Scrolling across the top of the screen like a slowly spreading poison, the headline “Severe Frost Warning” stops me in my tracks. Every gardener tempts fate near the end of a prolific growing season, pushing the elements to squeeze out the very last drops of warmth and sunshine. Sure, we’re firmly enmeshed in November now, but temperatures rebound and swing wildly for weeks to come. There could still be more produce to reap yet. I’m no gambler though, so the imminent threat of dewy ice crystals sinking their teeth into fragile leaves set off alarm bells. Save the tomato babies! Don’t let the poor things freeze to death!
Hastily plucking all the immature green orbs and thus severing them from their nurturing vines does present a new, obvious problem. Unripe tomatoes can be coaxed to soften and blush to a redder hue with a bit more time on the counter, but with my luck, the stubborn things will refuse to cooperate as nature intended. Half will likely remain just as hard and inhospitable as the day they were picked, while the other half will simply give up the fight early and rot.
Well, not this year. This time, embraced for the astringent, punchy fruits that they are, every last one will be eaten and devoured. Pickled and preserved, this year’s premature harvest will be cherished as if the timing was intentional.
Sticking largely to traditional additions, the goal was to infuse my green cherry tomatoes with a fresh, brightly flavored brine while still yielding a comfortingly familiar sour snack. My dad grew up enjoying larger pickled green tomatoes served on the relish tray all through childhood, either sliced or quartered, but always present no matter the season. His approval will be the ultimate test, so whether or not they pass muster is yet to be seen. Truthfully, I can’t speak to the end results yet, as fresh tomatoes will still need at least a week to attain pickled perfection, but this is a recipe that can’t wait to be shared. Quickly, before the first frost, gather up your own green tomatoes and let them shine with what they already have to offer. With a tiny bit of prep and planning, you’ll have delightful little salty, sour additions to cocktails (best Bloody Mary ever, anyone?), salads, appetizers, and everything in between.
Pickled Green Cherry Tomatoes
1 Pound Green (Unripe) Cherry Tomatoes
1/4 Pound Frozen Pearl Onions, Thawed
1 Teaspoon Whole Peppercorns
Approximately 1/4 Ounce Fresh Dill (A small bunch; a few springs; however many you like)
4 Large Cloves Garlic, Thinly Sliced
1 Cup Water
3/4 Cup White Vinegar
3/4 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt
Thoroughly wash and dry your tiny tomatoes and remove any stems. Set out four 1/2-pint glass jars and divide the pearl onions equally between them, along with the pepper corns and fresh dill. Add one clove of sliced garlic into the bottom of each, and finally distribute your tomatoes on top, filling the jars to the brim.
In a medium saucepan over moderate heat, combine the water, vinegar, lemon juice, and salt. The lemon juice will make your brine cloudy, but it tastes so much fresher and brighter than just straight vinegar- It’s a sacrifice worth making! Cook, stirring periodically, until the mixture comes to a full boil and the salt has completely dissolved. Pour the hot brine right into your packed jars without letting it cool, and immediately secure the lids.
Allow the jars to come to room temperature before moving them into the fridge for safe keeping. These are quick pickles, so they won’t last quite as long or have the same shelf life as traditionally canned pickles. Let the tomatoes cure for at least a week before enjoying, and keep for up to 4 months in the refrigerator.
Makes 4 Pints