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Southern Italian Jarred Green Tomatoes

Southern Italian Jarred Green Tomatoes

Don’t let those green tomatoes waste away on the vines. Instead, try this unique way of preserving late season green tomatoes – a recipe that comes from the Calabrian side of my family.
This is one of those things you’re either gonna love or you’re gonna hate. There’s no middle ground. Those who like these (like my relatives), really, really like these and they’re always hoping to finagle a jar to take home when they visit.  They’re perfect as an accompaniment to sandwiches or just with a slice of crusty bread.  They’re chewy and redolent of fennel and garlic, so make sure you eat these in the company of others who are also eating them or you’ll be sitting alone quickly.
This recipe is something my Northern Italian mom learned to make from her Southern Italian mother-in-law.  My husband figured out how to make these after my mother died, and he’s taken up the mantle in continuing the tradition.
Outside of my extended family, I’ve never seen anything like these jarred tomatoes. They’re not pickled, since there’s no vinegar involved. You start with average size green tomatoes – really hard, really green tomatoes. No red allowed, not even a teensy spot of it.

more food 052 The first thing to do is cut out the top “eye” of the tomato and slice them about 3/8 to 1/2 inch inch thick. The smaller ones you can cut in half, the larger ones into thirds:more food 054Then liberally sprinkle regular table salt all over them. Don’t use kosher salt or they’ll be way too salty.more food 061
Really, really sprinkle on that salt:more food 060Now take a pottery crock and wash it well. Layer in the tomatoes, pieces of garlic and fennel seed. Keep doing this, layer upon layer until you’ve used up all your tomatoes. If you don’t have one of these crocks or are just making a small amount, you can use a ceramic soufflé dish or something similar.   We do this outdoors because a lot of water will come spilling over the sides. When you’re all done, you’re going to cover it with large, heavy-duty plastic bags.

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Next you want to put something flat over the tomatoes, like a plate. My husband fashioned a piece of Lexan (it even has a thumb indentation for easier removal) to fit the ceramic crock perfectly. Press it down hard over the tomatoes:

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Then place something heavy over the plate to weigh down the tomatoes. Don’t use any metal here. Everything should be crockery or ceramic. We use a crockery jug and fill it with water. The more weight, the better.

more food 074Let this sit for at least two weeks, maybe longer, or until the tomatoes are flattened.  The water will spill over out the side as the heavy crock jug forces its weight on the tomatoes.  The idea is that the salt will draw the water out of the tomatoes and they will flatten considerably. You’ll be amazed at how much water comes out.
After a couple of weeks, you’re ready for the final step. Drain off the liquid in the crock and shake off the garlic and fennel from the tomatoes. Layer the tomatoes in clean mason jars, adding fresh slices of garlic, about a teaspoonful of fennel seeds and about a teaspoonful more of salt per mason jar. If you like things spicy, add slices of jalapeno pepper or other types of hot peppers. Pour a good quality olive oil into the jar, filling it to cover all the tomatoes.
July 2007 080 Close the lid tightly and store in the refrigerator. The olive oil will solidify. Before serving, remove from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. DO NOT use a pressurized canning system to seal the lids or you will ruin the consistency and texture of the tomatoes. You’ll wind up with soft, cooked tomatoes.

This Post Has 52 Comments
  1. Wow! How timely! I have a million green tomatoes, they just stoped growing, and they're really, really green and hard. I was talking to a neighbor and she said to wrap them individually in newspaper and maybe by Thanksgiving they will turn red. I wish I had one of those crocks, I will be on the hunt! Can you describe the taste? Oh, love your slippers. 🙂

  2. WOW! Lucky you w/all those green tomatoes!

    This is something I do as well, but not this year…. my tomato plants had blight, the disease that hit the eastern states. Didn't even get to taste single one before we had to remove every tomato plant ;-(.

  3. Very interesting Linda! My Calabrain in-laws never made these but do something similar with green olives. Believe it or not they did not care much for garlic (but I do!) so that might have something to do with it. I do not think that they had tomatoes that did not turn red in the Southern Italian climate. They use to make sun dried tomatoes from the small ones that were left at the end of the season.

    In any event I'd like to try this with some of the tomatoes I have left and see if we are among the ones that like it! Thanks!

  4. I love your site! I was amazed at this posting about canning green tomatoes. My Mom always did but not with the fennel. I remember she sliced them a little thick because her only purpose for them was to be breaded and fried. She was of Irish lineage however there was always a family joke about her being Italian which I will not bore you with.I was delighted seeing this.

  5. to anonymous: I have never wanted to take the risk of leaving them on a shelf, so I always refrigerate them. the olive oil will congeal, but after you take it out, it turns back to liquid after a short time.

