Smoke-drying transforms tomatoes and the dishes they flavor.
A happy accident, a blessing in disguise, the silver lining . . . call it what you will. It happened to Larry Butler and Carol Ann Sayle back in 1994.
They had just done what many of us imagine doing—they’d left their high-pressure real estate jobs and bought a small farm. On a little spread just east of Austin, they planted 1,500 tomatoes plants. Their plan? To pay their mortgage with certified-organic produce. But a Texas storm had other plans. It blew down all the plants. Then within a few hours, the sun was back out, blazing. It blistered the fruit on the ground.
As Larry says in his twang-tipped drawl, “Well, I thought that was that.” It wasn’t. As he and Carol Ann gathered up the tomatoes, he had a thought: what about that smoker over there? It’s a Texas tradition and makes a mean brisket. Maybe it could save some of the tomatoes. “I sliced off the bruised bits and set the tomatoes on the rack,” Larry says. They were wrapped in a low-heat smoke of Savannah post oak—just 115F, cooler than a sauna.
Three and a half days later, he had what he calls “smoke-dried tomatoes.” They were so good, he handed them out to friends. Then he started selling them. Larry and Carol Ann sell their tomatoes the old-fashioned way: send them a check or money order, and they’ll send you their smoke dried tomatoes. No credit cards, no fancy packaging. Just a terrific product from a new American farmer.
Boggy Creek Farm
3414 Lyons Road
Austin, Texas 78702
By Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, food writers in Colebrook, Conn.
Jarred pesto and a package of sun-dried tomatoes top pizza dough from the deli section.