Occasionally, we get green tomatoes in our weekly CSA share. This occurs near the beginning and end of the tomato season, and, while many people just love the standard bearer of green tomato recipes — Fried Green Tomatoes — we don’t. Sometimes we try to trade the green tomatoes, but there are times when there are a few green tomatoes mixed in with ripe, or nearly ripe, tomatoes. And we’d never trade off ripe tomatoes. Never.
Being loathe to waste food, especially when we think about the farmhands harvesting our food in the middle of summer, in Southern Arizona, mind you, we really try to use the green tomatoes. Most often, we just add a few here and there to other dishes. A couple of green tomatoes in a tomato sauce, a green tomato diced into a soup, things like that, where the tomato is more hidden and not the star. And this works okay, but it seems a bit like cheating, so, when we saw a recipe for a green tomato relish in Farmhouse Classics — Pickles, Chutney’s & Preserves, by Alison Lingard the same week we picked up a few green tomatoes, we knew it was kismet.
Now, we modified our recipe to match items we had in the house, add some color, and scale it down so we’d only be making a small amount to test out (we only had a couple of green tomatoes), but we think our recipe will give you the basic idea.
Basically, we’re making a sweet and sour pickle. Therefore, the key to this recipe is the equal amounts of sugar and vinegar. The remaining ingredients are either the items to be pickled, or a flavoring (or both), so you can swap out some of the ingredients to make your own relish. For example, the original recipe called for green pepper. We don’t have green pepper, so we said, zucchini is green, and used some of that, instead. We used the red onion for color interest, but a white onion would work just fine. The turmeric is there mainly to add a green color, so, if you don’t have any, just omit. For the salt, do try to use kosher or pickling salt, as they don’t contain other ingredients which can make your relish cloudy.
Procedure in detail:
Salt vegetables. Place the vegetables in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Toss with a spoon so that all the vegetable pieces get a bit of salt on them, then cover and let sit for about an hour. The salt draws out excess moisture.
Drain. Pour the vegetables from the bowl into a colander and let drain for about 10 minutes. You want to get as much water out as possible; this will help keep your relish looking like relish and not mush. If there’s a lot of moisture in the vegetables, they’ll break down during cooking. Now, while these are draining, take a taste. Yep, just scoop up a spoonful and eat the mix of tomatoes, zucchini, onion, and salt. Good, huh? Just tasting it gave us an idea ….
Cook. Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Once the mixture starts boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and allow it to simmer, stirring from time to time, for about 20 minutes. If there isn’t enough liquid to cover all the vegetables, add equal amounts of vinegar and sugar so they’re covered.
Pack. Transfer the relish to a clean airtight jar and store in the refrigerator.
That’s it. That’s all it takes to make relish, and you could make it from cucumbers instead of green tomatoes, or all zucchini, or you could add a bit of carrot, other spices, etc. Pretty easy, huh? We tasted these as they went in the jar, and we must say that this is a great way to use up some of those green tomatoes that we’ll be getting this year, although these are just a bit too sweet. Next time, we’ll cut back a bit, just a bit, on the amount of sugar. Plus, there’s that idea that’s currently peculating in our heads. We think that between the relish and the idea: four stars.