Guest Post: Pickled Green Tomatoes

March 22, 2013(updated on August 30, 2021)

green tomatoes

Since January, Olivia has been helping make Food in Jars even better. Her family has a tradition of pickling green tomatoes and so we scared up some out-of-season tomatoes (thanks Fair Food Farmstand!) and made a batch. If you can’t get your hands on green tomatoes right now, remember this one for late summer. Eaten on a slice of Italian bread, these pickles are downright blissful. – Marisa

I know very little about canning. I do have copious jar love—mason jars are scattered about my room to hold sea glass, flowers, and pencils, or simply to be put to use as glasses to drink out of — but I don’t often use jars for their intended purpose.

When I first started interning for Marisa, I was overcome by the sheer amount of jars in her apartment, all the lovely shapes and sizes and fillings, and I began to long to can something. I quickly became nostalgic for the one food I’ve ever canned: green tomatoes.


I’ve grown up around good food all my life. Once I made it to college, I realized that I had been spoiled with homemade corn chowder and minestrones, panko-breaded chicken cutlets and oven-roasted vegetables, stuffed breads and antipastos, and, of course, the classic sauce and meatballs nearly every Sunday night.

My mom even makes her own croutons and ice cream cake when she is “feeling ambitious.” In fact, many of my friends have said that they’ve never had a bad meal at my house. Overall, my mother raised me with a slightly picky, but well-versed palate. I’ve been vegan for just over a year now, a decision I came to by observing my brother and roommate—both vegans—and doing a little research on the health benefits.

drained tomatoes

Despite the limits most people think a vegan diet imposes, I feel my tastes and love of food has only grown since I’ve begun to explore new dishes and revitalize old favorites: I’ve learned to work with tempeh to create burgers, mock tuna salad, and some great stir-frys; I’ve made vegan versions of my mom’s corn chowder, panko chick’n, and baked mac and cheese; I also make a mean vegan pizza, complete with cheeseless pesto, artichoke hearts, olives, peppers, and sliced tomatoes.

Many of these things I wouldn’t have tried two years ago, but being vegan has taught me to say “yes” to new experiences and view eating as an adventure, and a rewarding one at that.


Green tomatoes are a tradition in my family. It all begins with my Noni, my grandmother on my father’s side who emigrated from Pescara, Italy to the U.S. (living in various parts of Connecticut during her lifetime) when my father was just five years old. I fondly remember her watching cheesy game shows, especially with the “handsome Bobby Bark,” playing bingo and blackjack for spare change, and working in the kitchen–as long as she could do so sitting down.

Though her tomato-preserving sessions were before my time, I can clearly recall the days of working in the kitchen with Noni, rolling three baking sheets of meatballs and listening to her sing sweetly in both Italian and broken English. She passed away when I was in fifth grade, so I missed her cooking prime, but my family is well-versed with “Noni Stories,” which has made her somewhat of a celebrity among our friends.


Food was a way for her to remain close to her culture. She helped run a restaurant when she first came to the States and all her meals, both at work and at home with her five children, employed methods she learned growing up on a farm and incorporated characteristically Italian and Mediterranean flavors. The only exception was when she would indulge in spicy, un-authentic, Chinese delivery food in her later years.

close up of pickles

Every September, Noni, with help from my aunts and my mother, would gather up all the green tomatoes from the summer garden and can a dozen jars of pickles. They did this after putting up more than three hundred jars of ripe tomato sauce, just enough to get the family through the year. Noni would get the grandkids to help, too, each putting a sprig of basil in the jars and lining them up on the table.

prepared jars

The canning crew would start out by slicing the tomatoes and letting them sit in a bowl, covered in salt, for a few days. When it was time to rinse the tomatoes just before canning them, Noni used to put them in a clean pillow case and into the washing machine on a rinse and spin cycle.

My parents say she would lean on the washing machine when it spun them out to stop it from hopping across the floor. This process is NOT recommended, obviously; she broke a few machines doing this, much to the chagrin of my Nono, who would angrily have to make his way to “Sees-a-Robuk,” or Sears and Roebuck, to buy a new washer.

filling jars

I was not brave enough to try the green tomatoes until my teens, years after my Noni had passed away. I was never really big on tomatoes in any style or form, but once I tried them, I was sold. My taste buds were electrocuted and enlightened by the cold, pickley flavor and the crisp crunch of the tomato.

