Vivian Howard offers “Hero” recipes in her cookbook This Will Make it Taste Good. These heroes are designed to be simple condiments that you can make at home to make meals extra flavorful.
Makes 2 quarts
Here’s what’s important:
- This process is so easy it barely warrants directions: You make a flavorful liquid full of aromatics and pour it over tomatoes to pickle them. The most important step, however, is the one where you wait. The tomatoes must sit in their brine for a minimum of 3 days before they mature into the weapons I promise. After that they’ll keep in your fridge for 3 months.
- Don’t get caught up in the details here. I call for plum tomatoes because I like their firmness and availability, but any tomato will do. In fact, if you find yourself in a fortunate place where you have a bounty of cherry or slicing tomatoes, this is a quick and painless way to preserve them.
- I’ve provided a guide to make a relatively small batch because of that little detail we call refrigerator space, but this is incredibly easy to double, even triple.
- Don’t freak out about the measurements on aromatics and spices. If you’re short a little ginger, turmeric, or a jalapeño or two, don’t put aside the recipe.
- Red Weapons will keep in your fridge for 3 months but they don’t like the freezer and emerge from its depths mushy and weird. If you make too much and your fridge offers too little, consider canning them in a hot water bath just after you pour the hot brine over top. Those will keep unopened till the end of time.
2 pounds plum tomatoes, cut into quarters lengthwise
1 bunch scallions, sliced thin
5 jalapeños, sliced into thin rings
3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1½ tablespoons yellow or brown mustard seeds
1½ tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon plus
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1½ teaspoons cayenne
1½ teaspoons turmeric
½ cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar
¾ cup white wine vinegar
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
1½ cups extra-virgin olive oil
- Put your tomatoes in a large, wide, heatproof bowl that is plenty large enough to hold all the ingredients. I like to assemble and start to “pickle” my weapons there on the counter, letting their flavors marry as they cool down. Then, once they’re mixed together and have reached room temperature, I transfer them to smaller containers suitable for the fridge. (This recipe is sized to just barely fit into two quart-size mason jars, but you may have a little extra. While you can try to pull it all together directly in the jars, that might just be a big mess waiting to happen.)
- In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, bring all the ingredients except for the tomatoes and the olive oil to a boil over medium heat. Let it boil for 1 minute. Then add the olive oil and bring back to a boil. Immediately pour over the tomatoes in the big bowl, pressing them down to make sure they are submerged.
- Let the tomatoes and the liquid cool to room temperature without the aid of an ice bath or anything to speed the process along. If you’ve got room in your fridge, the big bowl can go in there. But if the weapons sit out at room temperature overnight, that’s totally fine. The more slowly they cool down, the more quickly they will pickle. Once they’ve cooled, transfer the weapons to jars and refrigerate for a minimum of 3 days or up to 3 months.
Head’s Up: Once the tomatoes have spent a few days in the fridge you’ll notice Twin B, the olive oil component, rises to the top and creates a “lid” over Twin A, the pickling liquid, and the tomatoes and other solid stuff. This act of science makes the weapons and their offspring easy to separate from one another, but it’s definitely not a pretty process. You will likely find yourself with a hand in a jar or a puddle on the counter, but who really cares? Just know all of the extraction and separation will be easier if your Red Weapon family is cold.
No Brainer ways to use your Red Weapons at breakfast:
- On every egg, everywhere
- On top of avocado toast or mashed into guacamole
- Mixed into just-cooked grits, rice or beans
- Use “Twin B” to roast potatoes or toast