"Russian chefs learn pickling on their babushkas' laps," says chef Ivan Berezutskiy, and in Russia, they often pickle with salt instead of vinegar. The most difficult part of pickling tomatoes, a tradition in Moscow, is waiting the required two weeks before eating them. At the end, the brine-logged tomato flesh takes on a funky, fermented flavor and mustardy heat, with a waterlogged texture and sweet-tart quality similar to ripe watermelon.
- 1⁄4 cup kosher salt
- 7 medium, firm vine-ripe tomatoes (2 1/2 lb.)
- 5 whole black peppercorns
- 3 cloves garlic
- One 1-inch piece horseradish root, peeled (1/2 oz.)
- 1 small bunch dill (1 1/4 oz.)
- 1⁄4 cup yellow mustard powder
Note: Total preparation time is two weeks. In a medium pot over low heat, combine the salt and 8 cups water. Stir the brine just until the salt is dissolved, then remove from the heat. Set aside to cool completely.
Using a paring knife, prick the tomatoes in a few places all over to allow the brine to penetrate their skins.
In a 4-quart glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, add the peppercorns, garlic, horseradish, and dill. Add the tomatoes, then pour in the cooled brine. Fold a piece of cheesecloth into 2–3 layers, then place it over the opening of the jar (a few inches of excess should hang over the sides). Press the center of the cheesecloth downward to touch the top of the brine; sprinkle the mustard powder in an even layer over the cheesecloth to prevent mildew and mold from forming on the surface of the brine as it rests.
Let the jar stand at room temperature, uncovered, for 1 week. Cover the jar (leave the cheesecloth in place), refrigerate, and let rest 1 week more.
To serve, carefully remove and discard the cheesecloth, and skim away any mustard powder that did not settle into the brine.