Tomolives – Pickling Green Tomatoes


One of my favorite pickles of all times is the classic garlicy green tomato pickle found at old-fashioned delis. For those of you in New York, be glad you have these pickles available whenever you might want. For the rest of us, it’s difficult, at best, to find quality pickled green tomatoes.

That’s why I decided to make my own a few years ago. And what prompted me to make little green cherry tomato pickles last year, I really can’t say, but I’m glad I did. Tomolives are just wonderful in a martini, served as a casual appetizer, skewered with sharp cheese, or plucked from the jar while you stare into the depths of the refrigerator wondering what to have for lunch.

This is the second recipe I made for Linda Wertheimer when NPR came to visit the canning kitchen. These are refrigerator pickles, and will last for weeks, if not longer. I prefer these as refrigerator pickles as processing cooks the green tomato, and they lose some of the crispness.

If you aren’t growing tomatoes, and don’t have access to green ones, just ask at your farmer’s market for a quart of green cherry tomatoes or a 6-8 green tomatoes. The farmer will be delighted to bring them in for you.

I use this pickle recipe for jalapenos (omit the chile pepper), cauliflower, baby carrots, pearl onions – really any vegetable! In fact, if I’m going out of town and have some vegetables that will not last while I’m gone, I can put up a jar of pickles in about 20 minutes, so nothing goes to waste. Play with the spices – allspice, juniper, fennel, dill seed, caraway – all add different tastes to your pickles. Have fun.

Pickled Green Tomatoes
Adapted from David Lebovitz, Michael Ruhlman and Michael Symon’s pickle recipes
Makes four pints or two quarts of pickles

2 qt cherry tomatoes or about 6-8 full size tomatoes – firm and very green
2.5 c water
2.5 c white vinegar

3 T kosher salt
3 T sugar
4 garlic cloves, peeled
4 T coriander seed
4 T yellow mustard seed
4 T black peppercorns
4 bay leaves
4 small red chiles, optional

Bring water, vinegar, salt and sugar plus the garlic clove to boil in a non-reactive saucepan. Boil 5 minutes.
Poke a hole with a toothpick, knife blade or skewer in each of the cherry tomatoes.
Quarter the whole tomatoes.
Pack into sterilized jars.
Add 1 T each of the seeds, 1 bay leaf and one chile to each pint jar. Double the quantities if you are using quarts.
Pour the hot brine over the tomatoes. Cover and allow to cool.
Refrigerate for a week before sampling.

46 thoughts on “Tomolives – Pickling Green Tomatoes”

  1. You are a lifesaver – I have a patch of "volunteer" Sweet 100's that I am, frankly, tired of and plan to pickle those little green guys!

  2. Just found green tomatoes at the Old Oakland farmers' market . . . tomatoes are extremely difficult to grow here, in what nurseries describe as a "cool marine climate" (though blueberries do well), so I must rely on the farmers in warmer microclimates. I've been making green tomato chutney, and frying green tomatoes (classic style, as well just frying them plain, with no batter, in olive oil with a little salt) like mad since I first found the green tomatoes locally. This recipe is terrific. I cannot wait to try it! Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this with us!! ;o)

  3. I, too, love those fried green tomatoes! It's the acidic sharpness and the warm jelly that makes them so special. YUM. Let me know how the tomolives come out for you!

  4. Dear Mrs. Wheelbarrow,
    I heard you on NPR this morning, while driving to work. Here in Bozeman, MT, I woke to a slight glaze on the ground that threatened frost…unfortunately I have a TON of green (including cherry) tomatoes to use up. Was thrilled to get your recipe, which I'll try this weekend. Happy to have found your blog as well…
    Cheers!

  5. Thanks, Minor Catastrophes, Glad to help with your green tomato abundance. And so sorry to hear about frost, but I have to admit – in DC it's a million degrees and frost sounds good.

  6. Love the idea of pickling green tomatoes! For years I've salvaged green tomatoes at the end of summer by cooking them down with garlic and hot peppers, then putting through a food mill, packing into jars to can, and used it as a 'green sauce' for Mexican dishes.

    My brother mentioned one of his favorite meals is pickled green tomatoes and hot peppers served with black eyed peas and corn bread. Your recipe shared on NPR will work perfectly for this meal.

    Thanks!

  7. I was delighted with your idea of pickling green tomatoes. Here in Wyoming, we never get all the tomatoes we should before the frost and I am always so sad. I am anxious to try this – I think my neighbors will be getting some for Christmas. I think I should process them though- any ideas for keeping them crisp would be appreciated. I have to also add I was giggling as the various canning accoutrements were being described. Do you think there were some listeners who didn't know what jar rings looked like? That is sad if it is true!

  8. I heard the NPR story and just finished making these as my first canning experience.

    What do you use the salt and sugar for in the above recipe?

  9. Holy cow! Thanks for catching that. The salt & sugar are added to the water and vinegar. I've made the change above. Thank you!

