Thursday, August 04, 2011

pickled tomatoes

There in my fridge sat a large bowl full of green tomatoes, mostly pear, a few cherry. You know, the green tomatoes I wouldn't stop talking about last week. They called out to me every time I opened the refrigerator door, leading to feelings of guilt over wasting food I had grown with my own two hands. I made two batches of green salsa and still had leftovers. Always eager to try new recipes/kitchen skills, I decided to pickle them. I wasn't completely new to pickling. Last year, we made two jars of pickled banana pepper rings (with so many surplus banana peppers from the garden, we thought the jar number was going to be closer to seven or eight, but so go pickles). Then we promptly left them in Arkansas (accidentally) before they were ready to eat (but truth be told, they were a little on the mushy side because I wasn't sure when to stop boiling them during the pickle-making process).

Pickled green tomatoes. I first tried them last October from a farm stand about half an hour from here. My mom tells me they're available back home, but I just never noticed them before. I looked up recipes and found so many varieties. One that really piqued my interest was an Italian variety flavored with mint and basil. For yesterday's batch, I decided to go with a dill variety (because I grew dill this summer specifically for the purpose of pickling!), but I think that Italian recipe is next on my list.

Back to the dill, however. The past few weeks, stepping onto my back porch means getting a whiff of pickle-scented air. It is so peculiar. Never having grown or really cooked with dill before, I could not imagine how much the pickle derives its taste from the herb. I thought the other spices and of course the vinegar had a lot to do with it. It turns out dill alone is the perfect embodiment of the pickle. And so I used this recipe. I only made one quart of tomatoes this go around, so I didn't go all the way through the canning process and am just keeping them in the fridge. I hope to properly can a few things before summer ends, though!

First, I sterilized my jar, then tossed in all the seasonings. I did not have any hot peppers, so I altered that part of the recipe and substituted red pepper flakes. I also used two cloves of garlic, a few pinches of dill, four peppercorns, and 1/4 tsp homemade pickling spice.

The thing I liked about this process is that I did not have to boil the tomatoes. Like I said before, last year that's where I messed up the banana peppers. You want your pickles to be crispy. At this point, I added my thoroughly washed tomatoes to the jar on top of the spices. At the same time, I was boiling water, vinegar (5% acidity), and salt. I could not locate any pickling salt so I used Kosher. Don't use iodized salt or you will have some ugly pickles (still edible though).

After the vinegar mixture comes to a rolling boil, I poured it over the tomatoes. My recipe suggested adding 1 tsp olive oil to each jar for added flavor, so I did so. I left half an inch of room at the top of the jar.

Then I topped off my jar with a sterilized lid and let it cool on the counter for two hours.

Voila! Now I wait two weeks, then here's hoping I have some tasty pickles.

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