Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Chelsea, it’s almost November, shouldn’t you have shared this recipe back in August when summer was ending and people’s gardens were overrun with unripe tomatoes?
I hear what you’re saying, and yet, at least in Massachusetts, we have been experiencing late-summer weather for the past two months straight. Sure, the leaves are changing and a few nights have been a little chilly, but overall it feels more like August than October here. It’s still in the low 70’s most days, and when I happened to walk past the community garden last week, I found it was overrun with wilting tomato plants weighed down by dozens of small green tomatoes. There hasn’t been enough rain or consistent warmth for them to ripen, but technically speaking we could get a frost any day now, so if they don’t get used up, the green tomatoes will just rot on the vine without ever ripening.
The garden was planted by kids in the summer camp program, and no one has touched it since camp ended, a solid two months ago. I stopped and loaded up on kale, heaps of basil, thyme, and sage, one particularly massive cucumber, and as many green tomatoes as my bag could hold, then came home with a plan to freeze most of the herbs and greens, and pickle all of the crunchy, tart little tomatoes.
And it’s not just my abandoned community garden that’s overrun with green tomatoes- when I walk through my neighborhood, everyone’s tomato plants are still growing, completely filled with green tomatoes. I think most people are waiting, hoping that the warm weather holds out and there’s a bonus late-fall crop of juicy ripe tomatoes, but just in case, I’m sharing this recipe to get us all through the realization that we have dozens of green tomatoes on the vine that will never ripen.
I’ve heard you can use your hard, crunchy leftover green tomatoes in place of apples in sweet recipes, but I feel like that might be pushing it with my friends and family. I mean, I could show up to Thanksgiving with a green tomato pie, but I’d much rather pickle them and use them in sandwiches and salads and maybe, just maybe, put them out with the olives and pickles we traditionally stick on the table for snacking on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
To pickle green tomatoes, all you need is vinegar, water, salt, and a little bit of sugar. Well, and the tomatoes. I also like to throw in some garlic and chili flakes to my jars, for a little extra flavor and heat, and to balance out the slight sweetness from the sugar.
We’re making quick pickles, so there’s no canning involved- just heat the liquid, pour it over the tomatoes, and stick them in the fridge for up to a month. If you can wait, it’s best to wait to eat them until 2-3 days after making them, just to give the vinegar and spices some time to get acquainted with the tomatoes.
The end result is a crunchy, slightly spicy, perfectly tangy pickle. Cut into thin slices, they’re the perfect accompaniment to your favorite sandwich or a cheese board. When the tomatoes are quartered, they’re a nice snack to eat out of the jar or throw onto salads. Since I couldn’t decide between the two shapes, I just did both; half of the tomatoes as slices, half of them quartered.
If you’re like me – that is, living in a season that hasn’t gotten the memo about cooling down, surrounded by tomato plants that just keep growing but will never ripen- grab yourself some vinegar and a few mason jars (I like these ones, though any shape/size will work) and start pickling!
If you make this recipe, let me know how it turns out! Leave a comment here, or take a picture of your pickled green tomatoes and share it with me on Instagram!
- 8-10 medium-sized green (unripe) tomatoes*
- 2 cups vinegar
- 2 cups water
- 2 Tablespoons salt
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
- 1. Put the water, vinegar, salt, and sugar into a small saucepot over high heat, and bring to a boil. As soon as it boils, turn off the heat and let the liquid cool for 3-5 minutes until hot, but no longer boiling.
- 2. Cut tomatoes (into either thin slices or wedges) and pack them tightly into Mason Jars. I like to use the 24-oz wide mouth jars, but any size/shape will work. Depending on the size of your tomatoes and the size of your jars, you might fill 2-4 jars. There should be plenty of liquid in this recipe to cover them, either way.
- 3. Peel and thinly slice the garlic cloves, and distribute them evenly between your jars of tomatoes. Sprinkle in some of the chili flakes to each jar as well.
- 4. When liquid has finished boiling and cooled slightly, carefully pour it over the tomatoes, filling the jars to the top. Discard any extra pickling liquid.
- 5. Cover the jars, and let cool to room temperature. When cool, move the jars of pickles to the fridge, where they can be stored for up to a month. The flavor of the tomatoes is more pickle-y if you give them 2-3 days to sit in the fridge before opening a jar to taste them.
- *Any size tomato can be pickled. I only had about 4-5 medium sized ones and a few dozen unripe cherry tomatoes, which all turned into tasty pickles. There was plenty of pickling liquid to fill 2 24-oz mason jars, with enough extra to likely fill a third, if I had enough tomatoes to do so.