Today, I wept (well, sort of...Le Cordon Bleu Chicago chefs never really cry...always trying to set a good example for my students, we adapt and overcome. But I cried on the inside). The tears were bittersweet, because as I was mourning for the loss of something special, I was also thinking about creating something delicious. The loss I'm referring to is that of the growing season here in the great lakes region finally coming to a "winter's right around the corner" kind of end. This feeling was brought about by finally getting out to our garden one last time to pick the green tomatoes that would obviously never ripen on the vine. Even though the onset of winter can make a gardener feel rather bleak, there's also some solace in knowing that spring has no choice but to show up afterwards and get the whole garden thing going again.
The sweet portion of the bittersweet I mentioned has to do with the fact that I absolutely love pickled green tomatoes. If you've never had one, get yourself to a respectable Jewish deli like Ashkenaz on Cedar St. in the Gold Coast neighborhood just north of downtown Chicago and try one. So here I am weeping for the perennial loss of warmth and vegetal bounty, while at the same time my stomach is growling thinking about the deliciousness I'd be reveling in two weeks from now.
I ended up with a huge colander full of smallish green tomatoes (enough to fill four one quart size mason jars), and here's how I like to get them in a pickle:
In a saucepan, combine 1 quart of a relatively neutral colored vinegar (white wine, cider, rice wine, distilled, malt, etc.) and 1 quart of cold water. Add to that mixture half a cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of salt. Slowly bring it up to a low boil. While that's heating up, set out your mason jars and add to each jar 1 tsp each mustard seeds, dill seeds, and black peppercorns. Put two bay leaves and three chopped cloves of garlic in each jar as well, and then add the green tomatoes, cut in quarters. Pour enough boiling brine into each jar to cover the tomatoes, and screw on the lids. Once slightly cooled, store them in your refrigerator for at least two weeks before eating. They're great to eat in any way you may otherwise enjoy a cucumber pickle...only better.I'll be thinking of spring while I eat mine, getting ready to replant our backyard garden with more tomatoes...some of which will hopefully never ripen.