You have too many ripe tomatoes in mid-season and a ton of leftover green tomatoes at end-of-season. What do you do? – There’s no need to panic and there’s no need for waste. Just ferment those tomatoes the way we do. Extend the enjoyment of the fruits of your labor for months to come.
Hi! Chef Blondie here.
As you can see, I was originally going to show you how we ferment our end-of-season green tomatoes here at Serendipity Farmhouse. Then, I realized we ferment our excess ripe tomatoes in just the same way.
That’s when I decided to let all of you in on an SFH Tomato Twofer. – Here’s our mise en place. So, let’s get started and talk about fermenting both ripe and green tomatoes.
Lacto-Fermentation – Science or Art?
Is fermenting vegetables a science or is it an art? My hubby thinks of it as a science. That means he’s constantly researching and trying to perfect salt-to-water ratios for brine. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. After all, the Lacto-fermentation process relies on the mysterious chemistry performed by Lactobacillus bacteria as they convert sugars in the vegetables into lactic acid.
For me, Lacto-fermentation is more of an art. People have been fermenting vegetables for thousands of years without understanding the chemistry behind the process. Once we stumbled across the basic steps those many years ago, we’ve used the process to our own advantage for preserving food and developing new and interesting flavors to delight our palettes.
You have full control!
Hubby and I have worked together to improve our fermenting skills. And we both agree there are two points in the process where you can influence and control the outcome. We call the first the Flavor Creation Point, and the second is the Flavor Perfection Point.
Flavor Creation Point
Do you like the flavor of specific herbs or garlic? Our herb garden is filled with our favorite herbs such as dill weed and thyme. Every year we also grow our own hardneck garlic and hot peppers. So, when it comes time to can and ferment our tomatoes, those herbs and our garlic become the ingredients we use to create the flavors we love.
When the ripe or green tomatoes go into the mason jar, so do the herbs, garlic, and other desired ingredients. It’s our time for flavor creation and experimentation. After all, that’s what the Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen is all about!
Flavor Perfection Point
When canning tomatoes, you don’t know what your product is going to taste like until you take off the lid weeks or months later. – Not so with fermenting. No, this is a process where you have much greater control. But to exercise that control, you have to learn how to use the two most important tools simple farmhouse cooks or experienced test kitchen chefs have at their command.
If you haven’t guessed what those tools are, the two most important tools for fermenting success are your nose and your tongue. That’s right! You can sample your fermented tomatoes throughout the entire fermentation period. You get to determine whether those tomatoes are sour or tangy enough. Have the herbal flavors permeated the entire tomato or not? – It’s up to you!
As early as four days into the process, you can say, “That’s perfect!” Or you can say, “No. It needs a few days more.” – Ultimately, you are the one who can say, “I’ve reached the point of perfection!”
We here at the SFH Test Kitchen have taken command of what happens to our excess and end-of-season tomatoes. – Use our recipe and/or do your own research – and you can take command too!
Tomato Lacto-Fermentation Resources
We’ve saved my dear Hubby’s technical research for inclusion here at the end of this post. We didn’t want to bore you or weigh you down with tedious facts. But, if you’re interested in Lacto-fermentation and the type of equipment that works best with the process, it’s good to have starting points for your own research. Here’s some of what he’s found.
As with any type of food preservation, health safety is paramount. In the case of Lacto-fermenation, ensuring that products remain submerged in the brine is essential. For a good review of safety tips, read these articles:
- The Safety of Fermented Food on The Fermentation Association website, and
- Safely Fermenting Food at Home Extension Food Safety Fact Sheet- September 2015.
The truth is you don’t have to go out and buy any special equipment for fermenting. However, we’ve found glass fermenting weights and silicone fermenting lids to be quite reliable tools to ensure fermenting success and safety.
Brine for Fermenting
For fermenting vegetables, the recommended amount of salt to use in 1 quart of water is between 1-3 tablespoons. We used 2 tablespoons of sea salt per quart of water to ferment our tomatoes. Remember, the exact amount of salt required will vary depending on the vegetable being fermented and personal preferences.
If you want a more precise measurement, you can use a brine calculator to determine the accurate salt to water ratio and make a perfect brine for fermenting vegetables. A brine calculator can be found here. The calculator enables you to make a brine solution accurately using the correct proportions of salt and water.
Fermented Ripe and Green Tomatoes Recipe
- Quart-sized Mason Jar
- Fermentation Lid for Mason Jars
- Glass Fermentation Weight
- 4 cups water, filtered
- 2 tablespoons fine sea salt
- 1½ pounds cherry tomatoes whole; larger green tomatoes quartered - tomato size and variety will dictate the actual weight
- 1-2 medium hot peppers sliced ¼-inch thick - optional
- 2-4 medium garlic cloves - optional
- 1-2 sprigs herbs of choice, e.g. dill, thyme, etc. - optional
- 1-2 teaspoons peppercorns - optional
- Use 4 cups of room-temperature water in a 1-quart mason jar, and then stir in the salt until it dissolves. - Alternatively, warm 4 cups water in a small saucepan, and then whisk in the salt until it dissolves. Turn off the heat and let cool to room temperature.
- For large tomatoes, cut into bite-size chunks.
- For cherry tomatoes, use a toothpick to poke one or two holes. This allows the brine to enter the tomato.
Flavor Creation Point
- Place the tomatoes into a mason jar, alternating with the hot peppers, garlic, and your choice of flavor enhancing herbs.
- Pour the cooled brine over the tomatoes and other ingredients, adding additional water to cover if necessary.
- Place a glass fermentation weight over the tomatoes and seal the jar using the fermentation lid and mason jar lid ring. Ensure that no ingredients are floating above the fermentation weight or in contact with the air.
Flavor Perfection Point
- Allow the tomatoes to ferment between 4 to 14 days. Taste the tomatoes periodically. When they're sour/tangy enough for your liking, and when the flavor of added ingredients is just the way you like, you have reached the Perfection Point. - If you like, you can allow the tomatoes to continue to ferment beyond the two-week mark, until they are just the way you want them.
- When you are satisfied with the flavor, remove the fermentation weight and lid and replace it with a regular mason jar lid. Then, place the jar of fermented tomatoes in the fridge. They will keep there for several months.