Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.
Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.
Nope. Not making it up. I'm serious. And speaking as something of an internet guru on how to make crispy, crunchy, sweet pickles I'm going to give this a try as another dangerous kitchen experiment. The gardening world needs more alternative uses for all of those green tomato fruits hanging out there on the vine all vulnerable to Jack Frost this time of year.
Start with a large quantity of unripe tomatoes. Only the greenest of the green ones. Tennis ball sized fruits or smaller seem to be the best.
In a food grade five gallon plastic bucket mix a cup of pickling lime with a couple of gallons of cold water. Slice your tomatoes into thin wedges and add them to the pickle barrel with the dissolved lime. For good measure add a couple of large garden onions (chopped) to the mix. Cover and allow to soak in the barrel for at least four but no more than 24 hours. Periodically stir the tomatoes and onions.
After the tomatoes and onions have soaked in the lime water dump them into the sink to drain. Add fresh cold water and allow to soak for another hour. Drain, rinse and repeat two more times. Soaking the veggies in the lime water adds calcium to the vegetables imparting the crispy and crunchy texture and a bright shade of neon green. However, due to the alkalinity you have to soak them afterwards to remove the excess lime. Three hours of soaking and rinsing does the trick.
While your tomatoes and onions are nearing the end of their rinse cycle make your brine.
This is really easy. In a large, non-reactive pot combine equal parts of sugar and apple cider vinegar. Stir and heat to a boil. For a batch this size I started with fourteen cups each of the cider vinegar and sugar. Add a 1 1/2 oz. bottle of pickling spice and 1/4 cup of kosher salt. If you wish to indulge your creativity add more pickling spice. If you want to add some celery seed and a wee bit of ground cinnamon and ground clove it won't hurt. Like some heat? Add crushed red pepper. Like I said - this is an experiment.
Bring everything to a boil and cook for a couple of minutes.
Make sure your thoroughly drain the rinsed tomatoes and onions then add them to the pot. Bring everything back to a slow boil and cook until your tomatoes begin to turn translucent. DO NOT OVERCOOK THE TOMATOES!
Assemble all of your jars, lids* and rings and stuff your jars with the cooked tomatoes and onions. Add the syrupy brine leaving a half-inch of head space. Install a sterilized lid and screw-on a ring. Process your jars in a boiling water bath for an additional 10-15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. When the lids 'pop' your jars are sealed. After setting for about 30 days your green tomatoes are officially pickles.
I have an iffy feeling about this experiment. We'll see. Fingers crossed that it turns-out OK. Remember the hot and sweet pickled peppers I made about a month ago? They are the cat's meow. Peter Piper would be proud. They're an awesome topping for a sandwich, burger, hot dog or canapé.
*A word about the jars and lids. Sterilize your jars by immersing them in boiling water or running them through the dishwasher on the 'sanitize' cycle. Lids are easy - heat a Pyrex measuring cup of water to a boil in the microwave and drop the lids in the hot water to sanitize them. Fish them out with a tongs.