the star fruit
In earlier posts I mentioned my recent trip to see JB’s family in California’s Bay Area. Though the reasons for my visit were many, it’s fair to say that the driving force behind my travels were these: Green Tomato Pickles. Every summer before the tomatoes ripen JB’s mom, Mrs. B, makes a batch or two, and this year she invited me to join her. Now, you’ve got to assume that I was thrilled to accept the invitation, and you’re right, I was. But fly across the country for food, you ask? Are a few sweet pickles worth all of that effort? When they come with quality time with loved ones, yes. Yes they are.
Thankfully, I have Mrs. B’s permission to reprint the famous pickle recipe here at H&O. Note that before this I had never pickled a thing in my life, which is to say, I am still no expert, so bear with me. It starts with tomatoes, the most beautiful, unripe, Prada-store-green-circa-1995-colored tomatoes I’ve ever seen. We had 45 of them, all from the Alemany Farmer’s Market:
One batch of Green Tomato Pickles requires the following ingredients:
1 gallon of green tomatoes (sliced thick)
6 large onions (sliced thin)
2 bell peppers (colors are nice; sliced semi-thick)
1/2 cup salt
5 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp celery seed
2 tsp mustard
4 cups apple cider vinegar
Hard goods: 10 mason jars with bands and new lids
In a large stock pot combine the sliced tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, and salt, then cover everything with ice (lots of it) and let sit for at least 3 hours…When 3 hours have passed and the ice is mostly melted, drain all of the liquid from the pot, and add the spices, cider vinegar, and sugar (if you’re like me, you’ll do so in a way that looks sort of pretty):
spiced, not stirred
Bring the cider vinegar to a boil, reduce the heat, and let simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently until the tomatoes are soft and completely submerged in the pickling juice. Don’t fret if it looks like you don’t have enough cider at first––the tomatoes and onions give off lots of liquid when they cook, and all will combine nicely in no time, trust me. You’ll know it’s ready when the tomatoes and onions are soft, but not mushy, and everything has turned a more golden shade of green (from the tumeric).
Now, the jarring. The most labor-intensive part of the process, I think. You will need 10 mason jars, and 10 new lids and bands, too (NOTE: jars and bands can be re-used, but you’ll need new lids to properly seal the jars). The lids and jars must be hot, so submerge them in simmering water on your stovetop, or, if you’re clever like Mrs. B, run the jars in the dishwasher to heat them up, and leave the lids in a smaller saucepan to simmer on the stove (maybe not energy-efficient, but time-and-space-efficient). You’ll also need a wide circumference funnel, a ladle, tongs, a kitchen towel and a butter knife.
Using the funnel to help, fill the hot jar with tomatoes and their juices. Next, run the butter knife along the inside of of the jar to help remove air bubbles that might be trapped inside. Wipe the rim of the jar clean and dry, and using the tongs, place a hot lid on top, then seal it with a twist-on band. In 15-20 minutes you should hear the jars POP, which means they’re sealed. Enjoy your green tomato pickles anytime between immediately and one year from the day.
dressed and ready
P.S. If you decorate your pickle jars––frankly, my favorite part of the process, and a great way to reuse scrap fabric and ribbon––they make great hostess and holiday gifts.