Fermented Tomatoes

October is generally a time when the days start getting shorter, the nights get cooler, and we experience the first frost here in Northern Illinois. This fall, though, the weather hasn’t really seem to get the message that it’s dark by 6:30 p.m. and today as I drove by the bank and saw that the temperature was 86 degrees, it all felt very strange. I think that the geese agreed with me, as I saw flocks of them flying north instead of south. They too weren’t exactly sure what to do.

This warmer weather, though, has led to an extended tomato crop in my garden, and I’m still pulling fresh red tomatoes in for us to eat. While canning can lead to a heated up kitchen (which is not something that I particularly enjoy at 86 degrees F), fermenting your tomatoes not only saves you work, but it also adds beneficial probiotics to your product that heat canning doesn’t allow.

So here’s a quick and simple recipe that I use for fermenting “uncanned” tomatoes. You can vary it to taste, adding different herbs or vegetables to it.

Fermented Uncanned Tomatoes

1 quart jar of tomatoes

Organic garlic

Fresh basil

1 Tbs. sea salt

  1. Slice your fresh tomatoes in large chunks (not diced) and place them in a large mixing bowl (it is best to use stainless steel or glass). Add some fresh loosely chopped basil and cloves of garlic (sliced in half) as desired. I generally add maybe 4-5 leaves of basil and several cloves of garlic per quart jar.
  2. Add sea salt to your vegetables and stir gently to mix. Pour all ingredients into a glass quart jar and top with a tight lid. There should be enough liquid from the tomatoes to cover everything, but if all the tomatoes are not under liquid, add enough water to make sure everything is submerged. Leave about an inch or so of space from the top of the jar.
  3. Leave on the countertop for 5 to 7 days to ferment, and then store it in the fridge.

Eventually the cold weather will come, and this will affect your fermentation time. Cooler kitchens cause your products to ferment more slowly. Hotter kitchens will speed up the process. It’s always good to taste your ferment early (as in this case, around day 4-5) and see if it has reached your preferred taste yet. If not, allow it to ferment for another day or two.

~ Alicia

(Edited to add: This was originally post in October 2016 on my first website).

Here are some variations on the above recipe that I like even better!

Fermented Tomatoes (Russian)

Makes one glass quart jar

On the bottom of the jar, place:

  • Bunch of dill
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2-3 stems parsley
  • one bay leaf

On top of the herbs, place:

  • Whole tomatoes (poke holes with a fork through the stem side)

Make a brine and pour over top:

  • 1 Tbs. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 cups filtered water

Place a tight lid on the jar and allow to sit at room temp for 3-5 days. Then, place in the fridge for another 1-2 weeks before eating.

Other Variations:

Using whole tomatoes as a base, I will add a variety of other ingredients, using a brine of 3-4 tsp. sea salt per quart.

Options to add:

  • Garlic
  • Basil
  • Mustard seed
  • Chili flakes
  • Bay leaves
  • Oregano
  • Peppers
  • Peppercorns
  • Celery/celery seed or lovage
  • Marjoram
  • Any seasonings of your choice!

After this ferments for 3-4 days on the countertop, I will put it away in cold storage for the winter. Then, I will pull it out and blend it up, using it as a marinara sauce for pasta (without heating) or pizza sauce. The flavor is wonderful, and it’s nice to be reminded of fresh sun ripened tomatoes in the dead of winter!

Happy fermenting!

~ Alicia

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