Italians across the country spend a better part of August and September processing bushels of blood-red tomatoes into jars of sauce to last all winter long. If you’re one of many that take pride in tomatoes grown in your backyard, you also know the pain of facing a pile of leftover green tomatoes. While some may eventually turn red, some small towns in Calabria have a unique way of preserving green tomatoes. This recipe comes from my grandparents who immigrated here from Lago in the province of Consenza and knew just how to use every part of the garden to it’s fullest.
You can use a bucket or any wide container for this recipe. If you have an old-fashioned clay preserving jar in the basement, bring that out, now’s the time to use it. The amount of each ingredient for this recipe must be made-to-measure to the amount of green tomatoes you need to process. Note that preserving vegetables, like tomatoes green or red, requires a careful use of ingredients and processing. Be sure to do your research about preserving before proceeding.
Preserved Green Tomatoes, Rustic Calabrese-Style
Green tomatoes (as many as you have)
Bucket or clay preserving jar
Wash the green tomatoes and cut out the stem and any blemishes. Slice each tomato into 1/8 inch slices. Peel garlic and slice. Wash hot peppers and slice into 1/8 inch slices. In a clean bucket or clay preserving jar, create a layer of green tomatoes approximately an 1/2 inch thick. Coat liberally with salt, using about one teaspoon of salt per layer. Top with garlic slices (8 to 10 or more depending on your taste), hot peppers and fennel seeds. Create a second layer of green tomatoes and add salt again. Add in garlic, hot peppers and fennel seeds. Continue to layer until all your green tomatoes are used and sprinkle the top with salt.
If using a bucket, you can place a second bucket on top of your piled tomatoes and add a weight. The goal is to put as much pressure as possible on the tomatoes and make the container air-tight. You can use a stone or fill the bucket with water but be mindful not to get any water on the tomatoes. If using a clay preserving jar, or other container, put a plate on top of the tomatoes that is snug to the sides of the container and place a weight on the plate. Place the tomatoes in a cool area where they won’t be disturbed.
Each day remove the weight and cover. Drain any liquid that has gathered without disturbing the tomatoes. Remove any film that has developed on your container with a paper towel. Return the cover and weight and let rest. Continue this process for two to three weeks, until the tomatoes have flattened and there is no water gathering in the bucket. The tomatoes will take on a dark green colour and will have a slight sour odour. When complete, lift the tomatoes from the container and remove any remaining film. Break the tomatoes apart and form into packages of approximately 1/4 pound each. Wrap with plastic wrap or package using a vacuum sealer and freeze until ready to use.
When ready to use, defrost and rinse the tomatoes thoroughly in a colander to remove the excess salt. Sautee them with onions and sausage as part of a fried potato dish or for use in a frittata.