How to Make Pickled Green Tomatoes

I reached a point last week where I just got tired of looking at tomato plants, tired of pruning, harvesting, and battling septoria — just kind of over tomatoes this year. I left my favorite variieties growing, but I ripped out plenty of plants so i could make room for our fall crops.

Since I hate wasting food (and doubly hate wasting food that we put all of this effort into growing!) I harvested as many of the green tomatoes as I could. Several have ripened over the last week, and we’ve been eating them. The rest….I needed to figure out how to deal with.

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I love pickles. I just do. And I knew I’d heard of green tomato pickles before, so I looked it up and made a few batches. The good news: they’re delicious, and it is SO EASY.

Here’s how.

What You Need:
(for 3 quarts of green tomato pickles)

8 pounds of green tomatoes
4 cups of white vinegar
4 cups of water
4 tbsp. of kosher salt
dill seeds
whole black peppercorns
garlic
red pepper flakes

Jars — either 3 quart-sized jars or 6 pint-sized jars, as well we lids and rings (or any old jar you can find, if you’re going to make refrigerator pickles)
Hot water canner (if you’re planning on storing your pickles long term)
Jar lifter

Prepping Your Tomatoes

(Note: If you’re planning to process your pickles in a hot water canner, you should fill the canner with water, add your jars, and turn the water on to sterilize and warm your jars. Just leave the jars in the water until you’re ready to use them. Place the lids and rings in another pan with simmering – not boiling- water until you’re ready to use them.)

**One of the sites I found when I searched for green tomato pickles online was Garden Betty — who wrote a great post on the topic. I adapted the spices and quantities to work for me, but she has some great ideas for other spice blends.

Gather and wash 8 pounds of green tomatoes. After tasting the ones I made, I prefer cherry tomatoes because they seemed to stay firmer after processing, but any tomato will work.

Then, cut your tomatoes in half. If they’re larger, cut them into quarters.

Now, it’s time to make your brine. Add the vinegar, water, and salt to a pan, and bring it to a boil. Once it’s boiling, it’s time to start filling your jars.

Remove the jars from the boiling water canner with your jar tongs. Set them on a towel on your counter (so they don’t crack when they come into contact with the cool surface) and add the following to each jar:

  • 1 tsp. dill seeds
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 tsp (or more if you want them spicier) of red pepper flakes

Once your spices are in, start packing your tomatoes into the jars. Really, pack them in. Once they’re packed, add brine to fill the spaces between tomatoes. Use a chopstick or knife to go around the inside of the jar and remove any air bubbles, then fill with more brine if you need to. Leave 1/4 inch of headspace, then wipe the rims of your jars to clean up any brine, add your lids and tighten your rings.Pickled Green Tomatoes

Put your jars in your hot water canner, and cover with a lid. Once the water comes up to a boil, start your timer — you’ll be processing your pickles for fifteen minutes.

Once time is up, remove your jars — carefully — and place them on a towel on your counter. They’ll have to sit there for several hours to cool.

Making Refrigerator Pickled Green Tomatoes

You can also forget about the boiling water processing if you just want to make a few jars of pickles to be eaten within the next month or so. Prep your tomatoes, add your spices, tomatoes, and boiling brine to the jars, and place in the refrigerator. They’ll be ready to eat in about a week.

What to Do with Pickled Green Tomatoes

You can snack on them, of course. Or slice/dice them up to top a hamburger or hot dog. I also diced some of mine up and added them to chicken salad that I was making for sandwiches — really good.

Which is Better? Processed or Refrigerator?

I made mine both ways so I could see which version tasted better. At this point, I prefer the refrigerator method because they are crisper than the ones I processed in the boiling water bath. However, if you added something like “Pickle Crisp” to the jars, processed green tomato pickles would probably be much more crisp.

I hope you try these! They’re easy to make, and it’s always great when we can avoid wasting food from our gardens.

More About Preserving the Harvest:

How To Make Quick and Easy Refrigerator Dilly Beans

How to Make Dill Pickles

How to Make Easy Watermelon Rind Refrigerator Pickles

How to Make Chive Blossom Vinegar

How to Make Dill Pickles

We plant several cucumber varieties each year, at least half of which are pickling cucumbers. (An aside: a common source of confusion is what makes a pickling cucumber a pickling cucumber. The simple answer is that they have thinner, bumpier skin — the better to absorb all of that lovely brine!)

Dill pickles are actually really easy to make. Here’s how to do it!

I used this recipe because, as written, it’s good for making a small batch of pickles (three to four pints) but, even better — you can halve everything, and make just a jar or two if you don’t have that many cucumbers on hand.

