In the Garden:
Upper South
November, 2010
Regional Report

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Green tomatoes offer bright, tangy flavor for cooking fresh or preserving.

An Old-Fashioned Way to Eat "Green"

At a dinner party the other night, the menu was pretty amazing, including blue crabs, alligator and wild turkey, but a highlight of the evening was fried green tomatoes. A discussion ensued as to the "proper" way to fix them, including egg versus no egg, cornmeal versus flour, and milk versus buttermilk. For most of us, the best way to fry green tomatoes depends on how our mothers fixed them. Rather than enter into that fray, let's look at other options for the end-of-the-season bounty that green tomatoes offer to fall menus and the winter larder.

Of course, you can simply place green tomatoes on a windowsill and wait for them to ripen. Or wrap the tomatoes individually in newspaper and store in a cool location to ripen. Another option is to pull up the entire plant and hang upside down in a cool place. Let's face it, though, they never taste the same as a summer-sun-ripened tomato. Why not savor green tomatoes for the wonderful, unique flavor they themselves have?

Green Tomato Casserole
In Ronni Lundy's classic book Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes, and Honest Fried Chicken: The Heart and Soul of Southern Country Kitchens (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1994, $16.50), she, of course, gives us a recipe for fried green tomatoes. Even she admits that her recipe for Green Tomato Casserole sways her devotion to frying them.

Chop five medium-size green tomatoes into one-quarter-inch pieces and put into a large bowl. Finely chop one medium-size onion and mix well with the tomatoes. Use a rolling pin to crush two dozen soda crackers and add to the tomato mixture. Pour one tablespoon melted butter, one-eighth teaspoon salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste over the tomato mixture and mix. Next, stir in one-half cup buttermilk and stir well. Pour into a 2-quart buttered casserole and bake at 325 degrees F for 45 minutes. Makes six servings. Lundy suggests serving it with beans and cornbread.

Italian Farmhouse Green Tomato Pickle
Inspired by Lynne Rossetto Kasper of American Public Media's The Splendid Table, this version of pickled green tomatoes isn't preserved with a water-bath canner, but it does last for a number of months in the refrigerator as long as the ingredients remain totally covered with vinegar after each use. Serve this pickle as part of an antipasto platter or use to flavor vegetables, omelets or pasta. It's also good on sandwiches.

In a non-reactive glass, pottery or stainless steel bowl, combine one pound of green tomatoes, cored and cut into half-inch pieces, with 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. Pour into a colander and rinse for a short time under cold running water. Return to the bowl and stir in two minced garlic cloves, one tablespoon minced fresh hot red pepper, two soaked and minced sun-dried tomatoes, six minced fresh mint leaves, and twelve large, minced basil leaves. Divide the mixture between four 8-ounce sterilized jars. Pour in 7-percent-acid white wine vinegar to cover, then top off each jar with 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Attach lids and refrigerate. Allow flavors to blend for at least four days before serving.

Other Options for Using Green Tomatoes
Cookbooks and the Internet abound with lots of other ideas for ways to use green tomatoes. Be sure to explore them. So far, in addition to the above two recipes, I've canned sweet pickles from sliced green tomatoes and made a green tomato relish. I'm also intrigued by recipes for a green tomato ketchup and a green tomato pie (for dessert!). So with the bittersweet end to summer, there remain unlimited delights for our tummies to go with our sun-stoked memories.






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