Fermented Green Tomatoes

When my family gathered at my grandparents for family dinner, the meals were enough to give me a life-long pursuit of delicious, made-from-scratch food. My favorites were the pickled fruits and vegetables that accompanied the meals, cucumbers, beets, watermelon rind, and (my mouth is watering) green tomatoes. My grandma pickled the traditional way with vinegar.

Since learning to ferment vegetables, pickling them without vinegar, I experimented and came up with the most delicious, fizzy recipe for Pickled Green Tomatoes. We opened a jar yesterday and were WOWed by the flavor and texture.

Since the tomatoes are fermented rather than pickled with vinegar and heat, the contents of the jar are full of lovely, little, living organisms, mostly lacto-bacteria. My daughter had the bright idea of viewing these little organisms under the microscope. Let me just say they are cute and wiggly and very tiny.

And let me also say, YUM!

This is the perfect time of year to pickle green tomatoes as the last tomatoes linger on the vine. The perfect tomatoes to use are still smallish and very green. If they have started to turn, they do not taste good pickled. They taste downright awful. I found this out last year. Bleck.

These tomatoes were prepared today. They are bright when first placed in the jar, but will soften in color as they ferment.

Pickled Green Tomatoes
Makes 1 quart

7-8 small green tomatoes, freshly picked from the vine
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
2 tablespoons fresh dill, snipped
(OR 2 tablespoons dried dill weed
OR 1 tablespoon dried dill weed and 1 tablespoon dill seed)
1 tablespoon sea salt, preferably Kosher
4 tablespoons whey (if not available, use and additional 1 tablespoon salt)
2-3 cloves garlic (do not mince or crush)
filtered water

Wash green tomatoes well and place in a quart-sized, wide-mouth mason jar. Add all the ingredients except the water to the jar, stuffing the garlic in the holes. Add enough water to fill jar, but leaving at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly. Shake to stir ingredients. Keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage. For best results, allow to ferment for at least 1 month. When the jar is opened, the liquid will fizz. This is a good thing!

This recipe was adapted from other recipes found in the Nourishing Traditions cookbook by Sally Fallon.

amanda ∞

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38 Responses

  1. What fun memories this evoked for me. My grandparents put up pickles that my cousins have continued to this day…I can almost taste the tart taste while writing this. Your tomatoes look delicious and I love that your daughters’ curiosity took her to her microcope!

  2. Sometime I may have to borrow your microscope to see what our kombucha looks like.

  3. Hi Amanda, love the site! Here in Michigan we have a local coney whose owner ferments green tomatoes and gives them to select customers. :) He puts jalapenos in the mix so it’s spicy and they always turn out fantastic! He gave me his recipe and I just cut the last 15 or so green tomatoes from my garden to start some myself. His recipe is:

    Quarter (or halve if small) green tomatoes and put in a large jar (1-2 gal)
    Cover with 1-2 cups salt, make sure salt touches all the tomatoes
    Leave 24 hours
    Boil water to fill jar with any extra ingredients. I’m adding sliced habaneros from my garden, mustard seed, dill, and garlic.
    Pour boiling water over tomatoes/salt, seal jar
    Shake
    Let sit for 2-4 weeks or until you can’t handle it anymore and cave in to opening

    Should be good!

    • If you boil the water, it kills the lacto-bacilli!

      • So right. Thanks for making that point. Don’t boil the water, folks, or the veggies will not ferment. I use room temperature filtered water. Let that good lacto bacteria live. It’s good for your digestive tract.

  4. I have been away tooooo long. Your drawings are wonderful and your green tomatoes sound to die for!

    Hope you are having a great Sunday Amanda.
    Hugs
    Patti

  5. Wowee! I loved picked anything. I’m goint to attempt making these. I have similar memories of my grandparents’ meals. They canned all kinds of fresh veggies and fruits. Everything always tasted better at their house…even a plain ole turkey sandwich tasted special!

