Russian Fermented Tomatoes literally translate to 'Salted Tomatoes' in Russian, as they are make in a salt brine. The Russian way of pickling doesn't traditionally involve vinegar, but some recipes add vinegar too now, especially if you are going to be canning them for the winter.
My tomato recipe is called Fermented Tomatoes (Квашеные помидоры), but this is interchangeable with Pickled Tomatoes, or Salted Tomatoes. It's all called kind of the same thing in Russian, but with slightly different names, and slight differences in process. I know, confusing, but there are many ways to preserve tomatoes.
- Russian Pickled Tomatoes with Vegetables (Salted Pickled Tomatoes)
- Whole Marinated Tomatoes (not as traditional but my favorite)
Fermented Tomatoes is a traditional Russian recipe. The brine in Russian is called rassol, which is also popular hangover cure in Russia. It's full of sodium and electrolytes which makes it popular I suppose, but that's not the reason to make this recipe. The rassol is also used to make a soup called Rassolnik (рассольник).
As a kid, I hated eating these, because they were usually so fizzy and fermented. I couldn't eat them. I think I prefer a more milder version, so they taste fresher.
How To Make Fermented Tomatoes
This is a simple recipe, water, salt, herbs and spices, that's it. You don't even need to use hot water, but I still do. I like fermented foods and the health benefits they provide. This recipe is along those lines, providing a great way to preserve your tomato harvest. They are so delicious, but can be an acquired taste.
Traditionally this is made in large 3 Litre glass jars, but as I am keeping this in my fridge and not canning them or keeping in a cellar, I'm using 1 Litre jars from Ikea. You'll need to adjust the salt if using the larger jars. The amount of brine needed will depend on how many items you stuff into the jar, so its critical to get the salt content right. For a 1 Litre jar, you need at least 15 grams of salt, which is 3 teaspoons. Be generous with your teaspoons, don't be stingy, as you'll have some brine left over from the filling. And I also add 1 teaspoon of sugar to the brine.
Historically, salt has been used to preserve foods, so having the correct level of salt will ensure the tomatoes are preserved correctly. The brine will taste quite salty, but don't worry, tomatoes love salt and it will mellow and combine together perfectly.
Black currant or horseradish leaves are optional. I always add in the currant leaf, as I can't find fresh horseradish here in Perth. Russians always add these, as the tannins in these leaves add a bit of crunchiness when pickling foods. Also it's very important to use salt with no additives, without anti-caking agents or added iodine. Just use 100% pure salt. It's an acquired taste, but all fermented foods are.
I love to eat Fermented Tomatoes as a condiment with Plov, with potatoes, or even just on the table with whatever I'm eating! Bon Appetit! Приятного аппетита!
Fermented Tomatoes (Квашеные помидоры)
- tomatoes - enough to fill your jar
- bunch of dill - best with dill flower if available
- 2 black currant/horseradish leaves optional
- 5 cloves garlic
- 10 peppercorns
- 2 cloves
- 2 whole allspice berries if you can find them
- 2 or 3 stems parsley
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 teaspoons pure pure salt - no iodine - no additives
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 cups water
- Wash tomatoes and remove the stems. Using a fork, stab the tomato through the stem side, to allow the brine to permeate inside the tomato. If the tomato is larger, you might need to poke through in 2 places.
- Prepare sterilised jars. This recipe uses 1 litre jars, but most commonly is made in 3 litre jars.
- Place the dill, parsley, black currant/horseradish leaves, garlic, allspice, bayleaf, cloves an peppercorns into the bottom of the jar.
- Place the tomatoes on top of the herb/spices until the jar is full. I usually cut the last tomato in half, so it fits better into the jar.
- Using a Pyrex glass measuring jug, add 2 cups of boiling water, 3 generous teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of sugar and mix together until dissolved. Add salty water mixture to the jar and fill to the top, ensuring the tomatoes are covered. Some recipes use cold tap water which is fine, but I like the flavours the herbs release with the hot water, which cools very quickly anyway.
- Using a cheesecloth, cover the opening of the jar, and leave to sit on a countertop for 3-5 days. It will require less time in the summer, and more time in the winter, depending on the temperature of your house (don't put in direct sunlight). If you have tomatoes sticking out of the brine a bit, rotate them daily.
- When you feel your tomatoes are ready, you might like it milder or more fizzy fermented, close the lid and place in the refrigerator and allow to sit for 1-2 more weeks before eating. This will ensure the flavours full permeate together with the brine, herbs and tomatoes. The longer it sits before you eat it, the better the taste will be, trust me, otherwise the brine will taste amazing, but it hasn't fully penetrated the tomatoes. Remember to keep refrigerated. Enjoy!