Sunday, October 7, 2012

Put Up or Shut Up Episode 7: Green Tomatoes

And just like that, the glory of fall is over, and the furnace is on.

I told you it wouldn't last long.

We had our first risk of frost last night, and while we didn't actually get any at my house (I do live a block away from the lake, after all), the forecast this morning showed the nights looking pretty cold for the next week.   And so I panicked.  I picked all my green tomatoes and brought them inside.

This is not even almost all of them. 

It was probably too soon.  I should have waited.  I look at the forecast now and there's nothing below 40.  But, on the other hand, I'm going to be out of town all next weekend, and Wisconsin weather is consistently inconsistent.  Besides, while the low is now up from 32 to nothing less than 38 over the 10 day forecast, the highest high is 63, and really nothing is getting ripe at that temperature either.

So what's done is done, and with the exception of the cherry and yellow pear tomatoes (which are too small to pick without pulling down the whole plant), there will be no more fresh off the vine tomatoes.  I've got a row on the windowsill, hoping to turn ripe, and a small box of about 15 lbs on the back porch staying cool.  They might get canned, or if the windowsill ones ripen they might get brought it to have their chance.

I couldn't pull down the plants, because they have pumpkin and buttercup squash vines all wrapped around them, and I didn't want to see those get damaged.  They're not coming in until there's actual frost.  So there's probably a good chance that I missed some tomatoes in there, too...

I've got a few recipes picked out for the week, and did a bit of canning tonight.  Green tomato pickles are one of my personal favorites.  They're great for just snacking, but they're also fantastic in a "winter caprese salad."  I was at a restaurant one time, I don't remember the circumstance, but it was a group thing and the chef came out and was talking to us.  He was talking about eating locally and seasonally, and I remember he said "If you want to be a respectable, responsible chef, you'd better not have a caprese salad on your menu in January."  And I remember thinking to myself, "not the way I do it!"  Pickled green tomatoes and sundried tomatoes replace the fresh tomatoes, and I add a bit of honey to sweeten the whole thing up a little.  Fantastic!

Picture taken last winter...
I made seven pints of pickled green tomatoes today.  I could probably stand to make a few more.

This year, I also made a green tomato and apple "jam."  It was called a jam, but I feel like that's a bit of a stretch.  The directions said to cook for two hours, or until it became "jammy."  I cooked for almost four hours, and it never became jammy.  I don't feel like there's enough pectin in green tomatoes for them to ever become jammy...

Then again, no jam I've ever made has ever set up properly, so I probably just don't know what I'm talking about.

From what I tasted, it was pretty good - jammy or not.  Both sweet and tart, it would go well on toast, or on a cheese tray... it would be amazing with a baked brie.  Damn, now I want a baked brie.  I got seven jelly jars, because that's how many I had, three pints, and one slightly smaller than a pint jar that originally came with mayonnaise in it.  (Side rant: it makes me Hulk style angry that all jars that you buy things in the store do not come in standard canning sizes.  Why the crap not?  What can a company possibly gain by not allowing me to reuse their jar for canning purposes?  I guess I can understand if you're going to cheap out and use plastic, but if you're using a glass jar, why not make it one that can be re-used?  I'm talking to you specifically, Milwaukee's Pickles.  You have the best pickles.  I don't even bother making pickles, because yours are so good, EVEN THOUGH YOU'RE NOT EVEN REALLY LOCATED IN MILWAUKEE! I can look past your being located in New Jersey.  I can look past that, because you're giving us a shout out and your pickles are so good.  But you know what, your jar mouths are almost the correct size for canning.  Almost.  That's probably more annoying than not at all.  Because I keep trying to put a canning lid on there.  They keep looking like it should work, and it almost works, but it doesn't work.  What's your deal?  Why do you hate me, Milwaukee's Pickles?)

What was I talking about?

Ah, yes.  Green tomatoes never get jammy.  Baked brie.  So on and so forth.