  6. Ciao Chow Linda, thank you for this recipe. I'd like to know once you've put there in the crock and weighted down, where do you store them those few weeks? Basement? Fridge? Outside? Thanks so much.

  7. Linda hi, I haven't had these in more than 30 years. remember liking them when i was a kid. What about 10 minuets in a water bath to seal the jars? Jeff Kodiak alaska.

  8. Linda hi, haven't had these in more than 30 years. I remember i liked them. Could you water bath them for ten minuets to seal jars without making them too soft? Jeff V. Kodiak Alaska

  9. Hi Linda…Thanks for reminding me how my Calabrian mom made these some 50 years ago. We devoured them in a flash! I recall that she also added a few small red hot peppers and also continued to fill the crock as more green tomatoes appeared on the vine. Your pictures had my mouth watering so the old crock has come out of storage… anxiously awaiting to be filled with these fabulous tomatoes. Mille Grazie!

  10. Thank you thank you! I just tasted my first batch (added Aleppo pepper) and had to hold myself back from guzzling the whole jar!

    So glad I didn't waste my green tomatoes making regular pickles.

    You've now given me a reason to be grateful for our sometimes crummy summers here in the Pacific Northwest. No ripe tomatoes? Bring it on!

  11. We used garlic, sliced onions, and oregano when we layered them in the jars- thanks for reminding me how good they are!

  12. My wife's family is from Calabria and her uncle, who is now in his 90s has kept up this tradition. They layer green tomatoes and bell peppers to add a little flavor to the mix when they do theirs. Will be trying this as soon as I can find a crock as I have a five gallon pail of green tomatoes waiting to be sliced.

  13. My family is from Calabria, to add a little flavor to this recipe we slice eggplant very thin and alternate it with layers of green tomatoes ,salting between layers.To jar we remove it from the crock and rinse it in cold water, then press it to remove any water, in a large bowl we add this with Canola oil and a little salt and crushed hot dryer peppers to taste, fill clean jars with it and top off with Canola oil to cover .Keep in your fruit cellar , stay for a least a year , if you don't eat it all .

  14. Thank you so much for this recipe! I've shared the tomatoes with several folks and they all love them. Wonderful! And WONDERFUL on pizza as "pepperoni"… Thanks again and Merry Christmas!

  15. Thanks for sharing this recipe! I remember this from my parents as well. The old crock on the cellar steps. I believe they added eggplant and banana peppers with the green tomatoes. My mouth is watering….

  16. Where does the plastic bag come in to the process? The recipe was not clear. Blight has done in my plants and I have at least 75lbs of green tomatoes. Also have a 15 gal crock. Can't wait to try this!

  17. Anonymous – The plastic bag comes in when you've layered the tomatoes with the salt and fennel and garlic. Place a large bag (I use a black plastic garbage bag) over the top to keep the bugs out.

  18. This is a great idea; thanks. Did you know that this is the exact process to make sauerkraut–substitute cabbage for the tomatoes–except for the oil? I've done a few things with green tomatoes, but never this.

  19. I am so excited to find this recipe. I haven't had these for 30 years. My family used to make a batter and fry them somehow. They looked like a small green tomato fritter. Thanks so much for this!

  20. Is there an Italian word for this recipe? A friend was trying to come up with the word he thought might start with the letter "m"??

  21. My family has been making these fore years, we have never refrigerated, we have always kept them in a cool dark place(basement) they have never gone bad

  22. Linda, this is your cousin Frank. We just spoke last week. For some reason both your and your Dad's phone number were not saved. It has to be the "sometimers" disease that I suffer with. You know "Sometimes I remember and sometimes I don't" … please resend me both numbers to Frank@EverybodyLovesItalian.com

    I'm looking forward to getting together. Also I am giving your contact info to other cousins of ours so don't be surprised if more family members reach out to you. Hope AL is well and I really enjoyed talking with your dad….

  23. Thank you so very very very much for posting these – the recipe is similar to one my dad verbally told me (but forgot a lot of!) that he got verbally from someone else. I've been looking for a recipe for this for a very very long time!

  24. How wonderful! I remember my Calabrian grandmother keeping the crock on her basement steps. She used sliced eggplant, sliced green tomatoes, green peppers, garlic and celery–probably whatever she had around at the time. It was so wonderful. She put a plate on top and used several bricks to hold it down. I don't remember any bugs but I don't think she used plastic–I think there was probably so much garlic, no bugs came around! Thanks again!

  25. There are different variations of this on the internet but yours appealed the most with the detail and pictures. I did my crock a week ago this past Sunday. How will I know by next Sunday when it is a couple of weeks if they are ready. If you use oregano and not fennel, will they still be good? Haven't had these in over 50 years.

