Late summer and its joyous glut of tomatoes is a bittersweet time for a canner. Tomatoes signal the end of summer fruit and bring with them the knowledge that the growing season is nearing its end. However, there's just so darn much that can be done with tomatoes that the possibilities make this preserver positively giddy.
Most people go for sauces, salsas, pastes and whole preserved tomatoes. And I do all those things too. But every year, I also make a couple batches of pickled red tomatoes. Unlike those crunchy pickled green tomatoes you find at delis and gourmet markets, these tomatoes are gorgeously tender and bright with flavor.
They are made by taking firm, meaty tomatoes, quickly blanching them to loosen the skins and then floating them in a slightly sweet brine that is spiked with ginger and speckled with pickling spice. After a time in the jar, they wind up tasting like the best ketchup you've ever had.
I like to squeeze these pickled tomatoes into bits over homemade pizza dough, cut them into strips to eat with cheese or simmer them down with a bit of their brine into a quick topper for baguette toasts.
Before You Get Started
Make sure you choose a meaty tomato for this recipe. Because you're taking the skin off, you want something that will hold together. If you can, pick out slightly underripe plum, roma or San Marzanos.
The best way to peel a tomato is to make two shallow cuts on the bottom in the form of an 'x,' float it in a pot of boiling water for approximately two minutes and then cool it in some cold water. I've found that a serrated edge knife is the best tool for scoring the skin without doing a lot of damage to the tomato.
Because tomatoes are fragile, you don't want to pack too many into the jars, otherwise you'll end up with pickled tomato puree instead of whole fruit. Because you're not wedging them in there, chances are, the tomatoes will float towards the lid. This is just fine, no need to worry about it.
Just like last week's pickle, this is another one that can either be made as a refrigerator pickle or a shelf-stable one. If you choose to do the boiling water bath process, know that you'll end up with a slightly softer (but still delicious) pickle.