  10. Kimby, I tried processing the tomolives and they were really mushy, not at all appealing.
    Last week, a very nice NPR listener got in touch with me to say the USDA does not recommend processing cherry tomatoes. So, put them in the fridge, where they will last a month or more.

  11. Hi–heard you on NPR the other day and so glad I did..I am new to canning and am a magnet to advice! re: the green tomatoes— after I make the recipe, can I place them in a freezable container and then freeze them after a weeks' time? or will they turn to mush? just have soooo many… thx

  12. gserf: I wouldn't freeze these. They'll lose all integrity. Also, the ground spices would cause the brine to become cloudy, so make sure you use seed!

  13. If you forgot the salt and sugar, drain off the brine, bring it back up to heat with the salt and sugar, then pour it over the tomatoes again. Can't hurt! :)

  14. Well done to NPR for highlighting your delectable hobby.

    Two Questions:

    How long will these keep on the shelf?

    What about a recipe for pickled peppers?

  15. These are refrigerator pickles and will last a month or more in the fridge. Use the same ratio for brining/pickling peppers!

  16. QUESTION: How do I process the pickled green tomatoes in this recipe so that I can store them in the pantry instead of the refrigerator?

    This recipe should carry a caution about food storage and percent acid for the vinegar.

    Background: I too learned about the recipe for pickled green tomatoes when I listened to morning edition (Public Broadcasting). I was very excited because . . . duh! . . . I have bushels of green tomatoes this year. When I looked up the recipe, it didn't include instructions for a water bath. The recipe stops with refrigeration. They sound like great Xmas gifts but . . . not if they must be refrigerated.

  17. This is a refrigerator pickle and is not made for processing. Processing cooks the little green tomatoes and makes them mushy.

  18. The tomolives I made from your recipe put me over the top with people in the neighborhood. I’ll bring a jar to the bartender he makes his own bitters and will appreciate!)

    Combining tomolive preparation with that of canning tomatoes in the kitchen last month also seemed to have cemented with my family that I am not a ‘clean as you go” cook. Fabulous recipes and many thanks.

    Roger

  19. When cleaning my fridge today, I discovered some pickled cherry tomatoes I put by a few years ago and somehow managed to forget. Are the still edible? I didn’t can them, and acn’t remember if I sterilized the jar. I don’t want to endanger anyone, but sincr they look so great, I am writing to see if they ma be used. ???

    Thanks.

  20. Sorry for the silly question. Ate you talking about actual green tomatoes or green tomatoes that haven’t ripened?

    1. Not silly at all! Actual non-ripened green tomatoes. It’s a great thing to do at the end of the season, when the frost will put an end to your tomatoes!

  21. Love this recipe! Did several batches last year. Used it for the first time this season today ….I couldn’t wait for end of the season! I did some large green tomatoes that I quartered and a separate batch of cucumbers. With the cukes I added a whole bunch of fresh dill.

    The only problem is now I don’t think I can wait a week…. ;)

  22. This will be new for me also. I’d like to know what would happen if I used jars that I found that have plastic lids.
    Thanks

  23. Hi, I can’t wait to make these, but I have a question, I have a mixed container of pickling spice, would I just use 2 Tbs per jar? Thanks!

  24. My wife and I just finished putting up our first batch of these. Now the waiting for a week! I will share with you and your readers the end result.

      1. They came out great! Next time, I will use thai peppers rather than the longer Italian type that I had on hand. Despite having to use ground coriander, the brine is “gin clear.” I gave a jar to a friend who promptly used his in Sunday Morning Bloody Marys. My wife and I have enjoyed ours in vodka martinis! Outstanding!!

  25. It says to quarter the tomatoes? In the picture it looks like the tomatoes are left whole in the jar? Am I supposed to cut them first?

    1. Hi Krista, The directions to quarter the tomatoes is for WHOLE tomatoes. If you are working with cherry tomatoes, leave them whole, but poke a hole in them with a toothpick or skewer.

  26. Hello Mrs Wheelbarrow,

    It is the week of November 4-10. I want to process my green cherry tomatoes as Tomolives. Now, to be certain, if I process them this week, can I give them as Christmas gifts? Is that too long to hang onto the Tomolives in my fridge?
    Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like botulism.

  27. Can I also use 1 sweet red pepper slivered, 1 T. dill seed and 1/3 C. onion snow*?

    (Onion snow is my product — I clean, peel and freeze a whole or 1/2 onion, then use a fine grater to make mounds of onion snow by grating it. This works with kids who will not eat anything with onion chunks or pieces in it. I wasn’t sure it if could be used once frozen – - Maybe if I cooked it in the brine?)
    and
    I MUST use AC vinegar, as I am allergic to distilled vinegar.

    Thanks for this fantastic recipe. I have many green tomatoes given to me by neighbors and one can only eat so many fried green tomatoes.

    PS:
    Please add me to your newsletter/mailing list!

  28. Well, I tried your recipe last week and tried them yesterday with BLTs. Talk about wonderful. The green cherry tomatoes just burst in your mouth with this fantastic freshness. I made something like this before, but processed them and they were mushy. this one is great! Thanks so much.

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