Stay Connected

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Green Tomato Pickle Relish: My Favorite Way to Use Those Tomatoes That Don't Stand a Chance of Ripening

Green tomatoes, lots and lots of green tomatoes. 

With a coolish summer climate in my area, the bulk of our garden tomatoes come to us unripe, just before the cool fall rains bring blight to the plants. Blight will ruin the fruit, so I try to harvest all of the tomatoes before I see those tell-tale dark patches in the stems. This means that I'm harvesting some tomatoes that are mature enough to turn red indoors, while others don't stand a chance of ripening due to their immaturity. 

We wait patiently for the larger, more mature tomatoes to ripen indoors. It's those latter green tomatoes, some as small as peas, that need a plan. These tiny tomatoes, along with any other small green ones, can be made into pickle relish.

I make both dill and sweet relishes with the green tomatoes. The Green Tomato Dill Pickle Relish is a tasty relish that is reminiscent of kosher dill pickles. We use it on hot dogs, bratwurst, and burgers.

I also make a sweet relish that tastes a lot like commercial sweet pickle relish. We use this sweet green tomato relish on dogs and burgers as well as in salads, such as macaroni, potato, chicken, egg, and tuna salads. 

I made 2  1/2 jars of the dill relish this past Saturday, then made 4 jars of the sweet relish on Monday. As we don't get that many cucumbers, the abundance of immature green tomatoes are welcome every fall.

Here are my recipes for both types of green tomato relish.

Green Tomato Dill Relish
yields 3 to 4 half-pints

Wash and sterilize jars and lids.

I chop both the onions and tomatoes in the food processor, using the pulse feature, then measure.
Drain vegetables in a colander for 30 minutes. After drained, put in a stainless saucepan.
  • 4 cups chopped green tomatoes
  • 1  1/2 cups chopped onion

Add the below ingredients to the vegetables. Simmer until soft (about 15 to 20 minutes), stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. 
  • 1 tablespoon kosher or pickling salt
  • 2 cups vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1  1/2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small dried red chili pepper, minced, or large pinch of red pepper flakes
  • fresh dill weed, about 1/4 cup, chopped, or 1 tablespoon dried dill weed

Scoop cooked relish, while hot, into sterilized jars, then seal and process in a boiling-water canner. The National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends processing relish for 15 minutes if at 1000 ft or lower, 20 minutes if at 1000 to 6000 ft, or 25 minutes if above 6000 ft in elevation. (Even though I hot-water bath my pickles and relishes, I still opt to store them in the fridge.) The NCHFP offers information on safe use of a boiling-water canner at their site.

Green Tomato Sweet Pickle Relish
yields about 4 half-pints

Sterilize jars and lids.

Use a food processor to chop the vegetables, then drain in a colander or mesh strainer for about 20 minutes to remove excess liquid. Discard the liquid.

  • green tomatoes, washed, and chopped in the food processor, measure 2 cups
  • 3/4 of a large onion, chopped in the food processor
  • 1/2 of a green or red bell pepper, chopped in the food processor

After the vegetables have drained, put them in a stainless saucepan, along with the vinegar, sugar, salt.

  • 3/4 cups vinegar
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1  1/2 scant teaspoons kosher or pickling salt

Tie the following up in a small piece of cheesecloth, then add to the saucepan.

  • 1/8th of a cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon mixed pickling spices
Over Medium heat, bring all to a boil, reduce heat and simmer (stirring occasionally to prevent sticking) until the vegetables are soft (about 15 minutes, or so -- the white onion pieces will be translucent).

By the way, my tomatoes are from the plants that I started from seeds on March 1 (mentioned in this post) These were seeds from a couple of years ago, but still had enough viability to give me several sprouts. I thinned the sprouts to 6 plants. One of those plants didn't make it, so I had 5 healthy, small plants to transplant to my garden in late April. The plants were quite a bit smaller than what I would have bought at the nursery, but they did well in my garden anyway (although ripening was about 2 to 3 weeks later than I might have expected with larger, nursery plants). It all worked out.


  1. Good job, Lili. I like sweet pickle relish and I don't think I ever had dill relish. Mom always provides us with her homemade relish. This year she didn't make any since they didn't grow too many veggies. I do not like buying relish in the store since ingredients say "high fructose corn syrup" and we stay away from that which really limits our options.


    1. Thank you, Alice!
      I'm sure your mom feels badly that she couldn't make relish this year. Let's hope for a better year in 2021 for your entire family.
      I think homemade relish just tastes better and has a better texture, too.

      Have a wonderful evening, Alice!

  2. This must be the week for dealing with green tomatoes. My husband made tomato pickles (sounds similar to your relish). I like the idea of relish, as well--both sweet and dill pickle relish are tasty and I'm sure using green tomatoes would be just as tasty as using cucumbers. Our weather is warming back up for a few days so hubby is leaving some tomatoes on the vines for now. I'm thinking about making fried green tomatoes--I like them but have never made them myself.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Wow, it is a week for green tomatoes! Yum, your husband's tomato pickles sound tasty. And fried green tomatoes are one of my all-time favorite early fall foods. Enjoy them!
      I didn't pull the tomato vines out yet, in case I get a few more small green tomatoes. I hope that your vines produce a few more ripe tomatoes for you.
      It's mild and dry here, today, so we're having another hot dog cookout. I've got a pot of sauerkraut cooking on the stove right now to go with the dogs.

      Wishing you a lovely October evening, Kris!

  3. Among the dry, hot July, the stinkbugs, and the deer, we only got one tomato all summer from 5 plants. However, with some September rains and cooler weather, there are several green tomatoes on the vines that I have high hopes for. I'm going to leave them as long as I can and hope to get some ripe ones. Then I may freeze the rest to make fried green tomatoes throughout the winter. Your dill relish sounds good, too.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      Oh, what rotten luck this summer with your tomatoes! I'll keep my fingers crossed that those green tomatoes still on the vines will ripen for you. Freezing the green tomatoes to make fried green tomatoes sounds like a pretty great idea, too.

      Have a good night, Live and Learn.

    2. You can freeze green tomatoes? Thanks for the idea!

    3. Hi Kris,
      freeze the tomatoes in the form that you want to use them, like slices if you want to make fried green tomatoes or chopped if you want to add to muffins or cake (chocolate spice cake is really good with green tomatoes), or in relish.

      One year, I had so many green tomatoes that I made trays of fried green tomatoes and froze in individual layers on the tray. After they froze, I packed them up into bags for the freezer, to reheat in the oven later.


Thank you for joining the discussion today. Here at creative savv, we strive to maintain a respectful community centered around frugal living. Creative savv would like to continue to be a welcoming and safe place for discussion, and as such reserves the right to remove comments that are inappropriate for the conversation.


Be a voice that helps someone else on their frugal living journey

Are you interested in writing for creative savv?
What's your frugal story?

Do you have a favorite frugal recipe, special insight, DIY project, or tips that could make frugal living more do-able for someone else?

Creative savv is seeking new voices.


share this post