Preserving the Bounty: Late Green Tomatoes

| 11/15/2011 12:10:29 PM

A photo of Allan DouglasIt is mid-November and here in East Tennessee it’s getting cool. We’ve had a couple of light frosts at night, but the day-time temperatures still get up into the high 60’s and low 70’s, so much of the garden is still growing – it’s just not doing so as enthusiastically as it did earlier in the year. The weather guessers have issued a warning of our first real freeze: over-night temperatures in the mid 20’s. The carrots, onions, lettuce, spinach, chard, and herbs will be fine but the tomatoes and peppers will likely be ruined. So I go out and harvest all the green and semi-ripe tomatoes, sweet peppers and hot banana peppers. But what do I do with all these green tomatoes?

Last year we sliced, breaded and fried a batch of green tomatoes and very much enjoyed eating them fixed this way. This year the tomatoes are too small to slice and fry. Much of what I harvested are cherry tomatoes, the rest are red or yellow tomatoes that just did not get any larger than two to three inches in diameter. Others in this late crop that were able to ripen before I picked them tasted fine but did not get any larger. What I have now are still quite green. I decided to try making some green tomato relish.

Relish is a useful and tasty side dish or condiment that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. I found a recipe put out on the web by Linda McDaniel that calls for green tomatoes, red bell peppers, green bell peppers, onions, celery seed, mustard seed, salt, sugar and cider vinegar. I used Linda’s recipe as a starting point. I wanted to use  green tomatoesup what I have on hand. Her recipe called for 24 large green tomatoes. I didn’t have large tomatoes so I fudged it by guessing that this dish-full of small tomatoes approximated one large tomato. Using this, I determined that I had an equivalent of 8 large tomatoes to work with. Eight is 1/3 of 24, so I reduced the recipe accordingly.

She calls for 12 large onions. I like spicy relish, but didn’t want to go out and buy onions, so I used the hot banana peppers I do have. Some of those are ripe and have a nice red color. I’ll use the small bell peppers and sweet banana peppers as well. So the first step is to clean the peppers to remove the seeds and webbing.

  tomatoes, peppers, chopping, food processorThen I drop an assortment of tomatoes and peppers into the food processor and use the pulse button to chop them. I quickly learn that the peppers are tougher than the tomatoes. To chop the peppers to the size I want means almost pureeing the tomatoes. Adjust tactic: chop the tomatoes and peppers separately.

  green tomatoes, peppers, chopped, relish, draining, colanderThe chopping process is done in batches, then emptied into a colander. When all are chopped this colander will sit for an hour to let the excess liquid drain off. Being green, the tomatoes are fairly solid and do not contain very much liquid at all, but the semi-ripe tomatoes do.

Allan Douglas
11/25/2011 8:59:52 AM

I've tried that in the past, Mary, with moderate success. I tended to forget to unwrap them all and check them every couple of days, pulling out those that are getting close. When I forget, they rot. Any juice that leaks out of the newspaper spoils any that are in contact with them. This year they were all so small they would not have been worth the effort. Now that I'm more into "farmer mode" if we get larger late tomatoes next year I might do better at remembering that I have a box of tomatoes lucked away that need checking. Thanks for the comment - and the reminder.

Mary Carton
11/21/2011 10:48:03 AM

Our freeze in NW Alabama was on the same schedule as yours. If I have larger tomatoes I like to wrap them in newspapers & put in a box in a dark area. Checking them one a week or so and pull out those starting to ripen. We've had tomatoes through Jan a lot of years.

Allan Douglas
11/20/2011 4:26:00 PM

Thanks Dave! I've had fun with the water bath canning this year. Pressure cooker canning is a bit more scary - particularly because my first try resulted in being burned by an exploding jar of tomatoes. My own fault - I rushed the process and didn't let them cool before taking them from the canner. Lesson learned.

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