When you think of fermented food, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Kimchi? Cucumbers? Cabbage that’s been pounded, then fermented into sauerkraut? I’m willing to wager it’s not the cheery, red tomato! But actually, fermenting whole tomatoes for winter storage is a wonderful way to preserve the fresh taste and flavor of this late-ripening garden vegetable!
Fermenting Whole Tomatoes
Fermenting tomatoes is as easy as falling off a log! Once the process is under way, filled jars can be preserved in a root cellar, cold room or refrigerator. When stored in cool temperatures, they’ll keep for several months (at least). With a few basic instructions, you’ll soon be on your way. Let me outline everything for you, step by step!
Step 1: Choose Your Tomatoes
When fermenting whole tomatoes, it’s best to choose small, firm fruits for the job. I don’t recommend going much bigger than golf-ball size, or the end result will be quite soft and mushy.
Step 2: Add Herbs and Flavorings
You can add your favorite herbs in fresh form: dill, oregano, cilantro and basil are all wonderful options. If you enjoy the flavor of garlic or onions, these too can be added to the fermenting jar!
Step 3: Add the Ingredients
To ferment whole tomatoes, you’ll need the following:
- one dozen, golf-ball size tomatoes
- 3 tsp sea salt
- quart/litre jar with a lid
- 2-3 C chlorine free water
- 3-4 sprigs of fresh herbs (optional)
- 3-4 garlic cloves (optional)
- 3-4 onion slices (optional)
In a clean jar, place the 3 teaspoons of salt, plus fresh herbs, garlic or onions (if using). Rinse tomatoes clean and remove green tops. Poke each tomato 2x with a clean fork, then pop each one into the jar.
Fill until tomatoes reach the jar’s neck. Don’t be afraid to pack the last few in; they’ll help hold everything under the liquid!
Add water, until tomatoes are covered. Tightly fasten down a lid, then gently tip the jar back and forth from end to end, until salt is dissolved.
Step 4: Watch and Wait
Depending on the temperature of your home, tomatoes may take several days to begin the fermenting process. If using an airtight lid, be sure to quickly break the seal every day. After a while, the brine will turn cloudy and bubbles will appear on the surface of the liquid. This is a sure sign of fermentation!
Step 6: How to Tell When Tomatoes Are Ready For Refrigeration
Don’t let your tomatoes ferment for too long, or you’ll end up with a very strong flavor and a very soft product! On average, I’d recommend 7-12 days. Your tomatoes are ready for refrigeration or cold storage when you like the flavor! Start taste-testing after day 7.
What You Need to Know About Storage Life
Cold doesn’t actually stop fermentation; it just slows the process! Over time, your tomatoes will grow stronger in flavor, but they should keep for at least 4 months when stored in consistently cool temperatures.
How to Use Fermented Tomatoes
After fermenting whole tomatoes for winter storage, they can be used all season long in a similar way you’d use fresh tomatoes! Add them to salad dressings or use them to create a raw, pour-over pasta sauce. Slice them for sandwiches, taco toppings and salads, or puree and use in winter soups.
The flavor is unique and delicious. Once your taste buds have become accustomed to the fermented tomato, you’ll only wish you’d preserved more!