It's been two years to the day since we lost the Autocrat of the Dinner Table. My father was a better cook at sixty than he had been at fifty, but he never had much in the way of a gift for improvisation. After he retired, he hit upon the expedient of taping favorite receipts to the inside of cabinet doors, so they would be available for ready reference. Some of these were heavy-rotation favorites, like a shrimp and dill concoction he adored, but several of them were for pickles, which are something of a family tradition.
Green cherry tomato pickles are not the most charismatic of pickles. They have less to do with their fresh counterpart than pickled cucumbers or beans do, they burst in your mouth, and the cider vinegar can make them taste metallic, almost. My father loved them. One reason was their austere nature. He was fond of pointing out to my brother, who saw the jar as the basic unit of consumption for dilly beans, that pickles were a condiment, a garnish to a meal. In this capacity, three or for green tomato pickles are the perfect foil to most sandwiches.
The other reason is hard to talk about without sounding like any one of several writers I'm not fond of. It involves phrases like "New England," and words like "seasons," and "thrift." Ripe cherry tomatoes, even in Vermont, are glorious. With a short growing season, it's a late summer/early fall proposition. But the point of planting cherry tomato plants is so that you can stand in the garden and eat them off the vine. The point of planting beans and cukes, by and large, is so that you can make pickled cucumbers and dilly beans. In northern New England, not long after the ripe cherry tomatoes appear, threats of a killing frost loom. The tomatoes my dad would harvest for his green tomato pickles were the ones left after the ripe ones were harvested, and before the frost came and wrecked them. So the green tomato pickle appealed to him as a way to make use of something that would otherwise go to waste. This is, to be sure, a stereotypical Yankee virtue, but an abhorrence of waste burned bright in my father, and I think that recalling this act of redemption as he ate his lunch is what gave them their savor.
One of the peculiarites of the computer age is that it is possible to transfer a significant representation of a dead relative's life and work onto a device not much larger than a deck of cards. I did so, and so I have what I call my father's digital urn, so despite being separated by two years from the time, and half a dozen states from the place, I can see what he put on the inside of the cabinets. The recipe for these green tomatoes is below, and at right is the label from one of the last batches he put up. If you have cherry tomato plants that are still bearing, it's worth a try.