Green Tomato Pickling: Why It Rocks and How to Do It

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It’s always a sad day when that temperamental wind races through your garden and dislodges unripe tomatoes from the vine. Not to worry! You can turn those tomatoes into yummy pickles with just a few simple steps. Here are our favorite ways to enjoy green tomatoes and give you a delightful snack throughout the winter months. 

Remember, the best candidates for pickling are those smaller tomatoes that have fallen off the vine before they could ripen or the end of season tomatoes that won’t have a chance to turn red before the first fall frost. Tomatoes that are green when ripe can be enjoyed fresh in a salad, on a sandwich or made into a sauce. Unripe cherry tomatoes and other firm tomatoes work best since large, juicy tomatoes will turn into an unappetizing mush if pickled. 

What you’ll need

This basic recipe is great for achieving that traditional “dill pickle” flavor while using up all of your unripe tomatoes. 

What you’ll need

  • 5 pounds small, firm green tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup canning salt
  • 3 1/2 cups vinegar (apple cider vinegar or white vinegar)
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 6 or 7 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup dill seeds (if you have fresh dill, use about 6 heads)
  • 6 or 7 bay leaves
  • Canning jars and lids
  • Canning pot water bath

What to do:

  1. Fill the canning pot with water, cover, and place on stove to begin heating the water.
  2. Wash and slice tomatoes into halves or quarters depending on the size.
  3. Clean jars and lids with hot water and soap.
  4. Place water, vinegar, and salt in a large saucepot over medium-high heat and bring to a rolling boil.
  5. Scoop tomato pieces into jars, leave about ¼ inch of headspace for expansion.
  6. Add 1 clove of garlic, 1 bay leaf, and 2 teaspoons of dill seeds (or one head) to each jar.
  7. Pour boiling liquid over tomatoes, maintaining that ¼ inch of headspace.
  8. Remove air bubbles by sticking a chopstick or bubbling tool into the jar.
  9. Wipe rims of the jars and lids with a paper towel and attach lids tightly.
  10. Once the water in the canning bath is boiling, lower tomato jars into the pot. Make sure the water is covering the cans by at least 2 inches and keep them into the boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
  11. Remove jars from the pot (a jar lifter is helpful for this and the previous step) and set out on the counter at room temperature.
  12. Do not move jars or adjust the lids for at least 24 hours while the lids are sealing.
  13. Wait about 2 weeks before enjoying so that the vinegar and dill will have time to pickle the tomatoes.
  14. Keep sealed jars in a cool, dark place for up to 2 years.

Variation pickle recipes

Once you have mastered the basic idea of tomato pickling, it’s time to up your game and experiment with different flavors and spices. Here are a few ways to make your pickles a serious treat. 

What you’ll need

Brine for all recipes:

  • 1 pound green slicing tomatoes (or 1 1/2 pounds green cherry tomatoes)
  • 1 cup white distilled vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Basic pickles with a twist

Add these ingredients to the staples above for an exciting twist on a classic flavor.

  • 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp celery seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp whole allspice

Garlic tomato pickles

No vampires would dare come near you with these garlicky pickles in your fridge. 

  • 2 tsp dill seeds
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled

Red fire spicy pickles

Adjust the seasonings as needed to give these pickles that satisfying burn.

  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
  • 1 tsp brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

The process for making these spiced pickles is pretty much the same as with the traditional pickles. However, you only need to heat the brine ingredients on the stove. Add the tomatoes and the spices to a clean hot jar and pour the hot brine over the tomatoes. Follow the instructions for canning listed above. 

-Taylor Ramsey

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