It can be challenging to grow many ripe tomatoes so far north. And when the meat chicken program turns out chickens that are so healthy that they can barely be contained… well, growing ripe tomatoes gets even harder. But green tomatoes… we do them REALLY well!
So we often find ourselves experimenting with recipes for green tomatoes. Jam, relish, vinegar pickles… you get the idea. Some get boxed to ripen off the plants, often giving us ripe tomatoes into December… but there are always more.
Every year I grow these tiny little tomatoes, called currant tomatoes, right off our front porch, just so all of the children can forage little tomatoes whenever they want. I don’t worry about them hurting the plant, and let them just dig around without permission at will for a snack (they don’t get that privilege with the rest of the garden). The toddlers, especially, just love climbing through their own tomato plants for tiny little golden gems about the size of a blueberry.
These tomatoes are prolific and they ripen early. But at the end of the season they still have tons of long clusters of tiny tomatoes that are green. They are so cute…. you just want to do SOMETHING with them.
And then a friend brought me a jar of her Fermented Green Tomato Pickles…. Oh so yummy…
I remember back a few years ago when I was first learning about the process of lacto-fermentation…. It was a new world. Something I had not really experienced before. I don’t think I actually ate the first 2 or 3 ferments I made…. They just languished in the fridge until I finally threw them away. The truth is, I was was scared of them.
It took a few years to really come to terms with the fact that fermenting vegetables was not only healthy… but it was actually one of the safest and healthiest preservation methods available to us homesteaders. Once I really understood the mechanics of lacto-fermenting I felt free to start experimenting with new veggies, spices and flavors… oh fun.
So now to turn these cute green tomatoes into fermented pickles employing the basic Homesteading principles of using what I grow or can buy bulk to make something I have in excess a super delicious AND healthy food!
The process is really simple.
First, make your brine. Stir ¼ cup salt into a quart of non-chlorinated water until dissolved. The total amount of brine you need will be dependant on the amount of fermented green tomatoes you are making… you can always make a little more if you need it.
Start with clean jars or crocks.
Add the spices you want. We put a few heads of fresh dill, 2 or 3 small cloves of garlic, 1/2tsp mustard seed and about 5 black peppercorns in each jar… a little red pepper could have gone nicely too.
Top with green tomatoes, either sliced, chopped or, if they are small, whole.
Pour brine over the top, tapping the jar lightly on the counter to release any air bubbles.
Weight the tomatoes under the level of the brine by using a cabbage or kale leaf. Alternately you could put a little fermenting airlock on your jar like this one…
Cover lightly…either using a canning lid that isn’t all the way screwed on or a paper towel or lightweight cloth rubber banded onto the jar top.
Leave out on the counter for 3-5 days, until you see light bubbling start in the jar. Taste and if soured to your liking transfer to refrigerator.
Eat as snacks, as a part of a peasant lunch with meat, fresh bread and cheese, or as a side dish with dinner.
You can use this basic recipe for any green tomatoes or even any other veggies that you think would taste good with these spices. Or change the spices…. Fermenting is much more forgiving than canning and as long as you use the same ratio of salt to water in your brine you can really play with the different seasonings.
Putting your ferments in the refrigerator(or cool root cellar) is just slowing down the fermentation process. Be sure to keep the veggies under the brine to avoid mold. When kept this way they are fine to eat as long as they are palatable… usually at least 2-3 months but often 6-12 months.