Let's Get Pickled: Fermented Heirlooms

Here in the States, Labor Day marked the unofficial end of summer. As if on cue, the temperature plummeted 20 degrees overnight. Buh-lieve me, after enduring 3+ months of seemingly endless 90-degree days, this is SUCH a welcomed relief.   { someone please remind me of this in a few short months when the blizzard is raging outside my window }

So yes, autumn is in the air. My garden, however, never got the memo. It's still going gangbusters. Check out those gorgeous heirloom tomatoes up there. I've been gorging on them for weeks now in salads, soups and salsas. I've loaded up my friends, family and neighbors. My plants are still full. What's a gardener to do? Start pickling!

Wait. What's an heirloom tomato anyway?

Short answer: Fan-freakin-tastic! Seriously, the best, most flavorful tomato you'll ever taste.

Longer answer: An heirloom tomato (or any heirloom plant) is one that is open-pollinated and grown in an earlier era. Usually that means a plant that originated prior to the advent of hybridization in 1951. Some heirlooms are hundreds of years old. And when I say "plant," I actually mean "seed."

Listen, a year ago, I didn't even know tomatoes came in so many varieties – 77, in every color, size, and flavor imaginable! Now, I'm totally hooked and I'm thinking, next year, I want to put in a garden of solely heirloom veggies.

Fab article you should check out on Why It Matters to Buy Heirloom Plants and Seeds. To help preserve garden biodiversity, join the Seed Savers Exchange. Its catalog will blow you away.

Okay, back to the pickling adventures. I picked up The Joy of Pickling on a whim one day this summer, and I am loooooooving it. So much fun! Over 250 recipes. Who knew? Not I, that's for sure.

I adore raw cultured veggies, not only because they taste so darn good, but because they're a terrific way to add valuable probiotics and enzymes to your body, which help stamp out Candida, boost your immune system and curb your cravings for sweets.

I've used cabbage, cucumbers, peppers, beets, zucchini and summer squash – all from my lil' backyard garden! But today, I want to share my tomatoes with you. And when you see how super-duper easy it is, you'll want to get pickled too. *wink*

You can use any size jar you please and adjust the recipe accordingly. I do recommend you use a non-reactive container though – don't want any funky chemical reaction happening during the fermentation process. I like glass, but ceramic crocks work nicely too.

Pickled Heirloom Tomatoes

heirloom tomatoes (mixed varieties, including green and cherry tomatoes)
5 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
5 fresh basil leaves, whole
4 fresh oregano leaves, rough chopped
1 Tbsp sea salt per cup of filtered water
1 Tbsp fresh lemon or lime juice

Slice your tomatoes into 1/4 inch rounds. You can leave some of the cherry tomatoes whole if you like. Tightly pack your jar with tomatoes, onions and herbs until roughly 3/4 full.

Dissolve sea salt in water to create a brine solution. Stir in lemon or lime juice (this keeps the tomatoes from becoming too mushy during the fermentation process).

Pour the liquid into the jar, covering the tomatoes and herbs. Add more cold water if necessary. Leave about an inch at the top.

Put the lid on the jar and leave on your counter undisturbed for about 7 days or until naturally pickled by fermentation. Refrigerate after opening.

Little to no patience?

If waiting seven days seems like an eternity, you can always use the speedy method like I did with my Icebox Pickles. In this case, you'll want to use raw cider vinegar and refrigerate overnight.

Like to spice things up a bit? Add a couple of  jalapeño peppers to your jar. Ooooh, yeah!

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