Do you have tomatoes you have picked off the vine before the first frost?  What are you  going to do with the very green ones?  The ones with no trace of pink appearing usually never turn red – but they make excellent refrigerator pickles!

pickled tomatoes in jars

I found this out during a storm in August.  My earth box tipped over and my dear husband collected and washed over 7 pounds of green cherry tomatoes.  We were headed out of town in two days – what to do with 7+ pounds of green cherry tomatoes??

Tomatoes on ground & green tomatoes in bowl

Our cucumber crop was a failure this year.   So instead of my second refrigerator being filled with refrigerator pickles, it had room.  So I did my research and started pickling.

I tried 3 recipes: a new bread and butter pickle recipe, a dill recipe and my usual pickle recipe.  The new bread and butter recipe I tried contained cloves and I found that their flavor was too overpowering as the pickles aged.  My cucumber pickle recipe was just fine.  But the dill ones were wonderful – reminiscent of naturally fermented pickles my mom and I enjoyed when I was growing up.

Are green tomatoes safe to eat?

Quick answer from the Laid Back Gardener “So, are green tomatoes poisonous? Yes, but only a slightly, not enough to do any harm in most cases.”

Realize that many  plants we eat contain toxic chemicals – mostly to deter pests and animals that would eat them.  But our bodies can safely handle them in the amounts we consume.

For a little more detail, tomatoes contain a family of compounds called alkaloids.  The  ones you may have heard of include solanine and nicotine. As tomatoes ripen, their alkaloid levels drop.  

For example you would have to eat a pound and a half of green tomatoes all at once to reach a lethal level.  For semi ripe tomatoes it is 22 pounds and for ripe tomatoes 64 pounds.

Having said that, a few people may develop some stomach distress from eating green tomatoes (some people even develop stomach distress from ripe tomatoes).  If you are one of those, do not eat unripe tomatoes!!

If you want a little more detail or references, check out The Sensitive Kitchen podcast, episode 055.

Are green tomatoes good for you?

Yes!

They contain about the same amount of vitamin C as ripe tomatoes.  They also contain fiber, beta carotene (plant precursor of vitamin A), calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin K.  They are also rich in antioxidants.  Ripe tomatoes will be better sources of these nutrients, but do not discount the fact that unripe tomatoes contain nutrients!

Ingredients

  • tomatoes – green tomatoes that are NOT turning red (keep the ones turning red on your counter and they will turn red!)  I used cherry tomatoes but any will work.  Green tomatoes have tough skin so it is important to cut them in half so the brine can be absorbed.  If you  are working with larger tomatoes, cut into wedges.
  • vinegar – either distilled or apple cider works well.  I do not use fermented vinegar with the mother because this vinegar is going to be boiled so the beneficial bacteria will be destroyed.  Use the cheaper stuff!
  • kosher salt
  • brine

Bread and butter (sweet & sour) brine

  • sugar
  • mustard seeds
  • celery seeds
  • sliced shallots (optional)

Dill Brine

  • dill seeds or dried dill weed
  • bay leaves
  • sliced garlic

Preparing your jars

Even though you are not storing your pickles at room temperature, you want the jars to be very clean.  Either 

  • run them through the dishwasher, or 
  • put them in the sink and pour boiling water over them. Then place them upside down in a dishrack or kitchen towel on the counter to drain for a few minutes.  Then flip the jars to let them air dry.

Preparing the shallots and garlic  (both are optional)

  • Peel and slice the garlic
  • Peel and slice the shallots.  
  • Separate the shallots into rings.  

sliced garlic on cutting board with knife still cutting last clove

Preparing the tomatoes

  • rinse well
  • pick over the tomatoes,  cutting out any bad spots.
  • slice the tomatoes in half
  • place halved tomatoes in jars, adding shallots, onions or garlic interspersed (if using)
  • Leave about an inch of space at the top of the jar so that the brine can cover the tomatoes

Prepare the brine

Place the vinegar, water, sugar (depending on which recipe), and spices into a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  If using sugar, stir frequently until sugar dissolves. 

Pour the brine over the  pickles.  Seal the jars.  Let cool for a couple of hours at room temperature and refrigerate.  You can start eating pickles in about 3 days, but the flavor will grow much more pronounced over the first couple of weeks.

Tips and Questions

How much brine?

