Pickled Green Tomatoes

Before my wedding in 2011, my mother-in-law gave me a copy of ‘The Home Cyclopedia of Practical Knowledge’. Printed in 1902, it’s binding has come loose and the sheaves of paper threaten to break from their stitching. Its edges are worn in such a way as to suggest that some young married woman used this copy regularly. It covers topics ranging from efficient bookkeeping to the English language during the last ten centuries to history of New Guinea to setting a room using attractive home decorations.

That fall, a combination of rapidly cooling weather and an abundant tomato crop had me scratching my head what to do with them all. Pickled fruits and vegetables are all the rage right now, so I looked through the book for some turn of the century ideas. Tucked in amongst all of this tremendous and often not very practical knowledge is a section on pickling. The recipes are not as you might expect, rather than an exact recipe, it’s more like a list of recommended ingredients that can be put together to create whatever the title might suggest. The recipe was a great place to start, but incredibly unhelpful. I searched for actually tested recipes and after some tweaking came up with this one. It produced a pale lime-straw colored pickled fruit and the smell is amazing.

4 pounds green tomatoes, chopped

2 small onion, chopped 

3 tablespoons pickling salt

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups vinegar (5% acidity)

1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds

1 1/2 teaspoons slivered ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons celery seeds

2 teaspoons peppercorns

1 1/2 cups water

4 half pint jars with new lids and bands

Sprinkle tomato and onion with pickling salt; let stand 6 hours. Drain and pat dry with paper towels; set aside.

Combine sugar and vinegar in a medium lidded stockpot; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves.

Place herbs, spices, and ginger on a 6-inch square of cheesecloth; tie with string. You may use a hinged tea ball instead of cheesecloth. Add spices, tomato, onion, and 1 1/2 cups water to vinegar mixture.

Bring to a boil, stirring twice; reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally for ten minutes. Remove and discard spices.

Pour the hot mixture into hot jars, filling to 1/2 inch from top. Remove air bubbles; wipe jar rims. Cover at once with dry lids and screw on the bands.

Process in a boiling water canning setup for 10 minutes.

Store in a cool, dry, dark location.

While considered not as nutritious as vine-ripened red tomatoes, green tomatoes do have many nutritional benefits. Adding sautéed green tomatoes to a green salad or as a side to grilled meat may help you consume more essential vitamins and minerals. Never eat raw green tomatoes because they have a toxin, a glycoalkaloid called alpha-tomatine, which can be poisonous.

Ripe red and unripe green tomatoes have similar amounts of vitamin C. One cup of green tomatoes supplies as much as 42 mg of this important vitamin. Consuming plenty of vitamin C can help you strengthen your immune system so your body is able to fight off colds, flu and other illnesses more easily. Vitamin C is also crucial for the health of your teeth, gums, bones and skin. Adding cooked green tomatoes to your diet is one way to increase your intake vitamin C.

The concentration of beta-carotene in green tomatoes is similar to that of red tomatoes. Beta-carotene is present in many fruits and vegetables and helps your body produce vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential because it helps protect the health of your eyes. Vitamin A also helps you produce healthy white blood cells and encourages proper cell division. A 1-cup serving of green tomatoes provides you with 623 mcg of beta-carotene.

A 1 cup serving of green tomatoes provides you with several additional nutrients as well, including 23 mg of calcium and 367 mg of potassium. Green tomatoes also contain protein, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin K.

Green tomatoes are also healthy source of fiber, which your intestinal and digestive systems rely on for good health. One cup of green tomatoes supplies about 2 g of dietary fiber. Fiber is present in most fruits, vegetables and whole grains, so increasing your intake of these foods, including cooked green tomatoes, can help you get enough in your diet. The Harvard School of Public Health reports that a diet that includes plenty of fiber may help you reduce your risk of several life-threatening conditions, including heart disease, colon cancer and Type 2 diabetes. Fiber also keeps your digestive system working well so you are less likely to experience constipation.

Did you pickle any fruits or vegetables this year?

Which ones were your favorite and why?

– Annie Levay-Krause