  6. I am SO glad I found this recipe! I just picked the last of my tomatoes to save them from the frost and I hate to waste them. I also enjoy Nourishing Traditions, but was sad that there was no recipe for pickled green tomatoes. Thanks again, I will be trying this tomorrow!

  7. Is the lactic acid bacteria in cultured buttermilk a suitable source of bacteria since I don’t have any whey on hand?

    THanks!

    • No. The milk solids of the buttermilk will make the fermentation process go funky. If you have no whey, just add 1 tablespoon more salt. Mmmmm. Enjoy.

      amanda

  8. Hi Amanda! Thank you so much for this recipe! My son had told me about finding pickled green tomatoes in a store years ago,I had been looking for a long time to find them ,by chance I stumbled on to the Bubby`s web site which some how I found yours! One Month ago I pickled 8 pints and 2 quarts,and opened one up yesterday it is awesome although I don`t know exacrtly how they are suppose to taste,Anyway I really like them and they are very near the same taste as Bubby`s fermented pickles So I`m callin it a success.My question is how long after the 1month of fermenting can you store them? Thanks again! Gene

    • Gene, that’s a great question. I eat them so fast, I’ve never found out. With other fermented veggies I’ve made, the shelf life in the refrigerator is months, so I would assume that green tomatoes would be the same.
      Bubbies makes the best store brand fermented veggies. Love their stuff.
      amanda

  9. Thanks for the reply ,I sent a jar to a friend and they loved the tomatoes but,they called and wanted to know what causes the fizz? Of course I couldn`t answer the Question so i need the expert! Thanks Gene P.S. Sorry I used the word pickled in my previous post . :)

    • About that fizz, I don’t know the answer to that. I’m away from my nutritional library, but when I arrive home, I’ll look that up.
      What I do know is that fizz=delicious. :)

  10. [...] a month ago with my small and late yet gratifying balcony garden harvest of green tomatoes. I used this recipe cut in half due to my small amount of tomatoes, and it turned out great! The pickles are crispy, [...]

  11. Hi Amanda, I got out a quart jar of tomatoes and seen where some of the licquid had came out of the jar and ran down,the top was falt and there was no fizz,I ate tre of the cherry tomatoes and aint dead but am woundering if i should have any comcern about this,They tasted great,maybe better even the last jar,what are you thoughts on this? Thanks Gene,by the way your recipe is much better than bubbir`s hands down

    • I’ve not had that happen before, but if they taste great and you feel fine, they must be fine. I’ve not had luck with cherry tomatoes, but after hearing of your success, I may give them a shot again. Just a thought, are you leaving about an inch of space at the top of the jar? And I assume there was no fizz because the gas was able to escape the same way some of the liquid did. I ate my last green tomato about a week ago. Was a sad day knowing I’d have to wait until growing season again.

      amanda

      • Hi again Amanda! Not to many months till harvest! Every one in Wash State seemed to plant early and the gardens aren`t doing so good as it has been to cold ! My question is ,can you ferment pickles the same way you do the green tomatoes? ,I fermented pickles in a huge glass jar last year,they tasted great but buy water bathing them when canning you loose the crisp.So I was thinking maybe do it the same as green tomatoes? Take care ,and thanks – Gene

      • Yes to the pickles! And they are quite crisp, fizzy & delicious. I use the same recipe that I use for the green tomatoes. Just posted some pictures of kimchi making: http://amandajolley.com/?p=1317

        amanda amandajolley.com

  12. Sorry to hear you ate your last Tomato.That is sad! I still have three jars total.Thanks again for all the info ,can`t wait til next season ,and I`m sure i`ll have more questions.

  13. Thanks again ! I can`t wait to try the pickles –Gene Love your ideas

  14. I too remember having this type of fermented tomatoe that my father use to make but did not have the receipe. I will be using your receipe. Thank you for providing this information. Bethel Park PA

  15. Amanda,

    I have access to fresh goat whey but it has been pasteurized. I am thinking that it still has the lactic acid necessary to jump start fermentation even though it has been heated to remove organisims. Do you have any thoughts on this?