First, you need to assemble your equipment:

 

pick1You need a boiling water canner (if you don’t have one, a stainless steel stockpot will do. A cotton dishtowel folded and laid inside the pot will help stabilize the jars), pint jars, rings, and new lids. **If you want to forego the boiling water processing all together, you can also make refrigerator pickles with this recipe. If you do that, you can use any clean jar you want, and you don’t have to worry about having a pot to process your jars in. I’ll explain more later.

Not necessary, but it’s also helpful to have jar tongs, a magnetic lid lifter, and a jar funnel.

Fill the big pot so that the surface of the water is two inches higher than the tops of your jars. Place jars and lids in the pot (you can do lids in a separate pot, or the same one as your jars — doesn’t matter) and bring the water to a boil to sterilize everything.

While your jars are sterilizing, it’s time to assemble your ingredients.

 

You’ll need:pick2

  • 2 cups of white vinegar
  • 2 cups of water (tap water is fine)
  • 2 tablespoons of salt (pickling or kosher — not iodized table salt)
  • 4 heads of fresh dill, or 4 tsp of dill seeds
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 8 to 10 cucumbers

In a saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, and salt, and heat over high. You want to bring this mixture to a boil. Meanwhile, start preparing your cukes. Cut a bit off of each end, if necessary, to ensure that the pickles will be about an inch shorter than your jar.

 

You can also cut them into halves or quarters if you want.

 

pick4Once your cucumbers are ready and your brine is boiling, it’s time to get ready to add everything to the jars. Remove the jars (carefully!) from the boiling water canner. Add a head of dill and a clove of garlic to each jar.

 

Then, start packing your cukes in. You want to jam them in pretty tightly. This keeps them from floating in the brine.pick6

 

As you can see, my nine cucumbers was only enough for three pints of pickles. That’s fine, it just means I’ll have some brine left over. Once you have them packed in, it’s time to pour the hot brine into the jars. Do this slowly, and use a jar funnel if that makes it easier for you. You want to fill the jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace at the top.

 

pick7Canning:

  1. Use a flat spatula, butter knife, or bamboo skewer, and press the cukes together to try to release any air bubbles trapped in your jar. If you find that the level of the brine has fallen after doing this, top it up to keep your 1/2 inch of headspace.
  2. Wipe the rims of your jars with a clean, damp cloth, set the lids on, and tighten the rings. You don’t have to go crazy tightening it — just finger-tight is good enough. The seal doesn’t come from the rings at all, but from the lid itself being vacuum sealed on as the contents of the jars cool after processing.
  3. Place your jars into your boiling water canner, and process for ten minutes. Lift them out, carefully, and set them on a counter to cool. They’ll be quite warm for a few hours yet.

You’ll start to hear the lids make popping sounds. This means they’re sealing properly. After about an hour, all of your lids should have sealed. If you press on them and they’re solid, they’ve sealed right. If the lid still pops up and down, you don’t have a good seal. You can either re-process the jar in boiling water, or just put them in the fridge and eat them within a month. Properly sealed jars will keep for a year.

 

If you want to do away with the boiling water processing all together, simply add the cukes, dill, and garlic to any jar, pour boiling brine over it, cover, and let it cool down to room temperature. Then put your pickles in the fridge and eat within a month.

pick8As you can see, it’s not difficult. And believe me, the flavor is definitely worth the effort!

 

Pickling Resources:

While this is a basic recipe I found online a few years ago (and it’s great!) my favorite book about pickling and canning right now is Homemade Living: Canning & Preserving with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Make Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Chutneys & More. It’s a beautiful book full of well-written recipes that definitely inspired me to try different things in my kitchen. Definitely worth a look.

As you can see from the post, I’m still using traditional canning lids. You may have heard that these types of lids are lined with BPA — this is a concern for many of us, myself included. I do have some reusable, BPA free lids on order, but they haven’t arrived yet. If you’re interested, here is a source that Julia from Snarky Vegan shared with me.

For more pickle-y goodness, please check out this post I wrote for Planet Green: 20 Pickle Recipes to Help You Preserve Summer’s Bounty.

More About Preserving the Harvest:

How To Make Quick and Easy Refrigerator Dilly Beans

How to Make Pickled Green Tomatoes

How to Make Easy Watermelon Rind Refrigerator Pickles

How to Make Chive Blossom Vinegar

Michigan Gardening To-Do List: August

Here’s a quick list of what needs to get done in your garden in August:

Herb/Vegetable Garden

  • Keep watering and weeding.
  • Harvest regularly to keep plants producing well.
  • Deadhead herbs such as basil regularly to keep them productive.
  • Check plants regularly for signs of pest or diseases.
  • At least once this month, feed your vegetable plants with a foliar feed of fish emulsion.
  • Plant transplants for fall crops, such as broccoli, cabbage, and kale.
  • Direct-sow quick-growing fall crops, such as mesclun, spinach, turnips, small carrots, radishes, and kale.

