Fermented tomatoes are a real treat. They are sweet and sour and pop in your mouth with a refreshing explosion. Yum!
The only problem is to get them to that stage.
I have made fermented tomatoes for years, but to be honest, it was always hit-and-miss. One time they would turn out beautiful, and the next time I had to discard them.
My favorite book Fermented Vegetables could not help me either. It has information on fermenting green tomatoes, but not ripe. Tomatoes, even though delicious, just didn’t consistently ferment well.
That was till I learned a little secret about fermented tomatoes. This German Youtuber shares it, being multilingual is really helpful.
The little secret is indeed a bit dirty. The trick is not to wash the tomatoes.
Since tomatoes have a high sugar content and also are protected by skin, they have a hard time getting started with fermentation. Leaving them unwashed insures that the natural bacteria on the skin start the fermenting process quicker. Who knew!
I usually end up rinsing them quickly, but not washing them thoroughly. Not washing at all is even better, I’m just too much of a Virgo not to wash what we eat, haha.
What tomatoes to choose
For size choose small tomatoes, anywhere from cherry to small tomatoes is fine. Preferably you want to be able to pop the whole tomato into your mouth.
Firm tomatoes that are slightly underripe are best. They don’t get all wrinkly and mushy as fast.
I have also found that tomatoes with slightly thicker skin do better. Otherwise, the color and variety do not matter.
Preparing the tomatoes
As we established before, the tomatoes should preferably not be washed. Giving a quick rinse has worked for me. If homegrown, you can leave them totally unwashed. After all, they will be covered in a salt brine before being eaten.
Using a fork or a toothpick make some holes into the tomatoes. This enables the brine to get into the tomatoes and helps with fermentation.
Spice it up
Tomatoes can be fermented just with salt, however, adding herbs, garlic, hot pepper or spices gives them a special note.
Dill and garlic are my favorite. Basil, rosemary, and thyme are other options.
Get creative and find what suits your taste.
Since tomatoes are small and should be eaten soon, a jar seems to be the best option.
A quart canning jar or Ikea jars with a lid all work great.
The container has to be clean, you don’t what to introduce any other bacteria into the processing. If you use a lot of anti-bacterial soap, sterilize the jars also. If your kitchen is more natural, just cleaning the jars is enough. This is because you most likely already have good bacteria everywhere.
Fill the jar to the shoulder, leaving some space for the weight and brine.
Weight it down
When fermenting, it is crucial to keep everything under the brine. Place a weighing stone or clean rock that fits into the jar on top of the tomatoes. This will prevent the tomatoes from floating up and spoiling.
If you don’t have any weighing stone on hand, a clean bag filled with water works too as shown in one of the pictures below.
For the brine use 2,5 tablespoons of canning salt for 1 liter (quart) of water. The salt should be without additives, just salt.
Use filtered water if you can. If you don’t have a filtration system, the water should be boiled and cooled down before use.
Mix the salt well and pour over the tomatoes to cover everything with the brine.
A Lid and Econolock are in my opinion a luxury that is not needed. If you have one, use it.
A fermentation kit is a great kit to have, and we would recommend it. The kit comes with weighing stones and pipe airlock lids. A stumper is also a great tool, not needed for tomatoes, but great for making saurkraut. However, as we explain in Fermenting is simple – learn the basics, you can start with whatever you have in your kitchen.
A simple lid can also be used. Just do not close it tightly, and vent periodically to let the gas out.
Place the jar or container used on a plate or baking sheet and leave it for about a week at room temperature. The brine will get a bit cloudy, that’s normal and should smell pleasant saur.
After 5-6 days you can taste the tomatoes, if you like them, transfer them to a cool place to stop the fermenting process. If you find they need a bit longer that’s okay. Tomatoes do need a bit longer to ferment.
In our experience, fermented tomatoes do not store well. Use and enjoy them soon.
If you have never had any fermented tomatoes, we would love to hear what you think. make a small batch, and see what you have been missing.