RECIPE AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY JESSICA TUNIS
Punch up the flavor of chicken, fish or rice with this homemade condiment
Green tomatoes are a special seasonal treat. Sometimes in June, when I just cannot wait for the first tomatoes to ripen, I pluck a few to make this special condiment. In years that promise abundance from my homegrown vines, I harvest green tomatoes throughout the summer or sometimes when a dog or a child will knock a few off of the vines. In leaner years, I often wait until the end of the growing season, when I am sure that the last of the summer crop will not ripen in the cold of approaching winter.
But whatever the method or timing of the harvest, this is a lovely recipe that highlights the tart acidity and firmer texture of green tomato fruits. Choose tomatoes that are approaching ripeness, rather than very young, immature fruits. You want the fruit to have developed seeds and become somewhat shiny, so that it will be juicy and flavorful.
It’s especially delicious when fermented for just a few days on the counter, which adds a bright sparkle and zing to the condiment, as well as a healthy probiotic boost. If fermentation seems like too much to take on, however, this one is also delicious just as it is.
This is a flexible recipe and the spices can be adjusted to reflect different styles of cuisine. By omitting the fennel and going heavier on the shallots, the flavor profile skews more toward salsa. Subbing a hot curry powder for the coriander makes it a fresh foil to Indian foods. The recipe as written, however, is a happy medium, perfect served over chicken or fish, or atop a dish of lentils or rice.
4–6 large unripe green tomatoes (about 3 cups, chopped into ½-inch cubes)
1 tablespoon salt
Juice of 1 small lime
1 shallot, finely diced
2 Hungarian hot wax or jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely diced
1 frond from a single fresh fennel floret or 1/8 teaspoon dried fennel seed
2 teaspoons minced cilantro
½ inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and crushed or finely diced
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 clove garlic, crushed
Chop the green tomatoes into fine cubes, removing the white woody core if necessary, which may be more pronounced in unripe fruit. Place the tomatoes in a medium-sized bowl to preserve their juices and toss with the salt. Squeeze the lime juice over the tomatoes. Add the diced shallot, hot peppers, fennel, cilantro and ginger. Toss to combine. Sprinkle the coriander over the mixture and toss to mix again.
Place the crushed garlic clove at the bottom of a 24-ounce Mason jar. Pack the chutney—which by this time should be weeping a luscious green juice—tightly into the jar on top of the garlic clove. Press the chutney down gently to bring the brine up above the level of the vegetables. Weight the mixture with a ceramic or glass fermenting weight; a glass Weck jar lid works well in a pinch. Screw the lid down lightly and set the jar on the counter, out of direct sun. You can affix a jar top fermenter if desired, but this ferment goes so fast that it does not really need one. Just “burp” the jar, cracking the seal on the lid now and then to release the accumulated CO2. Allow the ferment to sit at room temperature for 2–3 days, releasing pressure as needed. Sometimes it’s useful to put the jar into a bowl or on a small baking sheet to catch any overflow brine.
This chutney is best in the early stages of fermentation. After 2–3 days, it should be moved to the refrigerator, which will halt the fermentation process. Enjoy within 2 weeks. Makes about 3 cups.