When I was in high school, I began jarring these tomatoes to use in holiday gift baskets, usually paired with a good wine (which my mother picked out) and a ciabatta or baguette (because in my opinion, great bread makes a meal). The pickles were a hit midwinter, but also took the spotlight at summer picnics, the quickly-emptied ball jar glistening in the sun.

packing jars

My mom and I have since updated the recipe, adding olives and eggplant to the original, which strictly called for tomatoes, garlic, onion, celery, and occasionally red bell pepper (my aunt sometimes uses green peppers, but red peppers add a nice spark of color to the jar). We were forced to adapt regardless, as my Noni never properly measured anything out — using a coffee cup, a spoon, or the ever-cumbersome “pinch” to explain her recipes to her grandkids, who tried desperately to figure out the conventional measurements.

Though we’ve cheated in making these tomatoes in the past, using already canned tomatoes to concoct our recipe, I’ve been itching to try canning these fresh, as well as perfect my technique so that the oil doesn’t seep out of the lids and ruin my gift baskets. To preserve the taste and texture of this pickle, and because balsamic vinegar is less acidic than others, it is best to store these in refrigerator.

pouring olive oil

I’m thrilled to share a bit of my family with all of you and to get to join the can-fam as well. Recipe and instructions after the jump, enjoy!

5 from 2 votes

Noni's Pickled Green Tomatoes

Author: Olivia


  • 3 pounds green tomatoes
  • 1 medium eggplant about one pound
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 onion
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 1 cup olives sliced (you can use or mix green or black olives, or vary the amount, depending on your preference)
  • 5 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup olive oil plus more to top jars
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes


  • Thinly slice green tomatoes. Place in a large bowl, toss with 1/4 cup salt, and refrigerate overnight: tomatoes will release a lot of water.
  • Cut eggplant into one inch-sized cubes, place into a bowl, toss with 1/4 cup salt, and let sit for about one hour.
  • When time is up, fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Rinse eggplant and add to the pot. Blanch for five minutes. Remove from water and, once cool, squeeze any excess liquid out. Eggplant will have shrunk considerably.
  • Rinse your sliced tomatoes well, as they will be very salty. Drain, place in a large, clean bowl, and add the eggplant.
  • Quarter the onion and slice it thinly. Add to the bowl.
  • Rinse and thinly slice the red bell pepper and celery. Size is chef’s choice, just remember that everything has to sit comfortably on a slice of bread. Add them to the bowl along with the olives and garlic.
  • Toss everything with balsamic vinegar, oil, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and salt (for a lighter color pickle, use white balsamic or a clearer vinegar). Adjust seasonings to taste.
  • Place tomato mixture in six pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Use the back of a wooden spoon or plastic utensil to pack down mixture and release air bubbles. Top with oil and tap jars to release any additional bubbles. Moisten a paper towel or clean kitchen cloth with white vinegar and wipe lids to remove any excess oil. Apply lids and rims.
  • Refrigerate and let sit for a day before eating to let the flavors really soak in. Pair with a great bread or put on top of a salad and enjoy! Tomatoes will keep in the fridge for a few weeks, if they last that long.


For longest life, use clean, sterilized jars.


Serving: 6g

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29 thoughts on "Guest Post: Pickled Green Tomatoes"

  • Sounds wonderful…my noni seems to have been the only one ever who didn’t cook!
    Her speciality was chicken soup with store bought egg noodles and meatballs–but at least they were from Boston’s North End!
    Can this be canned?

    1. So sorry, but there’s just too much oil and low acid ingredients in this recipe for canning. That’s why we did it as a refrigerator recipe!

  • Dude! I wish I’d had this in September. I’m printing it out now to put in the ‘Must Make This’ pile for this year. Thanks!!

  • Now I’ve GOT to manage, somehow, to grow tomatoes this summer (we’re probably moving, and don’t have the new house arranged for; I’m going to find out how well tomato plants travel, I think!) I can certainly buy “green” tomatoes in the grocery store, but they don’t have any more flavor than the “ripe” ones, here, and the texture is if anything worse.
    I’ve had fried green tomatoes several times since living in the South (currently TX) and find them really delicious – which surprised me a lot!
    Someone brought green-tomato pickles to a family reunion years ago, and I tried to replicate them out of my last garden – they were green “yellow pear” type, not sliced, just stabbed so the brine would hit the insides, and pickled whole. Also great.