It is always hard to know exactly how much brine to prepare.  The size of your jars and your tomatoes may vary. If you find yourself short you  have two options.  

  1. Make more brine. I usually do this.  It only takes a few minutes.  (The time consuming part of pickles is getting everything ready – not making the brine!)
  2. In a few days, the tomatoes will have shrunk enough for all the tomatoes to be submerged.  However you will need to make sure that the tomatoes on the top end up on the bottom for a few days.  If you choose this method, you will need to remove the tomatoes on the top into one bowl.  Then remove the rest of the tomatoes and put the first ones on the bottom and  replace the rest of the tomatoes.  Remember to sterilize your bowls (method above under preparing the jars) if you choose this method. 

Do I need to use canning jars?

No.  I use a mixture of canning jars and other jars from food products that we have washed and saved.  I do not use canning lids (or not always new lids) and because I am sterilizing them and storing in the refrigerator I have never had a problem.

How long do they last?

A long time.  Since you have sterilized the jars, boiled the vinegar solution and kept them in the refrigerator, the chance that anything will grow in them is remote.  Plus they are acidic so not much will grow. Obviously, if you see mold, etc discard.  I ate my cucumber pickles for an entire year from my refrigerator when we had a bumper crop.

Dill Weed or Dill Seed?

If you use dill weed instead of dill seed, it is a LOT of dill weed.  So you will need to strain out the dill weed before pouring it into jars.  I use a coffee filter inside a strainer to catch the dill weed.  

Which Spices?

Experiment with your brining spices.  I found out 

  • I do not like cloves in my bread and butter variety.  
  • Brown sugar is a waste.  White sugar is so much cheaper and looks better.

If you like it spicy add red pepper flakes or jalapeños.  Try turmeric or lots of garlic!  Let me know how they turn out!

Any other questions?

Drop me a line at cindy@foodsensitivitykitchen.com or ask in the comments below.  Happy pickling!

These pickles require just a  bit of preparation and then you can enjoy them for weeks to come.

Green tomato pickles on a clear plate on the counter

pickled tomatoes in jars

Refrigerator Pickled Green Tomatoes

Green tomatoes become tart, crisp pickles to be enjoyed with sandwiches, pizza and more!
No ratings yet
Cook Time 1 hr
Refrigeration Time 3 d
Course Condiment
Cuisine American

Ingredients
  

  • pounds green tomatoes washed cut in half if cherry tomatoes, cut in wedges if large tomatoes

Dill (Sour) Marinade*

  • cups apple cider vinegar or distilled vinegar
  • cups water
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons dill weed or dill seed
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic sliced

Bread & Butter Marinade (sweet & sour)*

  • 2 cups cider vinegar or distilled vinegar
  • ½ cup sugar**
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seed
  • ½ teaspoon celery seed
  • 1-2 shallots

Instructions
 

Prepare your jars

  • run jars and lids through the dishwasher OR
  • put them in the sink and pour boiling water over them. Then place them upside down in a dishrack or kitchen towel on the counter to drain for a few minutes.  Then flip the jars to let them air dry.

Prepare the vegetables

  • Peel and slice the garlic
  • Peel and slice the shallots. 
  • Separate the shallots into rings.  
  • Rinse the tomatoes well.
  • Pick over the tomatoes,  cutting out any bad spots.
  • For cherry tomatoes, slice the tomatoes in half. For larger tomatoes, cut into wedges.
  • Place cut tomatoes in prepared jars, adding shallots, onions or garlic interspersed (if using). Leave about an inch of space at the top of the jar so that the brine can cover the tomatoes

Preparing the brine ***

  • Place the vinegar, water, sugar (depending on which recipe), and spices into a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  If using sugar, stir frequently until sugar dissolves. 
  • Pour the brine over the pickles.  Seal the jars.
  • Let cool for a couple of hours at room temperature and refrigerate.
  • You can start eating pickles in about 3 days, but the flavor will grow much more pronounced over the first couple of weeks.

Notes

  • * Use the dill OR the bread and butter marinade.  To use both, you will need 5 pounds of tomatoes.
  • * 1/2 cup sugar will make fairly tart pickles.  You might want to add more sugar if you want sweeter pickles.  Or you can use 1 cup vinegar and 1 cup water.
  • *** It is always hard to know exactly how much brine to prepare.  See blog post for options.
Keyword dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, vegan
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