Green tomatoes, with their bright acidity and crisp texture, make excellent pickles. And just like ripe tomatoes, they pair beautifully with chilis and garlic. But what you may not know is that you can toss them in a jar with a little saltwater and ferment them too. Fermented green tomatoes are simple to make, and a lot easier than making pickles with vinegar.
What are fermented green tomatoes?
Fermented green tomatoes are unripe tomatoes that have been fermented in a slightly salty brine. Recipes often include additional ingredients, like chilies, garlic or spices, which add flavor to the tomatoes while they ferment.
Their pleasantly sour and slightly salty flavor tastes similar to traditional pickled green tomatoes. However, unlike vinegar-pickled tomatoes, fermented green tomatoes are rich in probiotics like sauerkraut, fermented carrots, kimchi and other fermented vegetables.
Tips for Fermenting Green Tomatoes
While making fermented vegetables and other probiotic foods can feel daunting, it's actually a fairly simple and straightforward process. As long as you can fill a jar and mix salt with water, you can make fermented vegetables.
You start first by whisking salt into warm water until it dissolves. Salt gives vegetables, like green tomatoes, flavor and it also helps keep them crisp while they ferment. Next, you'll fill your jar with green tomatoes, chilis, garlic and any other spices you like. After that, you fill the jar with saltwater, seal it and allow the tomatoes to ferment until they taste pleasant to you.
More Tips for Making Fermented Green Tomatoes
- Use a fermentation seal. Fermentation is, ideally, an anaerobic process. That means you want to keep oxygen out while allowing the CO2 that builds up during fermentation to escape. A quart-sized jar with a fermentation seal like this helps.
- Keep tomatoes under brine. Weighing down vegetables with a fermentation weight helps keep them under brine, and away from mold.
- Taste your tomatoes. Your tomatoes are ready when they taste good to you, and so try tasting them around 14 days and continue tasting them until they acquire a pleasant sourness that you like best.
- A light, white film may develop. Kahm yeast is a benign white film that you'll sometimes find on your ferments. You can spoon it off, and your tomatoes will be fine.
Fermentation Crocks and Jars
Vegetable fermentation is an anaerobic process. That means that beneficial bacteria benefit from an airtight environment, in which oxygen is kept out. However, beneficial bacteria responsible for fermenting your tomatoes will release carbon dioxide that can build up in an airtight container.
Using equipment designed for fermentation ensures that you create the optimal environment all those good bacteria, while also limiting chances of contamination by stray microbes like molds.
That means, you'll want to use either a fermentation crock with a water well or a jar equipped with a fermentation seal when you make fermented green tomatoes.
- Fermentation crocks are heavy, fairly expensive and you have to ferment a large volume. They're excellent cooks for people who love fermentation and eat many fermented foods.
- Jars with fermentation seals are a good choice for small batches of fermented vegetables, and relatively inexpensive.
- Jars without seals work too; however, you'll need to burp your jars regularly to allow the carbon dioxide that builds up to escape.
How to Serve Fermented Green Tomatoes
Most pickles and many fermented vegetables work well as an appetizer. The flavors of saltiness and sourness act as appetizers - kickstarting the digestive process. So serve them as part of a cruditée platter in advance of a meal.
In addition to serving fermented green tomatoes as an appetizer, you can also serve them as a side dish or condiment, too. You can chop them finely and serve them over broiled sausages, or slice them thinly and serve them on top of burgers.
Fermented Green Tomatoes Recipe
- 4 cups water
- 2 tablespoons finely ground real salt
- 1 ½ pounds green tomatoes quartered
- 4 medium hot peppers sliced ¼-inch thick
- 6 medium garlic cloves
- Warm 2 cups water in a small saucepan, and then whisk in the salt until it dissolves. Turn off the heat, and let cool to room temperature.
- Place the tomatoes into a jar, and then add the hot peppers and garlic. Pour the cooled brine over them, adding additional water to cover if necessary. Place a glass fermentation weight over the tomatoes, and seal the jar.
- Allow the tomatoes to ferment at least 14 days, and up to 6 weeks. Taste the tomatoes periodically, and when they're sour enough for your liking, transfer them to the fridge where they'll keep at least 6 months.
Once you get the hang of the basic recipe for fermented green tomatoes, you'll want to try making other versions, too. As long as you maintain the basic ratio of saltwater to vegetables, you can add just about any flavors you like.
Dill and garlic are excellent additions to just about any pickle recipe, and work as equally well with green tomatoes as they do with cucumbers in this sour pickle recipe.
Mustard, celery and dill seed are classic pickling spices that many cooks add to vinegar-pickled green tomatoes, and you can add them to your fermented version, too.
Turmeric and black pepper can give your tomatoes a gorgeous yellow-green color, and great flavor too,
Other Fermented Vegetable Recipes to Try
In addition to fermented green tomatoes, there's loads more fermented vegetable recipes that you can try. To make it easier, they all follow the same basic principle: toss vegetables and spices into a jar, cover with brine, seal and wait.
Fermented Okra is seasoned with dried chilies, garlic, and black mustard seeds.
Fermented Jalapeños are super easy to make, and you can even make hot sauce too.