  • This really sounds wonderful!!! (only wishing this recipe could be processed for enjoyment through out the winter up here in Northern WI)

    I do process green tomato pickles each year as our cold comes on way before all the tomatoes can ripen…(although I do bring loads of them into the green room to ripen in containers.) Thanks for this…I will make this recipe next fall…

  • This sounds like a great way to preserve all those green tomatoes we usually have here at the end of the summer in the Pacific Northwest! Question, is it just as good without the eggplant…my family is not fond of them!

    1. I don’t think you’d notice the absence of the eggplant. However, if you keep it in, I think you’ll find that it’s not particularly aggressive in the finished pickle.

  • My wonderful grandmother pickled some things, including watermelon rind (which I found hilarious when I was a child), and I do like certain things pickled, but when it comes to green tomatoes, I want them fried, southern style. Now that’s a slice of green heaven. My mother ate them fried and sprinkled with sugar, but I prefer them without. Maybe I will sprinkle mine with balsamic vinegar, though, because that sounds delicious. I just planted a lot of heirloom cherry tomato seeds to grow some potted edible fruit plants. I wonder……

  • Great idea! I did a big batch of fermented green-tomato pickles last fall with garlic, mint, parsley (my basil all failed but will add this year), hot peppers. I chopped them up, fermented them with salt for about a week, then water-bath canned them. Weirdly, I’ve been eating them in my very-bastardized Taiwan morning egg bing ( I could see using the canned pickled green tomatoes as a base and adding the eggplant/olive/red pepper when I open them though … hmmm.

  • Is there a way to test acidity – and what level am I looking for to ensure food is safe to can ?

  • Is there a way to test acidity – and what level am I looking for to ensure food is safe to can ?

  • WOW – that looks fantastic! Unfortunately, all the best stuff comes down with measurements like “good butter the size of a walnut,” and “enough vinegar for the oil.” There are, in fact, some things that will never come out right unless you spend some time over a sweaty stove with a beloved old lady working from memory or an old notecard she keeps taped to the inside of a cabinet. It’s part of the beauty of food and family, really, which is what made this post so wonderful to me.

  • Thanks for sharing this sounds very good. I can’t wait to raid my parents garden this year for all the veggies needed to make this…. 🙂

  • I found this wonderful recipe of Noni’s, by way of intern Olivia, by way of Food in Jars Marisa, while searching for “green tomato refrigerator pickles” or something similar, having a surplus of tomato this season.

    Tried it out this week, minus the eggplant.

    Amazing. After letting it sit overnight … The first can did not last a day.

    Off to find eggplants. Thank you for a great recipe!

  • Definitely have to try this. Has most of the ingredients from caponata. I wonder if it isn’t a pickled version.
    Planning ahead for the green tomatoes.

  • Hi its always nice to find old recipes. We always grow vegetables in the summer. I’m trying yours today. I have some white eggplant, and some really hot peppers to add . I hope this comes out good. I will let you know . Thanks for the recipe.

  • Made this today. Looks great, but I followed the blanching instructions for the eggplant and ended up with a big slimy glob. Methinks blanching for five minutes is a mistake? Should it have been five seconds?

  • Made this last year and it was the biggest hit! Absolutely delicious on grilled italian sausage. I still, however, have the question: should the eggplant really be blanched for five minutes? I had to leave it out last year because after blanching for five minutes it was completely un-usable.

    1. Because this isn’t my recipe, I honestly don’t know how it would be if you skipped the blanching. However, since it’s a fridge pickle, there’s no harm in skipping that step, or reducing the amount of time.

  • This is a kick-ass recipe! Everyone loves it. I have been making it for 4 years now and plan to continue. Incredible savory flavors and textures.

  • 5 stars
    Has any one tried with green cherry tomatoes? I make this every year but didn’t plant as many tomatoes this year but have lots of green cherry ones. I will give it a try but was curious if anyone had made it in the past with the little ones.