This is the third post featuring a recipe from the Earl of Roden Commonplace Book held at the Scripps College, Denison Library. Read the first post here for information about this manuscript.
It’s tomato season, dear readers. The farmer’s market stalls and supermarket shelves are laden with sweet, tangy, luscious tomatoes that I can’t resist eating out of the container on my walk home. Other bloggers are also fueling my tomato-craziness with tasty recipes like this one. Our recipe for pickled tomatas captures tomatoes in their prime. It doesn’t require any special canning equipment beyond a clean jar so have no fear! Read on!
We haven’t always celebrated the tomato or even considered it edible. The tomato is a new world fruit. At first, Europeans and American colonists didn’t eat them at all for fear of a poisonous, painful death. Later, English gardeners would grow especially garish varieties to display as beautiful objects, gorgeous examples of horticultural prowess and cosmopolitanism. These two books document our slow conversion from a tomato-fearing to a tomato-loving food culture : Andrew F. Smith’s The Tomato in America and David Gentilcore’s Pomodoro! A History of the Tomato in Italy. This Modern Farmer article offers a more condensed history.
This recipe for pickled tomatoes is from the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century based on the history of the manuscript . The compiler notes Count Puzzi as a source, but I haven’t been able to track down a count by this name. (I did find Giovanni Puzzi, a celebrated horn player who resided in London in the nineteenth century, but, alas, I see no way to connect him to our tomato recipe.)
Not only was I excited to see a tomato recipe from relatively early in this history of European consumption of nightshade vegetables, but it also reminded me of an appetizer I’ve ordered many times at a favorite restaurant. Union on Yale serves a mason jar overflowing with vinegary heirloom cherry tomatoes, burrata, and basil-infused olive oil with lovely pita bread toasts on the side. I’ve never said no to burrata and I’ve come to love the way the sharp tomatoes compliment the luscious cheese.
Wipe the Tomatas clean and dry, the put them
entire into an earthen Jar, sprinkle them with Salt
and Pepper at your discretion and with some bruised
Cloves; then fill up the Jar with a sufficient quantity of
Vinegar to cover the whole x
This recipe is perhaps equal parts pickled and fermented tomatoes. Like any lover of kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, or even sourdough bread knows, when you put a lot of tasty veggies in an earthenware crock you’re inviting natural yeasts and microbes to transform your food into something new. For our recipe, I turned to what I know about making fridge pickles as a compromise between proper canning and crock fermenting. I frequently make batches of string-bean, cauliflower, fennel, and beet fridge pickles to add to salads or compliment a cheese platter so this method is what felt natural to me. If you try this in an earthenware jar or properly can a batch and like what you taste, please let us know!
1half lb tomatoes (whole, small tomatoes like cherry, grape, or sugar plum will work best)
3 twists black pepper
1 t cloves
1/2 t salt
1 c apple cider vinegar
a 2 cup mason jar, thoroughly washed
Put about a half pound of tomatoes in the mason jar. Fill to the top, but leave some space at the neck of the jar. Add seasonings. Fill with vinegar until the tomatoes are completely covered. Firmly affix the lid and label the jar. Leave in refrigerator for 1-2 weeks. I tried this batch after 10 days.
Consume pickled tomatoes within a month of opening the jar.
Pickled tomatoes are tart, juicy, and remarkably fresh. As I’d hoped, they tasted wonderful with cheese. The clove and vinegar seasoning combination reminded me of fancy homemade or artisanal ketchup. Next time, I might consider flavoring them with coriander, fennel, or caraway seeds instead. I like cider vinegar, but I think red or white wine vinegar or even sherry vinegar would also work as a base.