Translated literally from Russian it would sound more like "salted tomatoes" but it is, in fact, tomatoes fermented in a brine. This condiment-type food is the way how Eastern-European people were preserving tomatoes for centuries. Also this is a second favorite accompaniment to a shot of vodka. Why second? Just because first one, hands down, is a pickle, of course, according to Russian drinking traditions. Even if you don't drink, fermented tomatoes is a great addition to any meal, just ask my husband about it - fermented tomatoes is one of his all-time favorite food.
What it is
It is whole tomatoes kept in brine until they soften and acquire special sweet-and-sour briny tingling taste.
Per your taste, they can be more or less spicy. Traditionally, in Ukraine, we all add dill as a herb to a brine. Although other herbs, celery and peppers can be added.
How it's served
As a condiment, it is goes very well with any more-or-less mild food. For example, we like it with any type potato dishes or any meat, especially grilled one.
about 30 tomatoes (I used plum tomatoes but any will do)
1 small bunch of fresh dill
15 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
3 liters of water
1 tbs of whole black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
6 tbs kosher salt
9 tbs sugar
- To make a brine, in a pot, bring water to a boil, add salt, sugar, black pepper and bay leaves. Turn heat off. Let brine to cool down to a warm temperature. In an hour or two test water with your finger - it should feel warm.
- Meanwhile, wash your tomatoes. With a fork, make holes in a base of tomatoes for a brine to penetrate better.
- Pack tomatoes in a clean jars, fairly tightly. Do not overfill jar though, leaving area above jar's upper curve, below rim, free to be able to cover your tomatoes with brine without sticking them from a liquid. Please note, that on my pictures below, my jars are a bit overfilled - my fermenting experience allows me to step away from a rules, you know :), to have one extra fermented tomato to devour.
- Distribute garlic and coarsely chopped dill evenly between jars, right on a top of tomatoes.
- When brine is cooled down (about temperature of your shower :)), pour it in a jar, completely covering all tomatoes.
- Make sure all tomatoes are covered with a brine. Those sticking out, will make your tomatoes prone to mold. If you've got some stubborn tomatoes, floating to a surface, cover jar opening loosely with a plastic wrap and place smaller clean glass jar, filled with a water, as a weight. Do not use anything metal, something made of non-reactive materials, such as glass or ceramic, would be appropriate. Make a couple of wholes in a wrap for fermenting gases to escape.
- Place jar lids on a top, if your tomatoes are completely covered with a brine and you are not using weight as described in a previous step. Keep lid ajar for fermenting gases to escape.
- Let tomatoes seat on a counter for 3-5 days (depending of your room temperature). On a second or third day you will notice that brine becomes milky - it is the way it should be.
- On a third day you can try your tomatoes. Most likely, it won't be ready and will taste differently but not quite right, so let them seat in a room temperature more. As soon as you decide they are ready - transfer jars into a fridge. Next day, cold, they will taste amazing.
- Do not be afraid to error on either side deciding when to stop fermenting process by placing tomatoes in a fridge. Often it is matter of taste - some likes it mild, some likes it fizzy as carbonated water. Fermenting will continue in a fridge but very-very slowly, so eventually your tomatoes will become more fermented. Enjoy! When you will get used to its special taste - please, try to control yourself and do not eat tomatoes right from a jar, one by one, in a one seat! :)
Pot with a brine is cooling down.
Prickle your tomatoes with a fork.
Pack tomatoes into jars.
Lower part of your dill bunch with a think stems is just perfect for brining tomatoes.
Nice and tender dill tops I'll save for my salads.
Pouring warm brine into jars.
Day 2... Not much of a difference.
Day 3. Note that brine becomes more cloudy - that's how it should be.
Day 4. Yes, it is definitely cloudy. Do not forget to flip over that upper tomato sticking out of a brine :). I decided to leave jars on a counter one more day. Tomorrow they will go to a fridge and tomatoes will be ready to eat.
Cold, juicy, right from a fridge it will go with anything - right now I'll be eating it with simple ciabatta bread and cheese.
Enjoy fermented tomatoes as is, whole, piercing upper end with your teeth, sucking cold refreshing juices out (have napkins handy!) and then biting into a glossy sweet&salty flesh.
Or cut them in a half for more controlled consuming :) Eat it with a skin - it's a fiber and good for you and you can skip on your artificial fiber drink today!
Day7... tomatoes are disappearing from a jar.
Isn't it pretty site?