Everyone has their special superpower. Some people are good at remembering names. Others are good at changing car tyres on the side of the road.
There are even those rare people who can keep a white shirt clean while slurping spaghetti bolognese.
When you discover your own superpower you should never be coy. Use it to help others. I mean, imagine if Batman just stayed on his couch in sweatpants while bingeing on Netflix, Gotham City would be a very different place.
With this in mind, I'm here to share my own superpower with you: pickling green tomatoes.
My obsession with pickled vegetables started when I was in primary school and spent school holidays with my babysitter. Okay, let's be real, my babysitter was actually my nonna. No Italian-Australian family is forking money out on a babysitter when nonna is around, and even if they did, your nonna would be so offended she'd probably give you the silent treatment indefinitely.
Hanging out with my nonna every day had its perks. First up, I learnt a lot about adult relationships by watching Days of Our Lives with her. Every. Single. Day. She also taught me how to knit and negotiate with my sister and cousins who also spent the school holidays at her house.
"But perhaps the best thing my nonna introduced to me during this time was Italian pickled, vinegary vegetables."
Highly contentious debates and arguments ranged from whose turn was it to sweep the floor after lunch to who would stop me from watching The Sound of Music on VHS for the third consecutive day.
But perhaps the best thing my nonna introduced to me during this time was Italian pickled, vinegary vegetables.
While my friends told me about this mythical thing called a "straz and sauce sandwich" I was instead snacking on pasta dura bread with mortadella, provolone and whatever preserved vegetable I found in the bottom of her pantry.
At one point, my nonna even banned me for a week from having her pickled eggplants because she thought I was eating too many and the vinegar would corrode my intestines. I am grateful for her due diligence and care, but at the time I remember being super annoyed my sandwich filling was being mercilessly compromised.
Being a grown-up, this obsession with pickled vegetables has only manifested, mainly because as an adult I can eat them whenever I want. And also because I can now make them myself instead of relying on my nonna's pantry stash. These days my pickles of choice are Italian-style green tomatoes, and making them is my favourite at-home-with-too-much-time-on-my-hands project.
It's a two-day project but don't be alarmed, the bulk of the job is just letting the tomatoes do their own thing without any human intervention.
The most rewarding thing about these pickles is that they get better with age. However, equally the saddest thing is that I go through them so quickly. I use them in sandwiches and have seen them transform the most boring home sandwich into a deli-style one you'd happily pay for.
I also serve them as part of antipasto platters. But mainly I love when friends and family ask me where I bought them and I proudly reply: I made them myself.
Italian pickled green tomatoes recipe
800g green tomatoes
2 tbsp dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
1 cup white wine vinegar
½ cup water
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 bay leaves
- We prep our tomatoes. Remove the core stem from each tomato. Cut each tomato in half, then cut each half into 5-6 wedges.
- Put tomatoes into a colander with a bowl underneath and add 2tsbp on salt. Generously coat tomatoes with salt using your hands. The salt releases water from the tomatoes. Cover with plastic and put in the fridge for 24 hours.
- Remove tomatoes from the fridge. Drain water from the bowl and squeeze the tomatoes with your hands (the aim is to release as much tomato juice as we can). Keep tomatoes in the colander over the bowl. Cover the tomatoes with a plate and put something heavy on top of the plate to add pressure and flatten tomatoes (I used a can of olive oil). Leave for 1 hour.
- Remove excess water from the bowl again. Rinse bowl clean and add tomatoes. Pour 1 cup of white wine vinegar and ½ cup water over tomatoes. Cover with the same plate and heavy item, so tomatoes are submerged in the pickling liquid. Leave at room temperature for 24 hours.
- Drain pickling liquid from the bowl and squeeze as much liquid from the tomatoes with your hands. Make sure you’ve removed any excess liquid from the bowl, the tomatoes should have shrunk in size a little.
- Now we'll season our tomatoes. Add 1.5 tbsp salt, 2 tbsp dried oregano, 2 garlic cloves thinly sliced, ½ tsp chilli flakes and a very generous glug of extra virgin olive oil. Mix well. Taste a tomato for seasoning, add extra salt if you feel it needs it.
- Once you're happy with the flavour, put tomatoes in sanitised jar/s (with this recipe you should yield approximately 500g) with 2 bay leaves per jar. Fill the jar with extra virgin olive oil. Wipe rim of jar clean and put a lid on. These tomatoes can be eaten after 24 hours but waiting a week is preferable to develop flavours.
- Keep stored in the pantry and eat within 2 months.
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