Annuals

  • Keep deadheading to keep plants looking their best.
  • Water regularly.
  • Fertilize once a week with a diluted (1/4 strength) solution of fish emulsion.
  • If summer annuals are looking tired, consider replacing them.

Perennials

  • Regular maintenance, such as staking and deadheading, will keep your perennials looking their best.
  • If perennials are overgrown, you can start digging and dividing them this month, and into autumn.

Bulbs

  • If you’re growing tall plants, such as dahlias, stake them as needed.

Trees and Shrubs

  • Prune any summer-blooming shrubs this month.
  • Trees and shrubs will need an inch of water per week to stay healthy, either from rain or from the hose.

Michigan Gardening To-Do List: July

Here’s a quick list of what needs to get done in your garden in July:

Herb/Vegetable Garden

  • Keep watering and weeding.
  • Harvest regularly to keep plants producing well.
  • Deadhead herbs such as basil regularly to keep them productive.
  • Check plants regularly for signs of pest or diseases.
  • At least once this month, feed your vegetable plants with a foliar feed of fish emulsion.
  • Start figuring out what you want to grow for your fall garden. Either start plants (such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, etc.) from seed now, or track down a good source of transplants.

Annuals

  • Keep deadheading to keep plants looking their best.
  • Water regularly.
  • Fertilize once a week with a diluted (1/4 strength) solution of fish emulsion.
  • You can still sow seeds for many annuals, such as zinnias and marigolds, all through July for fall color as well.

Perennials

  • Regular maintenance, such as staking and deadheading, will keep your perennials looking their best.
  • If you haven’t mulched your perennial beds already, this is a good time to do so. It will keep weeds down and reduce how much watering you’ll need to do.

Bulbs

  • If you’re growing tall plants, such as dahlias, stake them as needed.
  • If you still have foliage from spring bulbs (tulips, daffodils, etc.) in your garden, you can remove it once it turns brown.

Trees and Shrubs

  • Prune any spring-flowering shrubs this month.
  • Feed your shrubs with a granulated organic fertilizer, or topdress with some good compost.
  • Trees and shrubs will need an inch of water per week to stay healthy, either from rain or from the hose.
brandywine tomato

Three Types of Tomatoes, and How to Decide What You Should Grow

It’s easy to see why tomatoes have so many fans: not only are they delicious, but they are also visually stunning, with a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. But did you know that there are actually different types of tomatoes, and that some are better suited to certain types of dishes than others? The three basic types of tomatoes are slicers, paste tomatoes, and cherry-type tomatoes. Here’s what you need to know about each.

Slicers

These are the tomatoes that you eat, apple-style, right in the garden warmed from the summer sun. They are superior for slicing for sandwiches and burgers, or chopping into a salad. They tend to be juicier than paste tomatoes, and are therefore much better for fresh eating.

While people generally think of “beefsteak” type tomatoes when they think of slicers, that is only one type of slicer. Slicing tomatoes come in many different sizes and colors, not to mention flavors. Some wonderful slicers include:

Brandywine
Cherokee Purple
Kellogg’s Breakfast Tomato
Aunt Ruby’s German Green
Black Krim
Japanese Black Trifele
Pineapple
Persimmon
Uncle Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter

These tend to be indeterminate varieties, though some varieties, such as Sub-Arctic Plenty and Celebrity, are determinate, and therefore better suited to small gardens.

Paste Tomatoes

“Paste tomato” is somewhat of a misnomer, because there is so much more you can do with these types of tomatoes than make tomato paste or sauce! Besides the requisite sauces, you can make fresh salsas, ketchup, tomato juice and dried tomatoes. In general, these tomatoes are “fleshier” than slicers, with less juice and gel and thicker walls. Some of the most popular paste tomatoes are:

Roma
San Marzano
Polish Linguisa
Hungarian Italian
Italian Red Pear
Opalka
Principe Borghese

These are almost always determinate tomatoes, making it easy to harvest and sauce or can all at once.

Cherry-Type Tomatoes

One thing you can say for almost any cherry-type tomato (which includes not only cherry tomatoes, but currants, pear, and grape tomatoes)is that they are prolific. These tomatoes are excellent for eating raw in salads, or just popped into your mouth as a snack. Cherry tomatoes are usually indeterminate, and will produce lovely little snacks for you until the plants are killed by frost. Some favorite cherry-type tomatoes are:

Sungold
Chadwick Cherry
Yellow Pear
Juliet Grape
Red Currant
Super Sweet 100
Sweet Million
Tiny Tim

If you only choose one of each type of tomato, it’s safe to say you’ll be able to fill just about any tomato-related need you may have.

