As the tomato season ends and the chilly weather creeps back in to the hills, we found ourselves with baskets full of green tommies. Hanging from browning vines, vibrant bulbs of bright green begged to be picked and pickled. This recipe for Lovely Pickled Green Tomatoes is adapted from the Cornersmith cookbook and can be tweaked to include any brine flavours. Today I am making a robust curry brine and spiced fennel.
We started our vegetable garden in an attempt to get our three year-old to eat more vegetables. She had responded to the concept of “fairy” peas, peas tended by fairies and delivered to us overnight, and we thought we could expand that idea to the whole garden. So far, we have harvested fairy potatoes, fairy radishes and most recently fairy tomatoes while many other fairy vegetables lay in waiting beneath the soil. The Elf has so far refused to eat fairy potatoes, fairy radishes and most recently fairy tomatoes.
While the experiment has so far fallen short of our original goal, it has been a lovely success in other ways. Together we have dug and tilled garden beds, planted seeds and bulbs and finally picked and pulled the fruits of our labour from the earth. At three, the Elf can tell if a radish is ready to be harvested. She won’t eat it, but she knows when it’s ready. I’ve heard her squeal in excitement at creamy baby potatoes being pulled from the soil and watched as she carefully pulled delicate tomatoes from their vines.
While not exactly as planned, I know the eating of these vegetables will come in time; her time not mine. The one thing I have learned about my daughter is that she can’t be pushed, cajoled or coerced. When the Elf is ready, she will know and then let us know. It is her nature to work things out for herself. In the meantime, I continue to sneak vegetables in to her food when she isn’t looking. The garden is my new partner in crime.
Our garden has also encouraged us to value our food more. We’ve tended, fed and de-bugged each patch with love so it feels only right to use everything we’ve grown. The un-ripened green tomatoes could just have easily found their way to the compost or garbage but with such quantities it seemed only fitting to pickle and preserve them.
I am by no means a pickling expert. I am a pickle lover, not a pickle-pert. For this, I turned to Alex and James from the Cornersmith Cafe and Picklery. Using their 4:2:1 ratio of vinegar, water and sugar I set to creating two lovely pickled green tomato varieties. The first a robust and tangy curry pickle with apple cider vinegar and the second a spiced fennel variety with fennel seeds, fresh chilli and white vinegar.
The beauty of pickling, besides saving up all your lovely produce for a later day, is that the flavours you create are only limited by your imagination. From traditional clean pickling mixes to spicy Sichuan or curry pickles, your pickles are what you make them. I made these lovely pickled green tomatoes on the spicier side because that’s what we like. I chose apple cider vinegar in the curry brine for a sweeter note while I kept the spiced fennel pickles clean with white vinegar.
So now as we rotate our garden produce to more Winter fare we watch our pickle jars with same curiosity as we watched our tomato vines, waiting for signs of change. If anything, our garden has slowed us down a little and re-introduced a sense of wonder to our food. Where we once, shopped bought and discarded, we are planting, growing and preserving. Our row of lovely pickled green tomatoes sit a reminder of our growth. Pun intended.
Lovely Green Tomato Pickles
700 grams green tomatoes for every 1 L pickling jar
Curry Brine and Spices for 1L
- 340 ml 11.5 fl oz apple cider vinegar (with 5% or more acidity)
- 170 ml 5.75 fl oz water
- 85 ml sugar approx 1/3 AUS cup + 1 teaspoon or 3 oz + 1 teaspoon US
- .5 teaspoon curry powder
- .5 teaspoon cumin
- .25 all whole all spice
- fresh ginger root – 1.5 cm thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon coriander seedsSpiced Fennel Brine and Spices for 1L
- 340 ml 11.5 fl oz white vinegar (with 5% or more acidity)
- 170 ml water 5.75 fl oz
- 85 ml 1/3 AUS cup + 1 teaspoon or 3 oz + 1 teaspoon US raw caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon sliced or chopped fresh chilli
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- Slice the tomatoes in half (or quarters if larger) and lay out on a lined baking tray. Sprinkle with sea salt and cover with a clean cloth. Place in the fridge overnight to draw out excess moisture in the tomatoes.
- If you used a large amount of salt, rinse the next day and drain well.
- Pop your washed jars in the oven to sterilise
- Meanwhile, to prepare the brine, put the vinegar, water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a soft boil until the sugar is completely dissolved. If you are making the curry brine, add the curry powder to the brine while it is on the stove top to dissolve. If you rinsed the salt from the tomatoes, add a small pinch now.
- With super clean hands, place your pickling spices (excluding the curry powder which should already be in your brine) in your warm, sterilised pickling jars.
- Pack the tomatoes in to your jar - you want to pack as many as you can without squashing them. Aim to fill the jars to just below the rim.
- Carefully pour over the hot brine making sure the tomatoes are completely submerged. You may need to shuffle some of the tomatoes and add more but make sure there is around 1 cm "headspace" between the brine and the lid.
- Slide a chopstick around the jar to remove any air bubbles in the brine.
- Seal the jar with a sterilised lid.
- Heat processing prevents bacteria from growing within the jar and helps to create pressure within your jar. To heat process, place a folded tea towel in the bottom of a large, deep pot. Place the jar or jars in the pot on top of the cloth (make sure there is space between) and fill with water (as close to the same temperature as your jars as you can) to three-quarter full.
- Bring the water to a boil for 10-15 minutes for smaller jars (500ml and less) and 20 minutes for larger jars. The lids will convex during this process.
- Carefully, using either canning tongs or oven mitts, remove the jars and set on a tea towel on your counter overnight.
- If you are concerned that your jars didn't seal properly, store in a fridge to pickle for six weeks. The longer you allow the tomatoes to pickle the better. If the you are happy with your jar seals, store in a cool dark place to pickle for 6 weeks or more.