stop-light tomato pickles

IMG_4797Having a garden means you have a tremendous amount of patience.  How else can you explain the process of waiting for the right time to put seeds in the ground, waiting for them to germinate, waiting for the plant to mature; wait, wait, hurry up and wait.  Participating in this process also makes you an optimist.  Gardeners are always looking ahead to the harvest, convinced that they will be blessed with an abundance.

Composting is a vital part of gardening.  It enriches the soil and replaces what is removed every time we harvest food from the beds.  As a gardener, I cannot imagine not having a few piles aging for future use.  One important rule of composting is not adding seeds unless you want those seeds to sprout and grow in your garden.  We do our best to follow this rule and I always compost weed plants in a pile by themselves.  Usually, the only seeds that make it into the compost are from foods we eat or grow.

My love affair with cherry tomatoes falls into this category.  As a devoted salad eater, I always have cherry tomatoes on hand and when they are not ripening in my garden, I pick up the little plastic containers from the store.  My favorite pick is the miniature heirloom tomatoes from Trader Joe’s.  A rainbow of color ranging from green to yellow and orange to brown, these beauties actually taste like tomatoes when compared to the large ones.  Sadly, I usually end up with more than I can eat and some end up taking a trip out to the compost pile.

IMG_4800As a result, we have an endless stream of tomato seeds germinating in our compost piles.  We always let a few of them grow and because we never know what they are, we generally call them surprise tomatoes.  This year, we had quite the haul: miniature plums, red cherries, full sized plums and brown kumatos.  As the frost approached, we made the decision to pick as many as we could.  Actually, the first real frost came late here, and on November 20th, we finally had the full freeze to kill the vines.

With the holidays approaching, we decided to pickle a large quantity of the cherries so that we could give them as gifts.  It was a fun way to spend a Sunday in the kitchen with Darry.  With this easy recipe courtesy of my good friend Melissa of Corbin in the Dell, we gathered the ingredients and supplies.

IMG_4805Darry is a reluctant hand model but he also likes to humor me.  Here he is peeling cloves of garlic to place in each of the jars.

IMG_4811We picked and sorted the tomatoes by color so that we could pack each jar with a variety of colors, just like a stop light.  (Sounds better than traffic light)

IMG_4813Each of the jars has fresh basil leaves, lemon peel, pepper corns, chili flakes and mustard seeds to flavor the pickles.

IMG_4814Vinegar and water are heated with salt and a little sugar and then poured over the tomatoes.  The jars are topped off with a little olive oil and then heated in a waterbath to seal them.  Ours are ready to go and we are hoping that  we have enough for everyone on our gift list!

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