Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Southern Italian Jarred Green Tomatoes

Sept. 2009 052
Don’t let those green tomatoes waste away on the vines. Instead, try this unique way of preserving late season green tomatoes - a recipe that comes from the Calabrian side of my family.
This is one of those things you’re either gonna love or you’re gonna hate. There’s no middle ground. Those who like these (like my relatives), really, really like these and they’re always hoping to finagle a jar to take home when they visit.  They’re perfect as an accompaniment to sandwiches or just with a slice of crusty bread.  They’re chewy and redolent of fennel and garlic, so make sure you eat these in the company of others who are also eating them or you’ll be sitting alone quickly.
This recipe is something my Northern Italian mom learned to make from her Southern Italian mother-in-law.  My husband figured out how to make these after my mother died, and he’s taken up the mantle in continuing the tradition.
Outside of my extended family, I’ve never seen anything like these jarred tomatoes. They’re not pickled, since there’s no vinegar involved. You start with average size green tomatoes – really hard, really green tomatoes. No red allowed, not even a teensy spot of it.
more food 052 The first thing to do is cut out the top “eye” of the tomato and slice them about 3/8 to 1/2 inch inch thick. The smaller ones you can cut in half, the larger ones into thirds:more food 054Then liberally sprinkle regular table salt all over them. Don’t use kosher salt or they’ll be way too salty.more food 061
Really, really sprinkle on that salt:more food 060Now take a pottery crock and wash it well. Layer in the tomatoes, pieces of garlic and fennel seed. Keep doing this, layer upon layer until you’ve used up all your tomatoes. If you don’t have one of these crocks or are just making a small amount, you can use a ceramic soufflĂ© dish or something similar.   We do this outdoors because a lot of water will come spilling over the sides. When you’re all done, you’re going to cover it with large, heavy-duty plastic bags.
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Next you want to put something flat over the tomatoes, like a plate. My husband fashioned a piece of Lexan (it even has a thumb indentation for easier removal) to fit the ceramic crock perfectly. Press it down hard over the tomatoes:
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Then place something heavy over the plate to weigh down the tomatoes. Don’t use any metal here. Everything should be crockery or ceramic. We use a crockery jug and fill it with water. The more weight, the better.
more food 074Let this sit for at least two weeks, maybe longer, or until the tomatoes are flattened.  The water will spill over out the side as the heavy crock jug forces its weight on the tomatoes.  The idea is that the salt will draw the water out of the tomatoes and they will flatten considerably. You’ll be amazed at how much water comes out.
After a couple of weeks, you’re ready for the final step. Drain off the liquid in the crock and shake off the garlic and fennel from the tomatoes. Layer the tomatoes in clean mason jars, adding fresh slices of garlic, about a teaspoonful of fennel seeds and about a teaspoonful more of salt per mason jar. If you like things spicy, add slices of jalapeno pepper or other types of hot peppers. Pour a good quality olive oil into the jar, filling it to cover all the tomatoes.
July 2007 080 Close the lid tightly and store in the refrigerator. The olive oil will solidify. Before serving, remove from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. DO NOT use a pressurized canning system to seal the lids or you will ruin the consistency and texture of the tomatoes. You’ll wind up with soft, cooked tomatoes.



26 comments:

Elra said...

Wow, I am so impress. This green tomatoes sounds really delicious Linda!
Cheers,
elra

The Food Hunter said...

I've never had these before but now I know what to do with my green tomatoes. Thanks for sharing this technique.

Foodie with Little Thyme! said...

very cool! Can you send us a jar or two? PLEASE!
Oh and I love the picture with the two showed feet in it.

Proud Italian Cook said...

Wow! How timely! I have a million green tomatoes, they just stoped growing, and they're really, really green and hard. I was talking to a neighbor and she said to wrap them individually in newspaper and maybe by Thanksgiving they will turn red. I wish I had one of those crocks, I will be on the hunt! Can you describe the taste? Oh, love your slippers. :-)

Lucy said...

WOW! Lucky you w/all those green tomatoes!

This is something I do as well, but not this year.... my tomato plants had blight, the disease that hit the eastern states. Didn't even get to taste single one before we had to remove every tomato plant ;-(.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Very interesting Linda! My Calabrain in-laws never made these but do something similar with green olives. Believe it or not they did not care much for garlic (but I do!) so that might have something to do with it. I do not think that they had tomatoes that did not turn red in the Southern Italian climate. They use to make sun dried tomatoes from the small ones that were left at the end of the season.

