We made some comments on facebook the other day about making green tomato pickles. Wow! Apparently people really like these things.
As you can see, it's getting on in the year at our house. The tomato plants are gone, heaped up in a pile out in the woods. But we had a bumper crop, right down to the last moments. We've got lots of unripe tomatoes.
Time for pickles. These are quite sour, as befits the genre. But they've got a sweet edge, complemented by ginger and red pepper flakes. They're utterly irresistible on burgers or tuna fish sandwiches. And when you polish off a jar, don't throw out the liquid! Use it to brine boneless chicken breasts or pork chops. An hour in the stuff will make the meat sweet and delicious in the skillet or even on the grill in the dead of winter.
You'll get four to six wide-mouthed pint-sized jars of pickles, depending on how much residual moisture is in the fruit.
- 4 to 4 1/2 pounds (1.8 to 2 kilos) green, unripe tomatoes
- 3/4 cup (90 grams) pickling lime
- 6 cup distilled white vinegar (5% acidity)
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoons celery seeds
- 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
- Up to 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced into rings
1. Slice and chunk up the tomatoes. Look at the openings to the canning jars. If you can make 1/4-inch thick rings to fit in those openings, do so. Or make some and chunk the rest. You can pack the jars as you choose later.
2. Stir 3 quarts (2 3/4 liters) water and the pickling lime in a large pot or bowl until the lime dissolves. Add the tomatoes and set aside at room temperature for at least 8 hours or overnight (up to 12 hours).
3. Drain the tomatoes in a colander set in the sink; clean the pot or the bowl. Put the tomatoes back in that pot or bowl; fill with cool water. Set aside to soak for 1 hour. Drain--then repeat this step two more times. You must. Don't even think of skipping it. Three times ina ll. You've got to leach the lime back out of the tomatoes so 1) they're acidic enough to can safely and 2) your stomach doesn't rebel against the lime.
4. Wash 6 wide-mouthed, pint-sized canning jars. Put them in a water-bath canner or a steam canner; bring the water to a boil and keep them hot until you're ready to use them.
5. Mix the vinegar, sugar, salt, ginger, celery seeds, mustard seeds, and red pepper flakes in a large, nonreactive (stainless steel) pot. Bring to a simmer over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Drain the tomatoes and add them to this mixture. Reduce the heat and simmer for 12 minutes, just until the tomatoes become somewhat opaque, lose their vibrant green color, and are a tad tender.
6. Meanwhile, bring a tea kettle or saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Put the rings and lids in a large bowl, cover with the boiling water, and set side.
7. Remove the (very) hot jars from the canner; place them upright on a towel or heat-safe surface. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the tomatoes into the jars, layering them with a few onion rings. Compact them without smooshing, add some more, then ladle the hot syrup into the jars, leaving about 1/2-inch headspace in each jar. Poke a long chopstick into the jars to remove any air bubbles, wipe the rims clean, and put on the lids, adjusting the ring so its still got the barest amount of give in the seal.
8. Return the jars to the canning pot and process for 10 minutes at a full boil or full steam. (If using a water-bath canner, the jars must be submerged by at least 1 inch of water.) Remove the jars and set on a towel or heat-safe surface to cool for at least 2 hours. Check that the lids have sealed by pressing the center and making sure it isn't bubbled up. If any jar hasn't sealed, refrigerate immediately. Set in a cool, dark place to store through the winter, for about 4 months. As with any canning recipe, there's distinct dangers of food poisoning or worse, dangers which have to be stated but not overstated. If there's any confusion or problem, check out the USDA's canning site here. Discard any jars that appear bubbled, frothy, unsealed, or discolored.