22 August 2009

BLTs, mayonnaise, and ketchup

When it's late summer and you have an abundant crop of tomatoes, one of the best ways you can eat them is in a sandwich with bacon, lettuce, and mayonnaise. If you're American, you probably already know that. Leave off the bacon if you want, or substitute another kind of meat, but don't leave out the mayo.

Is there such a thing as too many tomatoes?

Actually, fresh mayonnaise is pretty easy to make. That's a revelation to most people outside France, where mayo was invented. You put a raw egg yolk in a mixing bowl along with, say, half a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a few drops of vinegar, and just a little salt and pepper. Mix all that together well and let it stand for a minute or two.

The makings for BLTs — using a French loaf that we get
from the bread lady, who delivers five days a week.

Pour ¾ cup of canola oil into a measuring cup that has a pouring spout or beak. Then start adding the oil to the egg mixture very slowly, stirring it all the while with a whisk. Or a fork — that works too. The important thing is to go slow, especially at first, making sure that the oil is being absorbed into the egg yolk, and that the sauce is emulsifying. Stop pouring and keep beating the sauce if it looks like it is separating.

You'll be amazed at how much better it is than the mayonnaise you get out of a jar from the supermarket. That mayonnaise (with exceptions, like Duke's mayonnaise in the South) is usually full of sugar in the form of corn syrup. Home-made mayo, sans the sugar, is much better. Here's a video lesson in making it. Lemon juice can replace the vinegar, and you can make mayo without the Dijon mustard, but it is harder to get it to emulsify.

Home-made ketchup

Yesterday I found out it is also pretty easy to make ketchup using fresh tomatoes. We have so many tomatoes right now that I'm looking for ways to process and preserve them. For ketchup, you cook the tomatoes with a little water until they fall apart, and then you strain them through a sieve or food mill to remove the skins and seeds.

Cook the resulting tomato puree with salt, pepper, hot red pepper, vinegar, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, garlic, and sugar. There are a lot of ketchup recipes on the web, using different blends of spices. The tomato ketchup cooks down slowly, reducing and thickening. An advantage of making your own is that you can reduce the sugar, for example, or increase the vinegar, spices, and hot pepper to find the flavor you like. You can make it with canned tomatoes, of course, but it's when you have too many fresh tomatoes that making ketchup really makes sense.

Pommes frites made from fresh potatoes

I made ketchup because a week or so ago I found potatoes on sale at Intermarché — 5 kilos, or 11 lbs., for two euros. They were nice, smooth, light tan potatoes, some pretty big and some pretty small, and there was no indication on the sack about what variety they were. They looked like good French-frying potatoes to me. And they are. We've made a couple of batches of fries using them, and they are excellent. They also make a very good potato salad. We've had potatoes both ways with BLTs over the past week.

Fines tranches de poitrine de porc fumée

In France, bacon is « fines tranches de poitrine fumée » — thin slices of smoked pork breast. Or belly. Nothing could be Frencher, actually. You can buy it at the supermarket, or you can have the pork butcher, the charcutier, slice it for you. You cook it the way you cook American bacon — slowly and carefully, so that it doesn't burn. I think American-style bacon like this might be called streaky bacon in some countries.

I don't know if people in other countries make bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches, called "BLTs" in the U.S. I know in France you can get something called « un club sandwich » is some cafés and restaurants. That's a Club Sandwich in English, and I wonder why it's called that. The standard Club is a double-decker sandwich — three slices of bread — with lettuce, tomato, bacon, mayonnaise, and sliced, cooked chicken breast. That's a story for another day.


  1. All looks good!

    We my family love BLT'S ..very tasty....we like our bread toasted...then spread with mayo..yummy!!

  2. That bacon looks delicious. We can't find good bacon near us.

    Did you know that in this year of tomato blight the New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman came up with the BLP? He substituted plums for tomatoes.

    Word verification is "nyable." A compliment to the NYT, I guess.

  3. I have heard about the tomato blight, too, this year, with my uncle's garden in Massachusetts-- the stalks are rotting, so the tomatoes he has at this point will be it.

    I had read in the past about the variety of stories related to the origin of the (yummy) Club sandwich, and read again this morning that it may have been so-named "because of its popularity at resorts and country clubs. It definitely existed in the United States by the late 19th century."

    I much enjoyed your post this morning, with those gorgeous tomatoes and the very though of home-made mayo and crisp bacon with it! On fresh French bread! Oh là là!


  4. You are so right about mayonnaise. So easy to make and much better than store bought.
    (You guys are so lucky to be able to meet so many of your blogger friends. Sorry, often I comment about Walt's and your blog as if it is one story. People who don't know must be wondering where I can my info, particularly when I comment on Walt's "newsiness").

  5. Judy, "what's cooking America!" is so interesting. I always read your "links". Wouldn't it be great if one day we could all meet somewhere in France. Hmmm I wonder where????

  6. Definately with you on the mayo, Ken. I also like to add garlic at the start for aioli.
    We certainly eat BLTs here in Australia, and yes, we would call that streaky bacon.

  7. I just thought - I have a recipe for a simple spicy tomato relish that I make. Give a yell if you would like the recipe. It's very quick, cooked on the stove top.

  8. Sue, I'd love to have the recipes and other ideas. Thanks.

    Forgot to mention that the best BLTs I ever ate were made with tomatoes that my mother grew in our back-yard garden in North Carolina 40 years ago. It's funny how some food is so good you can never forget it.

  9. My mouth is watering after reading all this. It's off to the farmer's market for tomatoes. Lunch today well be BLTs with home-made mayo!!

  10. When I was a kid and my parents took us out to a show or concert, my mom would whip up BLTs when we got home. I was reminiscing about that in Olympia, but never got around to eating any!

  11. Betty, glad to see you're back in France. Hope you had a nice summer.

    When I was in college and at home working a summer job, my mother would pack up all the makings for BLTs for me in the morning. At lunch, I would open the tupperware containers: sliced tomatoes in one, lettuce in one, bacon in another, and mayonnaise in still another. The slices of bread were probably in a plastic bag. Then I could make my own sandwich for lunch and it would be fresh and home-made. It's a great memory.

  12. OK, Ken, but does that mean you didn't eat them on toast? We ALWAYS ate them on toast! I just learned this summer (from my mom) about the regular bread variation.

  13. No, not on toast. We liked that soft white spongey bread that stuck to the roof of our mouth when you ate it, if you weren't careful.


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