    On a side note, I read your bio and want to encourage you in your homeschooling adventure. We homeschooled and our (grown) child is everything we could have hoped for.

  16. doesn’t pasteurization kill lactic bacteria that produce lactic acid

  17. Sampled the tomato pickles I started on Tuesday on Saturday and they were still bright green in the middle and quite bitter, so I let them go another two days and omg they are so awesome.
    I did one jar to try but I am looking forward to time to pull the plants because every green tomato I have left is going to be a pickle.
    Thank you for posting this recipe.

  18. Sounds good. Love ferments, but under a miscroscope? Wiggly? Yech. My mom insists on canning her ferments, but that defeats the purpose, no? I prefer to keep them going in my fridge and make more as I go, but she does it all in one shot.

    • Thanks for the comment, Andrea. My mom prefers canning with heat as well, but that makes the science experiments much less exciting. :)

      amanda jolley amandajolley.com

  19. I just wanted to thank you for this post. I had my first successful garden this year and loads of green tomatoes to figure out what to do with. Every recipe I have at home calls for heat, but being a Nourishing Traditions fan, I definitely wanted to go lacto-fermented. Thanks to your post, I now have the go-ahead I needed. :-)

  20. Thank you for your post and recipes! How much sliced green chillies or jualapinos would you add to a quart? Also, I have large green tomatoes that have not turned. The second recipe said to just quarter them. Have you tried this recipe with large green tomatoes quartered?

    Thanks!

    • This recipe is purely experimental, so the quantity of chilies or jalapenos would be a guess. How hot do you like things?
      And yes, I have quartered larger green tomatoes and all was well.

  21. On another note, I haven’t found a pounder although I purchased a metal potato masher.

    1. Would this push the juices out good enough for kimchi?

    I made the Nourishing Traditions Latin American sauerkraut with my ninja for the meanwhile and let it push the liquid out:) It made more of a puree but it will hopefully make a nice relish.

    2. Im allergic to milk so I use the 1 Tbls extra salt. Have you tried just salt? I dont’ know if this work for tomatoes because they are a fruit?

  22. Hi there! I tried my green tomatoes and made 6 half gallon jars and 3 qt jars. I still have tomatoes left:)

    I added red pepper flakes to some of them to experiment. I read around on the internet and many sources use just salt for tomato salsas so I tried it with just salt. The above recipe from the farmer friend also used just salt so Im thinking it will be ok.

    Do your tomatoes/spices/garlic float too?

    Have you had any mold because its not under the brine?

    Culturesforhealth.com tell what to do if so.

    I just wondered if you had it happen with this recipe but you probably eat them too quickly with smaller batches to know.

    Also, your blog on Wendy is touching and I have been moved and praying for her and others still in her predicament.

    Thanks for sharing. God is awesome!! Wendy, keep coming closer to Him. Jesus gets sweeter as the days go by!

    • What an abundant load! yes, stuff floats and I have not experienced mold. And when I am lacking whey, I use extra salt and all is well.

      And my friend, Wendy, is doing wonderfully. :-)

  23. Hi, another question?
    I don’t know anyone else who may know this answer:)

    My half gallon jars started popping the lid, bending the metal, to release pressure. I thought this would cause the seal to not be stable later in the refrigeration process so i burped them twice and screwed the lids back on tight.

    Do you think this will cause the process to cease? I read to not let oxygen in the jar. I also read where a recipe said to burp jualaphinos two or three times while fermenting on the counter.

    Thanks, I know you are busy and understand if you don’t reply.

    • I’ve never had that happen. I ferment in wide mouth glass jars and leave about an inch of air space on the top. Many people ferment without a tight seal. Without experience, I can only guess that the ferment would be fine, but would use caution on first bite.

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