Use end-of-the-season green tomatoes to make a sweet green tomato relish. It has a classic relish flavor, and you can use it in the same way—one of the best green tomato recipes you can make in a jar.
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It’s the end of the summer or into autumn, and there are tresses of green tomatoes still on your plants. The first frosts aren’t long off, and you know that there’s probably no time left for them to ripen outdoors. We can take green tomatoes inside to turn red, but they won’t have the same delicious flavor as if they’d ripened on the plant. They’ll taste like bland supermarket tomatoes, instead. What do you do with them, then? Fortunately, you have plenty of green tomato recipes to try, including this delicious green tomato relish recipe.
I’ve based it on a classic sweet American relish recipe, with a little extra mustard for a delicious kick. It’s about the same consistency too, and the texture of the green tomatoes really lends itself to being finely chopped and prepared this way. Once made, the jars will last unopened for up to two years in the cupboard, and you can use it on crackers, sausages, cheese, sandwiches, pasta salads, and hotdogs (so yum!).
Green Tomato Recipes
Green tomatoes have firmer flesh than ripe fruit and a flavor that’s completely different. Sour, slightly astringent, and more vegetable-like, opposed to a sweet fruitiness. They also have a crunchy texture that isn’t half bad in a salsa. That firmness and crunchiness also make them a fantastic ingredient for cooked dishes, including pickles and preserves like this relish recipe or green tomato chutney.
Because let’s face it, you can only eat so many green tomatoes now. It’s better to use them in something delicious that you can enjoy over the winter and into next year.
Some people have concerns over eating green tomatoes though, thinking that green tomatoes might be poisonous. Fortunately, green tomatoes are actually good for you! The New York Times reports that the tomatine alkaloid present in green tomatoes harmlessly passes right through the gut. However, it also binds itself to cholesterol and takes it with on the bodily exit. Dr. Mendel Friedman of the federal Department of Agriculture, who conducted the research, also found that purified tomatine stimulates the immune system and inhibits the growth of some human cancer cells. Good news for those of us who want to make green tomato recipes!
Sweet Green Tomato Relish Recipe
Green tomatoes have a flesh texture and flavor that suits itself to pickling. The combination of its sourness with added sugar and vinegar is one of the best ways to enjoy it, in my opinion. It also pairs well with other vegetables so you could do a mix of whatever you have left in the garden larder and make a tasty array of preserves and ferments to enjoy later.
In classic American relish, the main vegetable used is cucumber. It has a less firm and more watery consistency, so I’ve made calculations and have added steps to counter the difference. One is quartering and removing the wet seeds from inside the tomatoes. The other is chopping and draining the rest of the tomato flesh and other veg so that it dries out and firms up. Doing this cuts down on the cooking time and ensures the vegetable ingredients don’t turn to mush in your final green tomato relish.
Thanks to turmeric, the final color is yellowish, though keeping some of the green tomato juice back (from the removed tomato seeds) and adding it into the brine helps green up the color. There are some traditional bright green relishes in the USA and this color is achieved through food coloring. Most food color is artificial but there are natural food colors too if you wish to add some. They seem to rely on spirulina though which does fade in handmade soap. I’ve not tried them before to know if the green color survives for long in relish.
Tips for Making Green Tomato Relish
There are a few notes on this recipe that I’d like to share before you begin. First, on the size of the vegetables after you chop them up. In the recipe, I use a food processor (this is my exact model) to finely mince each. I’d really recommend that you do the same or cut the pieces to the same small size by hand. Larger pieces are fine in things like chutney but the smaller pieces are really much better suited for relish. A food processor saves so much time and effort too! Just make sure that you don’t accidentally purree your veg! Gently pulse.
The other thing is that this is a safe preserving recipe. This means that it finishes with a water bath to kill off mold and yeast and to create a vacuum seal under the lid. To be able to do this, you should not use recycled jars saved from supermarket shops since they can crack in the bath. Instead, use preserving jars and new lids. The type that I use in this recipe is the 1-lb (16 oz) jars that I use to bottle honey. You can also get purpose-made Mason or Kilner jars and preserving lids. With that said, let’s get picking some green tomatoes and make the best green tomato relish you’ve ever had!
Sweet Green Tomato Relish Recipe
- Stainless steel pan
- 3.4 lb green tomatoes (1542 g / 54.4 oz)
- 5 small yellow onions, quartered (515 g / 18.2 oz)
- 1 large red bell pepper, quartered and cleaned (155 g / 5.47 oz)
- 3.5 tsp pickling salt (or sea salt or kosher salt)
- 1.75 cups white sugar (365 g)
- 7 tsp plain flour (27 g)
- 1.25 tsp mustard powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp celery seed (optional)
- Prepare the vegetables beginning with the green tomatoes. Quarter them and scoop their seeds and insides into a bowl. You'll be left with a very wet bowl of tomato innards and a bowl of quartered green tomato flesh.