There is only one week left of the South Shore Farmer's Market, and I will miss it.  Yesterday's market was pretty darn cold, but if you're willing to tough it out I would recommend heading out and picking up some green tomatoes.  They had big baskets full of them for pretty cheap.  I suspect that most people don't know what to do with them, except frying them.  I've made fried green tomatoes before, and they're fine, but they're not at the top of my list.  I may or may not make them this year.

I talked about the Pickled Green Tomatoes a few weeks ago.  Check out the link above to see that recipe.  Here are a few other non-fried green tomatoes recipes to try:

Green Tomato and Apple Jam
Makes 5ish Pints
(**IMPORTANT!  This is my recipe, which I put together based on three different canning recipes.  I am confident that the acid level is good for keeping these, but I want to make it very clear that this is not a professional canning recipe.  You should always be cautious of any canning recipe you find on the internet - especially ones posted by random bloggers.  Botulism is a funny word, but it's not funny.)

  • 4 lbs green tomatoes, cut into small dice (they're not going to break down much, so whatever size you cut them to will be the size they are in your jam)
  • 4 lbs apples, cut into small dice (same deal as the tomatoes)
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup candied ginger, minced
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tbsp cloves
  • 2 vanilla beans, cut in half
Place all the ingredients in a large pot, and bring to a boil slowly over medium low heat.  Cook until it gets "jammy," or until you give up on that ever happening, two to three hours.

Fish out the cinnamon sticks and vanilla beans.  Ladle into clean, sanitized, hot canning jars, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Allow to cool and check the seals.

Cheesy Green Tomato Muffins
Makes 12
(While it's no longer required in my diet, I want to point out that this recipe can be made with 99% local WI ingredients.  Everything except the baking powder and salt, unless someone knows something I don't.)

(Sacred Circle friends, you can expect to see some of these when I see you on Saturday at Belly Dance Camp!)
  • 2 cups flour (preferably whole wheat)
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp honey (preferably buckwheat)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups chopped green tomatoes
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese, plus additional for topping
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup melted vegetable oil  
  • Fresh cracked black pepper (optional)

Heat oven to 450 degrees.  Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bow.  Make a well in the center of the flour.  Beat the egg, then combine with remaining ingredients.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and stir until just combined, about 15 strokes.  It's okay if the batter is lumpy.

Grease 12 muffin cups (or line with paper cup liners).  Fill each cup 2/3 full of batter.  Bake for 25 minutes or until well browned.

While muffins are baking, combine remaining cheese with pepper if desired.  As soon as you pull the muffins out of the oven, sprinkle the cheese and pepper mixture on top, so it just melts in a little.

Green Tomato Gratin
Makes 4-6 servings

This is my favorite kind of side dish, because it's a vegetable so that means it's healthy, right?

  • 1/4 lb bacon (we're off to a good start!)
  • 1 or 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1 cup bread crumbs (fresh or panko - makes no difference to me!)
  • 1 large sweet onion (Vidalia, etc.), peeled and thinly sliced, keeping the rounds as intact as possible
  • 4 large green tomatoes, sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Render the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat.  Transfer the cooked bacon to a paper towel lined plate.  Add the onion rounds to the skillet in batches and cook, still trying to maintain the rounds as much as possible, until they are golden, about 5-6 minutes per side.

As you are cooking the onions, start assembling the gratin.  Overlap the green tomato slices in one row in a large baking dish.  Next, make a row of onion rounds.  Repeat until all onions and tomatoes are used.  Season the onions and tomatoes with salt and pepper.

In your original pan (hopefully there's still some bacon fat left.  If not, add some more (what?  You don't keep a jar of bacon fat in your fridge?  Why not!  Start saving that shit; it's gold!) or add some olive oil.  In the end, you want about 2 tablespoons of bacon fat or oil in the pan.  Saute the garlic gently, about 3 minutes, until just fragrant.  Turn off the heat and add the bread crumbs, and gently stir to combine.

Crumble the bacon over the tomatoes and onions, then sprinkle the cheese over that, then top with the breadcrumbs.   Bake until the cheese is bubbly - 35 to 40 minutes.  If the top is getting brown, cover with aluminum foil.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome. My wife and I will be making a sort of green tomato gratin later this week. We made green tomato pizza that turned out well over this past weekend.