Let’s Preserve: Green Tomatoes

Bowl of fresh produce: tomatoes, beans, broccoli, and cukes. Photo by Liz Stanley.

At the end of the growing season most home gardeners have loads of ripe and green tomatoes. They can be picked and managed so you have tomatoes and tomato-based products for the months to come. UMaine Extension educator Kathy Savoie offers tips on how to preserve green tomatoes.

Ripening Green Tomatoes

Select mature tomatoes that are green to slightly pink. They will ripen indoors in time if handled properly. First, remove the stem and dip each tomato in a solution made of household bleach mixed with water (add 1 tsp. bleach to 1 quart water). Dry each tomato off. This process will kill bacteria on the tomatoes which would cause them to spoil before they can ripen.

Sort according to ripeness. Spread newspapers in a carton. Place a layer of tomatoes in the box. Cover with another layer of newspapers. Close the box and keep at a temperature between 55°F and 70°F. At 65°F to 70°F, the tomatoes will ripen in about 2 weeks. At 55°F to 60°F, they will ripen in about 3 to 4 weeks. Be sure to check the tomatoes weekly for ripeness and to remove any that have spoiled.

Hot Dog Relish

  • 2 quarts green tomatoes, chopped or ground
  • ½ cup pickling or canning salt
  • 2 quarts cucumbers, chopped or ground
  • 2 Tablespoons mixed pickling spices
  • 1 quart onions, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne (red) pepper
  • 3 sweet red peppers, chopped (2-1/4 cups)
  • 1 ½ cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and ground
  • 3 cups sugar
  1. Chop or grind vegetables; place in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and allow to stand overnight in refrigerator or for 6 to 8 hours. Rinse and drain thoroughly.
  2. Tie spices in a spice bag. Place vinegar and sugar in a large kettle and add the spice bag. Bring to a boil and then add vegetables. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until vegetables are partially cooked.
  3. Pack hot mixture into clean, hot pint canning jars. Cover vegetables with vinegar solution, leaving ½-inch headspace. Wipe jar rim. Apply dome lid and screwband and adjust band to fingertip-tight.
  4. Process jars in boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Dilled Green Tomato Pickles

  • 1 gallon small firm green tomatoes
  • Dill (1 head/jar or 1 tsp. dill seed/jar)
  • 3 to 4 stalks celery
  • 1 quart distilled vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 5 to 6 green sweet peppers
  • 2 quarts water
  • Garlic (1 or 2 cloves/jar)
  • 1 cup pickling or canning salt
  1. Pack cleaned green tomatoes into clean, hot jars. To each quart, add a stalk of celery and 1 green pepper, seeded and cut into quarters. Add 1 head of dill and 1 or 2 cloves garlic.
  2. Combine vinegar, water and salt. Bring to a boil and pour over the vegetables, leaving ½-inch headspace.       Wipe jar rim. Apply dome lid and screwband and adjust band to fingertip tight.
  3. Process jars in boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes. Allow to stand 4 to 6 weeks before using in order to develop flavor. Note: This amount of liquid fills approximately 6 quart jars.

Green Tomato Mincemeat

  • 4 quarts green tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • ½ cup cider vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 2 quarts tart apples, pared and chopped
  • 1 cup bottled lemon juice
  • 1 orange, grated, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 2 pounds seedless raisins
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  1. Chop tomatoes and apples. Grate orange peel; chop flesh of orange.
  2. Mix all ingredients together and heat to boiling. Simmer until mixture thickens somewhat, about 35 – 40 minutes.
  3. Pour boiling hot mixture into clean, hot pint or quart canning jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Wipe jar rim. Apply dome lid and screwband and adjust band to fingertip-tight.
  4. Process jars in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes.

Green Tomato Salsa

  • 5 cups chopped green tomatoes or tomatillos
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ cups seeded, chopped long green chilies
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • ½ cup seeded, chopped jalapeno peppers
  • 1-3 Tablespoons oregano leaves
  • 4 cups chopped onions
  • 1 Tablespoons salt
  • 1 cup bottled lemon or lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Stir frequently over high heat until mixture begins to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Ladle hot into pint jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Wipe jar rim. Apply dome lid and screwband and adjust band to fingertip-tight.
  3. Process jars in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes.   Yield: 5 pints

Preserving Green Tomatoes

Canned Slices

Wash, core and slice green tomatoes. Pack loosely in pint or quart canning jars. To insure safe acidity, add 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice or ½ teaspoon of citric acid per quart of tomatoes. For pints, use 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice or ¼ teaspoon citric acid. Cover with boiling water to ½-inch of top of jars. Add 1/4 teaspoon of pickling or canning salt to each jar if you wish. Process pints 40 minutes and quarts 45 minutes in boiling water bath. To use, drain slices and prepare according to a recipe for green tomatoes as a vegetable, main dish, or dessert.

Freezing Green Tomatoes

Wash and core green tomatoes without peeling. Cut in slices or cubes and spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet and package frozen pieces in containers or plastic freezer bags. Use in almost any recipes for vegetables, main dishes, salads or desserts. Frozen slices may be dipped in flour and fried in hot oil without thawing. Salt and pepper to taste.

Dried Green Tomatoes

Peel and core green tomatoes and chop in cubes ½ -inch or less in size. Drain. Dry in food dehydrator at 140°F. When perfectly dry, store in glass jars or freeze. Soak one hour in an equal amount of water before using in any recipe called for chopped green tomatoes.

UMaine Extension educator Kathy Savoie recommends getting up-to-date information on the best methods, canners, jars and seals to use to ensure a safe result before preserving food. Recommendations are available from local UMaine Extension county offices and online at UMaine Extension: Food & Health, including upcoming food preservation workshops and how-to videos. For more information, call 207.581.3188; 800.287.0274 (in Maine).