A celebration of mediocrity

jar pickled tomato

Being totally honest, I’ve never liked raw tomatoes all that much. I put them in salads and sandwiches but I often eat them without much enjoyment, more a sense of duty. Duty? To a fruit? Anyway. I always supposed that California is a perfect tomato-growing climate, but particularly after these past two cool summers, that’s clearly not the case. And it’s not just our shady backyard (where we have yet to get a flower on our little stunted tomato plants this year), all the local tomatoes leave something to be desired. I remember eating a tomato in Sarajevo in the summer of 1996; it was hardly the most auspicious place for fresh produce, what with the war just ended and all, but that tomato was a revelation, so sweet and juicy. And while we had hard times with the tomatoes in Slovakia, so many of which split and cracked and fell prey to Colorado beetles, I miss being able to gather a nice bowlful for supper on a hot summer evening.

On the other hand, the firm, bland little cherry tomatoes we’ve been getting at the store are perfect for pickling. It seems a shame to fuss about with a lovely ripe tomato (or peach, or plum), but when they’re this unremarkable, a shot of vinegar does wonders.

My mother taught me how to make these when I was a teenager, and I had forgotten about them for years before this summer. Now I can’t get enough – as soon as we eat through one batch, I am nicking the skins for the next round. It is a little tedious to peel cherry tomatoes, and in fact you can just as well just slice up a large tomato and let it soak in the oil and vinegar; the pulpy insides may spill out, but that’s only an aesthetic issue. I find it relaxing to slip the little ones from their skins, it’s the perfect thing to do while listening to the radio on a sultry afternoon.

pickled tomato

Pickled tomatoes
The quotation marks in the title here are because these aren’t true pickles (you need to follow proper canning procedures for those). I just keep them in the fridge, where they last about a week in the unlikely event they’re not gobbled up. I sometimes toss in halved artichoke hearts, which take up the vinegar nicely themselves.
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  1. 1 pound (about ½ kilo) cherry tomatoes
  2. ¼ cup Sherry vinegar
  3. 3 Tbs olive oil
  4. ½ tsp dried oregano
  5. 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  6. 2 scallions, sliced
  1. First, blanch the tomatoes to make them easier to peel. Bring a large pot half-full of water to a boil. In the meantime, make a small nick or x at the stem end of the tomatoes. Prepare a large bowl of ice water and a slotted spoon. When the pot of water boils, carefully add the tomatoes and let them cook for about one minute; if the skins start to split or peel, take them out with the slotted spoon, and drop them in the ice water. Drain them off and then peel each tomato, discarding the skins.
  2. Whisk together the vinegar, oil, and oregano in a small measuring cup.
  3. Put the tomatoes, scallions, and garlic in a sealable container, the smallest they’ll fit into. Pour the vinegar mixture over the top, and gently tip the container to mix.
  4. Tightly seal and refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.
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