That’s seriously all I heard in my head over & over as I canned my tomatoes. No joke. Why? Because three of them were Roma’s. Lady Gaga, you’ve done it again… you’ve managed to associate an average everyday mundane household task with a fantasically catchy earworm of a song. Just like I sang the chorus to ‘Telephone’ every time my phone rang for months, how I sang “Mah mah mah pokuh face mah mah pokuh faaaace” at the mere mention of a card game, or how I changed the words to ‘Paparazzi’ from “I’m your biggest fan, I’ll follow you until you love me, papa, papa-razzi” to “I’m your biggest fan, I’ll follow you until you hug me, puppa, puppa Indy” & chased the poor dog around the house singing it. *sigh*
It all makes sense though. Sort of. Tomatoes à la Lady Gaga. Right?
Maybe. Has a certain ring to it.
By the way, did you know she went to a Catholic high school that has the same name as the one I went to, that’s also in NY? Betcha didn’t.
Lady Gaga probably wouldn’t think so. And although she herself might be Italian, and I might be talking about Roma tomatoes, but this is really not an old fashioned Italian recipe at all. It’s more Russian or Romanian, as pickled tomatoes are really big over there. Roma tomatoes are known as the best tomatoes to use for canning sauces & for sauce in general, really. They have the most ‘meat’ on them, the least skin, and far less water content; meaning they make a thicker sauce with less work. This was my first year growing Roma’s, and I wasn’t really sure when I planted them what I was going to do with them, but once I started to get into canning I knew that I’d probably can ’em up right away. Although I had prepared to jar them up as a sauce originally, what I ended up doing was pretty different: pickled green & red tomatoes, inspired by a Liana Krissoff recipe. And not just Roma’s, Better Boy’s too. Better Boy’s are juicy yet meaty tomatoes that are larger than Roma’s (yet really aren’t all that large) and the plants yield quite a large amount of fruit each season. There’s no song that immediately comes to mind when I hear “Better Boy”, however.
…Better Boy’s (top left & two green’s) and Roma’s (bottom)…
I picked two Better Boy tomatoes while they were green, and two that were turning red/orange, also three Roma’s. I ended up with three half-pint jars of pickled tomato goodness. Of course, I adjusted the recipe to utilize the amount of tomatoes I had. If you have more, then by all means use them- but just adjust the recipe for your own needs. I have more tomatoes growing, but I thought a few jars of these were plenty. I don’t like to put up huge batches of things, I not only don’t have the room but I’m not a fan of monotony. I do this for fun, not to survive over a long winter… & canning 20 jars of the same thing gets tedious and boring. I like to mix it up.
Tomatoes, and their iffy acid levels are on the borderline of “what can be safely canned using a water bath process.” Many people will tell you not to can your own tomato sauce or whole tomatoes without a pressure canner. I think that’s silly, considering the addition of lemon juice or citric acid solves the acid dilemma right off the bat, and processing them for a good 20+ minutes definitely kills the bad guys that are in there anyway. Not to mention the fact I know plenty of people who make ancient (well, not quite ancient) family sauce recipes & jar them every year and none of them have ever died. With these, though, there’s not much of a chance for anything gross to even survive from the get go. The use of lemon juice ups the acid and the vinegar/salt & water bath do the rest. Of course, I’m not saying go out & can up some beef stew in a water bath… that’s a bit different. But tomatoes, tomatoes are okay, especially with the right acid level. So don’t let people make you feel bad for canning your own tomato sauce with that age old family recipe: you will not single-handedly kill your entire family. Unless you’re an idiot who shouldn’t be canning, period. But anyway… if the thought of it still scares you, try these to use up your tomatoes. They’re surprising. Very easy, very delicious & very unique.
I say green & red tomatoes, but really none of mine were 100% mature or fully red. They were more orangey, some with yellow. They look red in the jars, though, so there ya go.
PICKLED GREEN & RED TOMATOES
Makes 3 half-pint jars
First you get:
- 2 pounds smallish green & red tomatoes, different varieties are okay just so long as they’re all in varying degrees of maturity, but none too soft, ripe or too small/large (make sure that when sliced, they fit in the jars nicely); or about 6-7 small/medium tomatoes
- 2 cups distilled 5% acidity white vinegar
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 rounded tablespoons pickling salt
- 1 teaspoon celery seeds
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- pinch of dried sage
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- one medium sweet onion, sliced (optional)
Then you get your pickle on this way:
- Wash the tomatoes thoroughly, remove the stem & “core” at the tops and slice them into ¼” -to- ½” thick round slices. Soak the sliced tomatoes in the lemon juice in a medium bowl for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sanitize your jars & lids, keeping them hot.
- Combine the vinegar, sugar, celery seeds, mustard seeds, sage and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Place the tomato mixture in the hot jars, stacking them nicely and also making sure they’re packed as tight as possible (you can also add sliced sweet onion in between tomato layers at this point if you like). Ladle in the liquid, pausing to remove air bubbles & air pockets with a small rubber spatula or chopstick as you go. Fill the jars with the liquid, leaving ¼” headspace. Discard any extra liquid.
- Wipe rims and place lids & bands on. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Remove to cool, dark area & do not disturb for 12 hours. Check for seal after one hour, and if it hasn’t sealed, refrigerate and use immediately. Refrigerate all jars right before opening & using, they just taste better chilled.
This would also work with different kinds of heirloom tomatoes. The jars would look gorgeous piled high with different colored tomatoes- dark red, purpleish, yellow, green, red, orange, etc. Can you imagine how these would look? Phenomenal. Or these. But either way, plain ol’ tomatoes did the job just right. If you don’t have pickling salt, Kosher salt is fine. Regular Iodized salt will cause a cloudy liquid, however, so I’d avoid it for aesthetic reasons. You can certainly use all red tomatoes too, so if you’re getting bored with sauce or traditional canned tomatoes, maybe give a jar or two of these a try. I didn’t use the onion, myself, but Liana says it’s another option.
I highly recommend these on a sandwich; roast chicken with mayonnaise & freshly ground black pepper. Equally good on a sandwich also made with some sliced Bell peppers in oil, or even on a grilled cheese made with Monterey Jack cheese on sourdough bread, and apparently even delicious right out of the jar. So do as you wish as far as that goes. I won’t tell anyone if you eat them by themselves. It’ll be our secret. Wanna know one of my secrets? I like turtles.
With this batch of tomatoes, I really wanted to jar up some sauce. But in the meantime, damn, I’m glad I pickled these.