In any event I'd like to try this with some of the tomatoes I have left and see if we are among the ones that like it! Thanks!

Barbara GF said...

What a beautiful operation! The Italians are geniuses in many ways. Thanks for sharing this and your wonderful photos. It takes me back to my childhood. :-)

Penny Wolf said...

I love your site! I was amazed at this posting about canning green tomatoes. My Mom always did but not with the fennel. I remember she sliced them a little thick because her only purpose for them was to be breaded and fried. She was of Irish lineage however there was always a family joke about her being Italian which I will not bore you with.I was delighted seeing this.

Anonymous said...

Do they have to be stored in the refrigerator or can they be stored in a dark basement?

Anonymous said...

Do they have to be stored in the refrigerator or can they be stored in a dark basement?

Ciao Chow Linda said...

to anonymous: I have never wanted to take the risk of leaving them on a shelf, so I always refrigerate them. the olive oil will congeal, but after you take it out, it turns back to liquid after a short time.

Jane said...

Ciao Chow Linda, thank you for this recipe. I'd like to know once you've put there in the crock and weighted down, where do you store them those few weeks? Basement? Fridge? Outside? Thanks so much.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I store them in the fridge because I'm worried about botulism. The olive oil congeals, but if you just leave it sit outside the fridge for a while, it goes back to liquid.

Jeff V. said...

Linda hi, I haven't had these in more than 30 years. remember liking them when i was a kid. What about 10 minuets in a water bath to seal the jars? Jeff Kodiak alaska.

Jeff V. said...

Linda hi, haven't had these in more than 30 years. I remember i liked them. Could you water bath them for ten minuets to seal jars without making them too soft? Jeff V. Kodiak Alaska

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Jeff - That might work if it doesn't soften the tomatoes too much. They're supposed to have a bit of "crunch" to them. If you do it, let me know.

Anonymous said...

Hi Linda...Thanks for reminding me how my Calabrian mom made these some 50 years ago. We devoured them in a flash! I recall that she also added a few small red hot peppers and also continued to fill the crock as more green tomatoes appeared on the vine. Your pictures had my mouth watering so the old crock has come out of storage... anxiously awaiting to be filled with these fabulous tomatoes. Mille Grazie!

Anonymous said...

Thank you thank you! I just tasted my first batch (added Aleppo pepper) and had to hold myself back from guzzling the whole jar!

So glad I didn't waste my green tomatoes making regular pickles.

You've now given me a reason to be grateful for our sometimes crummy summers here in the Pacific Northwest. No ripe tomatoes? Bring it on!

Anonymous said...

We used garlic, sliced onions, and oregano when we layered them in the jars- thanks for reminding me how good they are!

David said...

My wife's family is from Calabria and her uncle, who is now in his 90s has kept up this tradition. They layer green tomatoes and bell peppers to add a little flavor to the mix when they do theirs. Will be trying this as soon as I can find a crock as I have a five gallon pail of green tomatoes waiting to be sliced.

Anonymous said...

My family is from Calabria, to add a little flavor to this recipe we slice eggplant very thin and alternate it with layers of green tomatoes ,salting between layers.To jar we remove it from the crock and rinse it in cold water, then press it to remove any water, in a large bowl we add this with Canola oil and a little salt and crushed hot dryer peppers to taste, fill clean jars with it and top off with Canola oil to cover .Keep in your fruit cellar , stay for a least a year , if you don't eat it all .

gts said...

Thank you so much for this recipe! I've shared the tomatoes with several folks and they all love them. Wonderful! And WONDERFUL on pizza as "pepperoni"... Thanks again and Merry Christmas!

SF said...

Thanks for sharing this recipe! I remember this from my parents as well. The old crock on the cellar steps. I believe they added eggplant and banana peppers with the green tomatoes. My mouth is watering....

Anonymous said...

Where does the plastic bag come in to the process? The recipe was not clear. Blight has done in my plants and I have at least 75lbs of green tomatoes. Also have a 15 gal crock. Can't wait to try this!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Anonymous - The plastic bag comes in when you've layered the tomatoes with the salt and fennel and garlic. Place a large bag (I use a black plastic garbage bag) over the top to keep the bugs out.

Lane and Cheryl said...

This is a great idea; thanks. Did you know that this is the exact process to make sauerkraut--substitute cabbage for the tomatoes--except for the oil? I've done a few things with green tomatoes, but never this.