While I continue to spend all my waking moments on grading, here is a post from last October about what to do with green tomatoes. With the temperatures dropping, you will be seeing a lot of these babies at the farmers’ markets this weekend and they sell for cheap. So pick some up to fry, pickle or turn into a spicy salsa.
Fall in Chicago is characterized by bizarre weather. This week has been day after day of abundant sunshine, crisp autumn air and afternoon temperatures in the 70′s. In other words, it’s been perfect. But last week, we had nonstop rain and the temperatures were in the 50′s at best. The nights got downright cold and gardeners started to worry about frost. I am not a gardener, but my understanding is that when the possibility of frost becomes real, it’s time to harvest whatever is still growing in your garden or risk losing it. That’s how I ended up the lucky recipient of four bags of fresh herbs and several pounds of green tomatoes from my friend Cortney’s garden.
For the same reason that Cortney gave me a dozen of her green tomatoes, farmers are selling their green tomatoes at the farmers’ markets this time of year. And they are generally selling for a lot cheaper than ripe tomatoes. Everyone has heard of fried green tomatoes — because of the book and the movie and the love that dare not speak its name — but other than that dish, what can you do with green tomatoes?
First of all, fried green tomatoes are really good and you should definitely give them a try. I make them for my family once or twice every summer. My method involves slicing the tomatoes, dipping the slices in buttermilk and then dredging them in mix of half flour, half cornmeal that has been flavored with salt, pepper and something to give it a little heat like cayenne or even Old Bay seasoning. (Remember, I’m from DC so Old Bay tastes like home to me.) Pan-fry the tomatoes in a heavy, deep skillet, the bottom of which is coated in a thin layer of hot vegetable oil. You don’t have to submerge the tomatoes in oil; rather fry one side until browned, then turn the tomato slice over and cook until the other side is browned. Drain on paper towels. To serve, spritz the slices with some lemon juice. I think they are delicious topped with mayonnaise but I’m the only one in my family who likes mayo. My husband actually tops fried green tomatoes with a savory red onion jelly that I make. They’re also great on a sandwich. Try a BLT with a fried green tomato!
Of course, one can only eat so many fried green tomatoes. Fortunately, green tomatoes are also great used in chutneys, relishes and salsas. If you’re a canner, like me, you can also pickle green tomatoes. Old New York delis used to serve dishes of pickled cucumbers and pickled green tomatoes on every table. I wonder if any place does that anymore.
But even if you are not a canner, you can make a great green tomato salsa for a crowd or just to keep in your fridge. I use Anaheim peppers in this salsa because they add a subtle heat and I am not a fan of very spicy food. If your family prefers salsas with a bit more fire, feel free to vary the kind of peppers or simply add more of them. Whatever kind of hot pepper you use, please exercise caution when handling them! I personally wear rubber gloves to chop hot peppers. Ask anyone who has ever handled a hot pepper with bare hands and then accidentally touched his or her eye what that felt like. It’s not a positive experience.
Green Tomato Salsa
Adapted from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
7 cups, cored and diced green tomatoes
2 Anaheim peppers, seeded and finely chopped*
1 large red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup lime juice
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Combine the tomatoes, onion, garlic, lime juice and peppers in a large, non-reactive sauce pan and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Add the cumin, salt, pepper and cilantro, if using. Reduce the heat and boil gently for five minutes. Remove from heat. If you are not processing the salsa for shelf-stability, refrigerate in a glass or plastic container. Use as you would any salsa, such as a dip with tortilla chips, with scrambled eggs, on baked potatoes etc.
To process the salsa for shelf-stability, follow good water-bath canning procedures. You should leave 1/2 inch headspace on your jars and process them for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath. This recipe makes approximately 6 eight-ounce jars or 3 pints.
*For an extra smoky flavor, roast the hot peppers first and remove the skin before chopping.