  26. I have been making these for a number of years as I had learned the process from my father. The past two years, including this one, I have followed the same process only to have the tomatoes ferment in the jars even though they are refrigerated. What a disappointment. Do you have any ideas? I am very careful to make sure everything used in the process is very clean and sanitary.

  27. Thanks for posting this. Before my mom died, she said that there was one recipe she never learned from my grandma, and that they ate it during Christmas. Mom described it as a "green tomato chow chow". I searched for some recipes in Italian, and the process seemed similar to what you describe, but I don't read Italian and at that stage mom couldn't guide me. The first steps you tell are similar to how we pickle eggplant. I'm going to look for those green tomatoes and try your recipe ASAP. Thank you for helping me to recover something that would otherwise have been lost to my family! When I make it, I'll imagine her smiling and making that gesture she sometimes did when she'd say "delicioso!".

  28. To Anonymous: I can't imagine them fermenting if they're stored in the refrigerator. I wonder if you pressed them enough or long enough and if you used enough salt. That's my only suggestion. I'm sorry this happened to you.

  29. I am getting ready to try to make these tomatoes. I remember my Nonna making these when I was a child. My family is from Reggio Calabria. I believe that the "m" name that was mentioned in a previous post is "melanzane". My family actually called these tomatoes "moulangianes" which I believe comes from our dialect or mispronounciation of the word. Melanzane is eggplant, which I believe is used with the green tomatoes in this dish.
    I had three of my Calabrian cousins visit last month and this dish came up. They still make it and call it melanzane.

  30. Thank you for posting this. we were trying to remember the process. we picked our green tomatoes. But tonight we are doing eggplant . so the tomatoes will have to wait till tomorrow morning. I am excited I have not had green tomatoes since I was a kid.
    My nona is old now and did not remember how long to leave the tomatoes in the crock. She will be so happy when I bring her a jar. Thanks again.

  31. I am married to an Italian [for 51 years] My mother in law taught me to make something similar. Mine is to use up things from the garden. It uses green tomatoes, green peppers, celery and eggplants. Lots of salt, garlic, oregano. In a crock. We use a 16 pound bowling ball for the weight. After all the water is pressed out I make a mixture of vinegar and water and fill to the top of the veggies. Then that is sealed with about an inch of olive oil, to seal the air out.
    It sets for about 3 weeks to a month–then it's ready.
    it has an italian name -which I cannot pronounce. My whole family is drooling already

  32. Hi
    I have been married to an Italian for 51 yrs. I was taught to make something similar to this-only my mother -in law added eggplant, celery, and green peppers along with garlic and oregano. It is made the same way as your tomatoes except after the liquid is pressed out I fill to cover the veggies with a mixture of vinegar & water then about an inch of olive oil to seal the top. It stays in the crock for about a month. Then it can be put in jars if you want. My family is drooling already. I'm the only one in my family who knows how to make it since my m-i-law is not with us anymore.

  33. Just to be clear….I am reading this recipe as one in which I am trying to get the moisture out of the tomatoes, but I do not drain the liquid off until the 2 weeks are up. It seems like the tomatoes are in a bath of liquid. Am I understanding correctly?

    1. That is correct. You don’t need to drain off the liquid until the tomatoes have been “pressed” for a couple of weeks. They are sitting in a bath of liquid, but most of the liquid rises above the level of the tomatoes, which are being pressed and flattened by a weight. Hope that helps.

  34. Glad to find this recipe. My wife’s dad is from Calabria by way of West Virginia and they make these. I have tried them before but they didn’t seem to work out so well. I just cleaned my garden and have a ton, well not quite a ton, and want to try them again. I will let you know how they turn out this time around. Ciao.

  35. At last you have given me the-first half-of a recipe that I have still remembered from 60 yrs ago. Central PA, the second generation Calabretta family may have now passed. The tomatoes were put in the crockpot after picking in the fall to get ready for Christmas green tomato ?pancakes. Kind of a yellow, sl. chewy batter about 6″ by 2-3″, the tomatoes remained chunky and I think they were handheld. She always delivered to us so I don’t know for sure how or what they were eaten with. Any recollections appreciated. Thank you.

  36. My old boss would use a plastic bucket & a round cut out, from poplar. He would put a weight on top for a few weeks, then wash the salt of and pan fry with olive oil

  37. volumes in lbs and teaspons would be very helpful for anyone trying for
    the first time……..say 6 pint canning jars needs ……estimate 25 lbs of sliced tomatoes
    12 oz of salt…3 tbl spoons fennel 4 oz garlic just guessing of course olive oil will
    be as needed of course anything else you can add

  38. This recipe looks great I started it last week in a ceramic crock with weights in it and I have white mold growing on the top of the water is this OK? Or do I need to throw it away? Thank you in advance!

    Nash

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