Well, it’s finally here, I think. It feels cold, my dog has started her annual fall shivering and I can stand to run outside again (under duress, but still, I can do it!). I love the fall. There’s such a feeling of energy in the air when the temperature starts to drop. Philly can be a strange town, and sometimes, it seems beholden an era in which there weren’t tons of young people doing interesting things in a pretty open environment. Summer can be a rollback to when only families who’d lived in the city for generations were still in Center City, and the Jersey shore was the only place they spent their summers. By all of this I mean, action on the ground in the summer can be a little sparse, (and I don’t even care that much because with 90% humidity, who wants to walk 3 miles to a festival anyway?) but when the fall rolls around, there’s nothing but fun, fun, and more fun to be had.
I’m willing to accept that my tomato plants, which have been producing like mofos since June (with a brief pause due to rain-drenched illness) are pretty much done with their rough lives. But there are so many green tomatoes left! In previous years, I’ve ripened those in a brown paper bag on top of the fridge, and it has worked well. This year, though, I’m taking a tip from a former student, who told me that they are great pickles! I know it seems like I should’ve made these before this year. You’re probably right. But as you may have noticed, my tagline is “Wild and Lazy Fermentation,” emphasis on the “lazy” and tomato pickles seemed like they could have some serious texture issues or at least require extensive testing and/or effort to perfect. You may also have noticed that when it comes to pickles, I’ll go for the veggies that work effortlessly well every time, (cabbage, turnips, carrot, beet, etc) over the veggies that make you work for perfection (cucumbers, etc), so green tomatoes weren’t immediately of interest to me.
I’m glad I tried them, though, because I was wrong. They are in the easy category. I fermented them fresh off the vine, which may have helped, but truly, they were the same texture as the vinegar pickled ones I enjoy at my favorite brunch spot, and, as is the wont of fermented pickles, they have much more flavor and complexity. I also used smaller, heirloom variety tomatoes (stupice and jaune flamme, to be exact) and I think this is a good call. Larger tomatoes are bound to mush a bit. I kept these simple, because honestly, I expected them to fail and therefore be unworthy of using up my spice drawer. They did not fail, though, and my next batch isn’t done yet, so feel free to experiment with the herbs and spcies you have on hand! I’m so happy to have a great accompaniment for my pseudo-restaurant home brunches or any kind of down homey meal I might make.
GREEN TOMATO PICKLES
Yields about a half-gallon of pickles
If this is your first foray into fermented pickles, please read my Pickle FAQ before getting started!
- 7 cups (roughly 4.5 pounds) of whole, smaller variety, unripe tomatoes, fresh off the vine, if possible
- 5 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
- ~5 cups of brine (2 tablespoons of salt dissolved into 5 cups of room temperature, filtered water). This will vary depending on the size of your tomatoes.
- Place the spices and garlic in the jar and put the tomatoes on top of them.
- Pour brine over the top and use your preferred method to submerge the tomatoes.
- Let them sit at room temperature, out of direct sunlight for one week. They will, of course, bubble vigorously during fermentation At that time, give them a taste. If they are acidic enough, great! Stick them in the fridge and start eating them. If not, let them sit another few days before trying again. Once they’ve reached your desired acidity, they’re done.