Green Tomato Preserves




This is an attempt to recreate an old recipe used by my girlfriend's grandmother for green tomato preserves. The recipe could not be obtained from said grandmother because she simply cooks everything until it "looks right". We based our recipe on whatever my girlfriend could remember from her childhood and some other sources around the internet.

This is a preserve that most people (including myself before today) don't know much about. Even the guy we bought the tomatoes from asked "You can make preserves from those?"

Step 1: Collect and Chop Ingredients

Unfortunately, we didn't start taking photos until after we had chopped the tomatoes and lemons, so photos from that step are missing.

Here are the ingredients we came up with:

8.5 lbs green tomatoes
8 lemons
5 lbs sugar

To prepare the tomatoes, remove the stem and chop them into reasonable sized chunks, maybe 8-12 pieces per tomato depending on the size.

To prepare the lemons, slice into wedges and remove the seeds. Do not remove the peel (it's the best part!) Chop the lemons into 1/2 long strips.

To prepare the sugar, open the bag.

Don't forget the to pick up some cans. We went with a dozen pint jars which ended up being more than enough.

Step 2: Add Sugar

Add the sugar to the tomatoes and lemons and stir until the sugar dissolves. Let this sit for a few hours.

Step 3: Boil!

Boil the tomato-lemon mixture for a while (it took us 3 hours). You're looking for the tomato chunks and lemon rinds to completely break down. The liquid should become very dark green. Stir the mixture frequently to prevent any burning.

Step 4: Can

This step follows standard canning procedure for preserves or other jellies.

1. Clean the jars and working utensils thoroughly by boiling them for several minutes. Instructions on the box said to keep the jars in 180 degree water until you were ready to use them, but since we were running out of stove top space I put the cleaned jars in a 180 degree oven.

2. Put the jar lids in hot (not boiling) water. I kept it at about 180 degrees. If you boil the lids you will melt the sealing compound off the rim.

3. Fill the jars with preserves up to about 1/4 inch below the rim. Clean any spilled preserves from the rim or sides of the jar. Place a lid on top and screw on a ring until just finger tight. It's a good idea to have several towels or hot pads ready for this step, as every item you're working with is very hot.

4. Process the jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. Process is just the fancy canning word for putting the jars in several inches of boiling water.

Step 5: Cool and Seal

After the jars are done processing, let them cool, waiting anxiously to hear each lid pop. In case you're new to canning, what you want is for the small airspace in the top of the jar to cool and contract, sucking down the center of the lid. This forms an airtight "vacuum" seal, and keeps any bacteria from invading. If you have a jar that doesn't seal correctly, just pop that one in the fridge and eat it first before any bugs have a chance to catch hold.



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15 Discussions


4 years ago on Introduction

I have made these preserved before and although the high acid content of tomatoes and the sugar are a good preservative it is still best to process pints for 15 minutes in boiling water that covers the jars by about an inch or 2.

1 reply

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

there is also a wonderful green tomato mincemeat that i have made. no meat involved unless you add it when making the pie.


7 years ago on Introduction

Thanks for this instructable, I made some yesterday! They're really good, I even threw a bunch of blackberry pulp in with it (I was making blackberry barbecue sauce at the same time), and it's amazing. Thanks for sharing!


7 years ago on Step 4

You can't safely process preserved food if the jars are not completely submerged. I would worry abou the safety of this product.

1 reply

Reply 7 years ago on Step 4

Wow, I made this instructable a long time ago! Yeah, we didn't have a big pot, but they all popped just fine. The cans went in the fridge and we ate them all up. No worries.


9 years ago on Step 3

We make a relish/condiment with green tomatoes called 'chow-chow' that we eat on black eyed peas, etc. I had never heard of this. Might have to try it. Great instructable and love all the pictures. I think this is the most well-done one I have seen.


10 years ago on Introduction

Actually, green tomatoes were used quite often in recipes during the 1800's. I have a couple of recipe books from 1910 and the majority of those call for green tomatoes. They didn't have pesticides to keep bugs from eating the fruits of their labor, so tomatoes that made it to ripe were not as numerous.

1 reply

Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

Wow!   I love old cookbooks!  I'm jealous!!!  I would LOVE to see them!

Ok, moving on, your comment on the down-side to pesticide-free veges is so interesting!  Don't  get me wrong, i prefer to grow my own, etc, but to those who think organic gardening is easy and with no negative results this is a good way to remind them that it's not as easy as they think.   My mom (birthdate 1927) who grew up on a farm (after her dad, my grandpa died when she was a child) reminises about many things but especially this: bugs... especially potato bugs.  Her and her siblings would get up early every a.m., go to the potato field with a tin bucket and pick off the potato beetles.  Those who caught the most was the winner of the day.   Children provide FREE labor - and labor is needed on farms!   

My favorite story she tells is of the "town" women who'd come to my grandma's house after Mass to eat my Grandma's chicken dinners  on Sunday.  She was famous for her dinners.  (Grandma accepted donations for the dinner)  When one town woman  noticed the chickens running lose in the yard and eating bugs, not feed, she  refused to come back  until Grandma fed the chickens "feed"!!!   (ya.. never happened)   Nowadays, she could charge big-bucks for the free-range chicken dinners!

It's stories like this that make me happy to believe in life after death - I can't wait to meet my/this Grandma!  :-)


9 years ago on Introduction

This is the first year I have had green tomatoes so I thought I give you recipy a try.

I must admit "doing it until it looks/taste/smells right" is how I cook as well. I took your recipy and gave it a twist, in the form of a habanero per jar. That should spice things up :)

Cant wait for it to mature for a couple of months. It tasted pretty good before it got canned, so it should be pretty damned fine.

Handy tip, when I ran out of cans last year I froze the unmatured relish. Defrosted and reheated then canned once you have used some of it up (which was about  week after cracking the first jar last year)

Hazel Twig

9 years ago on Step 5

This sounds absolutely fantastic and a great use for the left over green toms. Would you use it as a "jam" or with a meal? I've got stacks of green toms so I'll have a go at it over the next few days.


10 years ago on Introduction

This recipe is a memory from my childhood. I have been looking for it since the women responsible for the preserves are no long with us. I vaguely remember some type of spice in with the tomato and lemon mixture; something along the line of fresh ginger. Will try it when my tomato crop appears. Thanks for the memory.


11 years ago on Introduction

My grandma made something good (but different) with green tomatoes too- I'll have to go poke around and check. Thanks for the reminder!