Forlorn, hopelessly hanging on, budding too late to reach their full glory, tarty green tomatoes are the latecomers of summer. Packed with promise, they usually wind up on the compost heap of autumn. This year our rainy Ontario summer will produce a bountiful harvest of firm, green, blemished tomatoes. All is not lost.
You can preserve their potential in glistening olive oil, sweet oregano, salt, garlic and a bit of heat. You can store them in your refrigerator for weeks or you can seal their goodness in a jar for indulgence all year round. Summer’s latecomers are not too late for preserves. Eat them as an antipasto or add them as a topping to hotdogs, burgers, sandwiches and pizza.
You will need
a food processor
a mandolin or sharp knife
a strainer or colander
a heavy weight like a big can of oil or a bowl full of water
jars (250 ml. or smaller)
Pick the tomatoes, lay them out on the table and select the best. Wash, dry and trim off whatever you don’t want to eat.
The tomato is 95 percent water. Salting it overnight draws out the liquid and helps to intensify its flavour, and green tomatoes need all the help they can get. Cut the tomatoes into thin slices; a food processor does the job. Layer the slices in a bowl and drizzle each layer with salt. Get in with your hands and mix them up, making sure the tomato slices are evenly coated. Place a weight on top of the salted tomatoes. Let stand for 12 hours or more. Water will ooze out of the tomato slices.
Transfer the tomatoes to the strainer and discard the liquid in the bowl. Set the strainer over the bowl, and again, place a weight on top of the tomatoes for another 12 hours. This will allow any remaining water to drain from the tomato slices.
Discard the water in the bowl and transfer the tomato slices from the strainer into the bowl. Loosen up the squished tomato slices and season to taste.
The seasoning depends on the potency of your ingredients and your own preference. The goal is to find the balance between tempering the tartness of the green tomatoes and enhancing their capacity for flavour. You have star ingredients to work with, but a loose hand with oregano will subdue the tomatoes with sweetness and overly spicy peppers will overwhelm.
For one very large bowl of sliced tomatoes, you will need approximately one large garlic bulb finely chopped or crushed; two hot peppers, thinly sliced, and as much oregano as suits you. Start with less and taste as you go along. Mix it all up. If you like, add more salt.
Fill the jars with your seasoned green tomato slices to the halfway point and cover with olive oil. Allow to settle for 10 minutes. Add more tomato slices and oil. Pack them in there nice and snug. Jars should be filled to the neck and covered with oil. Let stand for half an hour to allow contents to settle and add more oil if needed. Wipe the edges of the jar clean and screw on the lids. Store in the fridge or can a batch for a savoury winter treat.
Elizabeth Cinello is a Toronto based writer and performer. She is a regular contributor to the online magazine, Living Toronto Journal.