Confit
You can use either olive oil or canola oil for tomato confit, though I prefer olive oil because it pairs well with the sharp acidity of the fruit. The tomatoes and garlic themselves flavor the oil, so there is no need to use anything fancy—just make sure that your oil tastes fresh and hasn’t gone rancid.
How Is This Different From Roasted Tomatoes?
The main distinction between tomato confit and a typical roasted tomato recipe is the percentage of oil. Roasted tomatoes might use a small drizzle of oil, so they wrinkle and shrivel significantly. On the other hand, confit involves submerging the tomatoes—retaining lots of moisture.
My Favorite Tomatoes for Confit
I love using cherry tomatoes on the vine for confit. Cherry tomatoes have a bright, tangy taste and sweeten even further through this process. And keep in mind that the amount of oil needed to cook the tomatoes is proportional to their height, so smaller tomatoes, such as cherries, need less oil. But, most importantly, ripe tomatoes yield the most delicious confit.
A Snug Pan Saves Oil
Over the many tests of tomato confit, I’ve discovered a few tips on what kind of baking pan to use. The narrower the baking pan, the less oil you need to cover the tomatoes (a practical lesson learned from Carla Lalli Music’s “Where Cooking Begins: Uncomplicated Recipes To Make You a Great Cook.” Additionally, reactive cookware can sometimes react with acidic ingredients like tomatoes, leaving a slight metallic taste. To be safe, I recommend using a ceramic baking dish.
Variations to Try
- Try a different variety of tomato: As I mentioned, cherry tomato confit is my tomato of choice for this technique. However, you can just as easily use other types of tomatoes. Roma tomatoes (cut in half lengthwise) are a great alternative.
- Layer in woody herbs: Woody herbs such as thyme, rosemary, or bay leaves add a fragrant, earthy note to the tomatoes.
- Add chilies and spices: For a bit of heat, try some fresh or dried chilies—or even red pepper flakes. Or scatter a few black peppercorns, coriander seeds, or fennel seeds over the tomatoes.
Now Use Your Tomato Confit!
- Strain the tomatoes and garlic and toss with pasta, coating with some confit oil as needed. You can also blend the strained tomatoes and garlic for a smooth sauce.
- Blend the tomatoes and garlic with some broth for a soup.
- Spread the softened tomatoes and garlic on ricotta, labneh, or buttered toast.
How to Store Tomato Confit
After making the confit, store it in a clean, airtight, sterilized jar and ensure the tomatoes and garlic are completely submerged in oil.
- To sterilize the jars properly, you need to cover the empty containers in boiling water for 10 minutes. Place the jar on a steamer or canning rack in a stock pot or canning pot, then pour water into both the jars and the pot until the water level reaches 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Drain the jars, then fill with the confit.
- Tomato confit should be stored in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.
- Always use a clean utensil to remove the confit from the jar to prevent any risk of contamination. Immediately place the jar back into the refrigerator after taking some tomato confit out for consumption.
- Use a thermometer to check the temperature of your refrigerator. It should be no higher than 40°F.
- Most research shows that tomato confit needs to be eaten within 3 to 7 days. Your safest choice is to consume it within 3 days.
- Freeze the confit to preserve it longer using the instructions provided by the USDA.
Preheat the oven:
Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 275°F.
Put the cherry tomatoes on a baking dish:
In a small, 11 x 7-inch baking dish, evenly arrange the cherry tomatoes. Try to minimize any overlap so that each tomato touches the bottom of the pan.
Prep the garlic:
Using a knife, slice about 1/4-inch from the top and bottom of the head of garlic, exposing the cloves. Arrange the garlic alongside the tomatoes in the baking pan.
Submerge the tomatoes and garlic:
Pour 3/4 cup of olive oil into a measuring cup. Pour the oil all over the tomatoes until they are submerged about halfway. Depending on the size of your tomatoes and your pan, you may need to pour an additional 1 cup of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, taste.
Bake the tomatoes:
Bake the tomatoes for 75 minutes to 2 hours, until the tomatoes appear slightly wrinkled and a knife poked through the inside easily bursts and smooshes the tomato. Tomatoes should remain intact but easily spreadable when squished. The garlic should be soft and golden in color.
Serve the tomato confit:
Remove the baking pan from the oven. Gently use a fork to pull each tomato away from the vine. Try to keep each tomato intact. Use the fork to smoosh and squeeze the garlic from the papery bulb; discard the bulb.
Place the tomatoes, garlic, and oil into a clean, sterilized jar and seal with a lid. Oil should fully cover the tomatoes and garlic. Chill immediately in the refrigerator until ready to use.
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