Brined Tomatoes

This recipe yields ever-so-slightly-sweet tomatoes. I like to use small ones, which absorb flavor faster, but if they’re firm, you can use any tomatoes on hand. And if you don’t have horseradish or currant leaves, just toss in some celery or extra dill. Serve these tomatoes as part of a zakuska spread, or as an accompaniment to roast meat. They’re so tasty that I often just pop one into my mouth for a snack.

Makes about 2 pounds

  • 2 pounds firm Campari or cocktail tomatoes, each 1 1/2 inches in diameter

  • 8 cups water

  • 1/4 cup salt

  • 1/4 cup honey

  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

  • 1 tablespoon allspice berries

  • 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 3 whole cloves

  • 5 horseradish leaves

  • 6 black currant leaves

  • 3 stalks of dill, including the flowering heads

Rinse the tomatoes and remove their stems.

In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups of the water to a boil with the salt, honey, garlic, allspice, peppercorns, bay leaves, and cloves. Simmer just long enough to dissolve the salt, then remove from the heat and allow the brine to cool.

Sterilize a 1-gallon jar. Mix the cooled brine with the remaining 6 cups of water. Place a couple of horseradish leaves and black currant leaves on the bottom of the jar with a stalk of dill, then add a layer of tomatoes. Continue layering the tomatoes, leaves, and herbs. Pour the brine overall. To keep the tomatoes submerged, fill a small resealable plastic bag with water and place it on top of them. Cover the jar with cheesecloth secured with a rubber band and leave the tomatoes to ferment at room temperature for 3–4 days. Skim off any foam that forms. When the tomatoes have been fermented to your liking, transfer them to the refrigerator, where they’ll keep for weeks.