- After being cleaned, you should have just over 2.2 lb (1000 g) tomato flesh that goes into the recipe.
- Place the tomato innards in a mesh strainer over a bowl. Allow the liquid to filter down and give it a bit of a squeeze with your fingers/fist. You want to reserve 1/2 cup of the green liquid to use later.
- The green tomato flesh now needs to be chopped up. You can do this by hand, with a knife, with the large holes of a cheese grater, or with a food processor. I've used the latter and broken them down to a rough mince by careful pulsing. You want texture here, not a puree, so be careful. You can also cut your pieces a little larger than I have if you wish. After chopping, you'll have/need 4.5 cups green tomatoes by volume,
- Chop the red pepper and yellow onions up to the same size as the green tomatoes. We use yellow onion or light fleshed onions so the relish color isn't affected. After chopping, you'll get/need 2.25 cups onions and just over 1/2 cup red pepper.
- Place all of the chopped vegetables in a bowl together and sprinkle over the salt. Stir it in well.
- Spoon the mixture into another mesh strainer over a bowl, and allow the mixture to drain for one hour.
- At the end of this time, squeeze the vegetables down with your fist and fingers to try to remove as much moisture as possible. After this, discard the salty liquid (there should be about 3 cups of it!). The vegetables will be much reduced in size.
Seasonings and Jar Prep
- In a bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients including the sugar, flour, and spices. Set aside.
- Warm your clean jars and lids in the oven. Set the oven to 200°F (100°C) and place the jars inside. Keep them there until they are called for. Warming glass jars stop them from cracking when hot contents are poured inside.
Make the Brine
- In a large stainless steel pan, combine the vinegar, dijon (if using it), and the reserved tomato liquid from the seeds. The latter adds a little greenness to the relish, tomato flavor, but no salt as the seeds were not salted. Bring to a boil.
- While whisking, slowly add the dry ingredient mix to the boiling liquid. Mix thoroughly until completely incorporated.
Make the Sweet Green Tomato Relish
- Once the brine is mixed, add the drained vegetable mix of green tomatoes, onion, and red pepper. Stir it all together and bring the pan back to a boil. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring constantly. The green tomato relish is ready when it looks like the photo below. If yours looks more watery than this, keep boiling it until that excess moisture evaporates off.
- Take the jars out of the oven carefully, and place them on a towel on the kitchen work surface. Ladle the green tomato relish inside, filling them with a 1/4 (0.5 cm) inch headspace. A metal preserving funnel helps stop any mess.
- There will be air bubbles between the glass and the green tomato relish. Run a thin silicone spatula or butter knife around the edge of each pot to release them. Fix the lids on and screw them (or the rings) on so that they're firmly closed but not overly tight.
- Water-bath* the jars to ensure that they're fully sterilized and won't go off during storage. Fill a tall pan with water and place a rack at the bottom if you have one. If not, a potholder or folded dish towel will do. This is to protect your jars from direct heat. Bring to a boil then lower your jars in so that they're not touching and that there's at least an inch of water above.
- Bring back to a rolling boil and leave the jars in the boiling water for ten minutes. Lift them out vertically (not tilted) with a jar lifter and set them on a towel placed on the kitchen work surface to cool. If you've made a lot of jars and they don't all fit in your pan, you can water bath the jars in batches.
- The lids will seal as the relish cools to room temperature. You may hear a pop, and you may not. The important thing is that the lid does not push down and up again if pressed. They should appear slightly convex, actually, since water bathing kills mold and yeast and also creates a vacuum inside the jars.
- Label the jars when cool and store them in a dark cupboard for up to two years. I'd highly recommend keeping them bottled for at least a month or two before opening, just to allow the flavor to develop. Refrigerate the jars once opened and try to use the relish within six months of opening.
- In Britain, it’s not common for people to water-bath high-acid preserves like this green tomato relish. It’s very important to do so for both shelf-life and your health so please do not skip this.
More Autumn Garden Harvest Recipes
The end of the season gives us a last big push of garden harvests and wild foraged fare. Here are some ways to use what’s left in the larder for delicious meals and flavorful preserves. I also want to point out that if you’re not keen on all the prep work included in this relish recipe, cleaning out the tomatoes is not required for my green tomato chutney recipe.
- Picking and drying Rose Hips for Tea
- Make Homemade Fruit, Flower, and Vegetable Wine
- Butternut squash pie Recipe (other squash can be used)
- 5 Ways to Preserve Produce without Canning/Bottling