Despite the shorter days and colder weather coming on, I’ve still had loads of lovely green tomatoes on my vines. I didn’t want them to go to waste, so I’ve been picking them and bringing them inside to ripen.
I’ve heard of other gardeners pulling their vines completely, cleaning the dirt off the roots, and then hanging them upside-down to ripen any remaining any late-season tomatoes. But I don’t have the space—or the patience—for that particular practice.
Instead, I decided to pick every last green tomato I had, pickle them, and can them. I figure jars of pickled green tomatoes might make an unusual addition to gift baskets for the holidays, and I can also keep a few jars for myself.
If you, likewise, are staring at a sizable pile of green tomatoes, you just might want to consider pickling yours, too.
What You’ll Need
To get started, you’ll need at least five pounds of green tomatoes. You’ll also need :
- clean, sterilized canning jars
- new canning jar lids and corresponding rings
- boiling water bath canner
- a jar lifter.
I happened to have some quick process kosher dill pickle mix on hand, and, although these are generally intended for use with run-of-the-mill cucumbers, it works just as well with green tomatoes. My 6 1/2-ounce pouch of dill pickle mix would make seven quarts of pickles—provided I had nine to 11 pounds of produce.
Rather not rely on a pre-packaged pickling mix? My ancient copy of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Home Canning, Freezing and Dehydration includes the following recipe for “Dilled Green Tomatoes” which calls for:
- 5 pounds green tomatoes
- 1/2 cup pickling salt
- 3 1/2 cups white distilled vinegar
- 3 1/2 cups water
- six or seven garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup dill seeds or six or seven sprigs of fresh fill
- six or seven bay leaves
Whether you use a prepackaged mix or the classic Ball recipe, the steps you’ll take next are largely the same. As you sterilize your canning jars and lids, rinse and slice your tomatoes and set aside. (Now’s also the time to peel garlic cloves, set aside bay leaves, and rinse dill sprigs or measure out your dill seed.)
In a non-aluminum pan, add pickling salt, vinegar and water and bring to a low boil, stirring constantly until the salt has dissolved into the liquid. Next, lift out the hot, sterilized canning jars, empty out any water inside, then loosely pack with your sliced tomatoes. Leave 1/2 inch of headspace at the top. If you’ve chosen to include garlic and other extras, add one clove, one bay leaf and a spring of dill (or 2 teaspoons of dill seeds) to each jar.
Now ladle just enough of the hot, pickling liquid into each canning jar to cover the tomatoes. Again, be sure to leave 1/2 inch of headspace free at the top.
Once you’ve packed your jars, carefully wipe the lips of each with a clean, dry cloth. (This removes any debris that might otherwise get in the way of a tight seal between the top of the jar and the metal canning lid.) Seat a new, sterilized canning lid on top of each jar and then secure with a canning ring.
With your jar lifter, place jars into a boiling canning bath. If you live at an altitude of less than 1,000 feet, you only need to boil your packed jars from 10 to 15 minutes—10 minutes for pint-sized jars and 15 minutes for packed quarts. For altitudes of 1,000 feet or more, add one minute of additional processing time per 1,000 feet of altitude.
Not sure which altitude figures to use? You can determine your elevation with these online tools from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
Once time’s up, remove jars with your jar lifter and set aside to cool. In time, you might hear the characteristic “thunk” sound that canning lids sometimes make as they completely seal. Upon inspection, the center of a properly sealed jar should be concave.
If it’s still popped up or if you can press on the lid’s center and feel it springing beneath your fingertip, then that jar is not properly sealed. Refrigerate any improperly sealed jars, and eat these pickled green tomatoes within the next week or so.
As for jars that are properly sealed, store them out of direct sunlight at temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees F and plan to use them up within the year.