Fall is marked by two milestones here at the farm. The leaves start falling off the apricot trees and the end of the tomato crop is evident in the number of green tomatoes that are just hanging out on the vines and not ripening. This is normal and expected but there is no reason these greenies should go to waste.
Green tomatoes are too astringent to eat raw but are quite tasty when cooked, and in the south, you will find them in abundance battered and fried. If you get the chance to have them, do yourself a favor and don’t pass them up. Pickling is another method you can use to preserve the greenies, the vinegar cooks the tomatoes and the sugar you add offsets the bitterness natural in the sugar-deprived tomatoes, and of course from the vinegar.
3 lbs. green tomatoes, sliced about 1/4″ thick
1/2 cup kosher salt
2 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tbs whole mustard seeds
1/2 tsp celery seeds
2 tsp turmeric
2 yellow onions, sliced
2 green or red peppers, seeded and diced
The first step is the most important. To reduce the amount of liquid in the tomatoes, place them on a half baking sheet, or two, and liberally salt. Place the baking sheets in the refrigerator, uncovered, for 12-24 hours. Remove from refrigerator and drain in a colander, and it is best to let them sit in the colander for at least 30 minutes to allow as much liquid as possible to drain out.
In a medium or large saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, and turmeric. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Add onions, peppers, and tomatoes; with heat back to high, bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes.
At this point, you are ready to can the tomatoes using your preferred method. I sterilize pint jars and fill the hot jars with tomatoes and pickling liquid. Seal the jars and the combination of the hot on hot will lock the jars, and given the vinegar in this recipe you have little to worry about with spoilage.
It will take a few weeks for the flavors to combine and when they have achieved that peak you can enjoy these tomatoes as a relish, side, or straight out of the jar. It will be a good reminder of summer in the winter months!