Pickled Watermelon Rind

How to Make Easy Watermelon Rind Refrigerator Pickles

 

This was one of those projects I approached with some trepidation. On one hand, the phrase “watermelon rind pickles” is not exactly yum-inducing. On the other hand….I have yet to meet a pickle I didn’t like.

And we can now add watermelon rind pickles to the “pickles I will devour with abandon” list.

We had about half of a decent-sized watermelon, which I cut up and we snacked on. And since hearing about watermelon rind pickles a few years ago, I feel a little guilty not putting those rinds to use. We do compost them, so it’s not like they go to waste, exactly. But if you can get one more edible use out of them, why not, right?

So I Googled, and I compared recipes, and I ultimately ended up making something of my own based on what I found, what sounded good, and what I had on hand (I wanted to make them NOW, without going to the grocery store.) Also, most of the recipes I came across had what seemed like ridiculous amounts of sugar. I wanted just a hint of sweetness, plenty of sour, and a bit of spicy kick. I’m pretty happy with the way they turned out!

Here’s the recipe I used (this made 2 quarts and 1 pint of pickles).

Watermelon Rind Refrigerator Pickles

  • Rinds from 1/2 of a large watermelon, prepared as described below
  • 4 cups vinegar (white, apple cider, or white wine would all be good — I used regular white distilled vinegar this time)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1/3 cup of kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (you could toss a stick or two into the brine, if you have sticks instead of ground)
  • 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

1. Prepare the rind. If you slice your watermelon into 1-inch slices, that will make prep easy. You want to end up with roughly one-inch chunks for your pickles. Try to leave at least 1/4 inch of the pink watermelon flesh on the rind — this adds nice flavor and really pretty color to your brine. You need to take off the outer green layer of rind. It was really easy to do this by using a regular vegetable peeler to remove the green parts. Do this, and you’re left with slices that look like this:

 

After you’ve got the slices peeled, then just cut them into roughly 1 to 1.5 inch cubes. TIP: The areas of the rind that have turned yellow are much tougher than the green areas. Avoid using this part, or, if you choose to use the yellow part of the rind, forego the vegetable peeler and use a paring knife instead; you’ll have to remove more of the rind to get down to the softer white part.

Set your cubes aside while you make your brine.

 

To make the brine, just add your vinegar, water, sugar and salt to a pan that will be large enough to accommodate the brine plus all of your watermelon rinds. Bring this to a boil, stirring regularly to help dissolve the sugar and salt.

Once the brine has reached a boil, add your watermelon rind and bring the mixture up to a boil again. Let it boil for about a minute, then remove it from the heat. Add your cinnamon and red pepper flakes, and let the mixture sit and cool for an hour or so.

Once the mixture is cool enough to handle safely, add the pickles to jars or other containers, adding enough of your brine to cover the pickles completely. Store them in the refrigerator. You can eat them as soon as they’re cool, if you want (and I did….) but they’re even better if the flavors are allowed to meld a bit overnight.

These pickles will keep for about a month. Please note that these are not pantry storage pickles — they need to be kept in the refrigerator and eaten within a fairly short amount of time.

These were SO good. And you can really mess with the recipe quite a bit. I wanted something fast, and many of the traditional recipes recommend making the brine, soaking the rind in it overnight, and then doing a hot water bath process so you can store them in the pantry. I may try that later on. You can also play quite a bit with the spices:

This is definitely a pickle you can tailor to your own tastes. Have fun with it!

More About Preserving the Harvest:

How To Make Quick and Easy Refrigerator Dilly Beans

How to Make Dill Pickles

How to Make Pickled Green Tomatoes

How to Make Chive Blossom Vinegar

Dog Vomit Mold

Wet Weather Can Lead to Unsightly Blooms

Dog Vomit Mold

Dog Vomit Mold in it’s tan phase

Wet spring/early summer weather can bring out some not so lovely growth in Michigan gardens. One of the most colorfully named of these is “dog vomit fungus” (scientifically speaking that would be Fuligo septicai).

The fungus typically appears as a bright yellow mass on mulch or other decaying wood in the garden. It eventually goes to a brown or tan phase that lasts for the rest of it’s life cycle.

While the fungus is unsightly, it will not harm your plants. It feeds solely on the already decaying matter in your garden beds. So if it shows up in an out of the way spot you can leave it alone if you’d like. But, it is somewhere more visible you might want to scoop it up.

For more information check out this pdf from the University of Arkansas.