19 October 2009

Green tomatoes

Here are three ideas for using up your end-of-season green tomatoes. If you grew tomatoes in 2009, you probably have some. I know I do. I pulled out all the tomato plants last week and gathered two or three buckets-full of green fruit, of all different sizes.

Little green tomatoes

The first way to use them is to not use them at all, but to ripen them. I'm doing it, and it's working. I put the ones that looked as if they might ripen into cardboard boxes with a ripe apple in each box. To protect them, make a bed of crumpled-up newspaper for them to rest on. The apples produce a gas that helps the tomatoes ripen faster. You can use a kiwi or a banana in their place, but you know how many apples we have.

Yesterday, after not more than 10 days of ripening this way, a dozen or more of the tomatoes had gone from green to red. I'm hope to extend tomato season by a few weeks this way.

Ripening tomatoes with apples in a newspaper-lined box

The second plan for using green tomatoes is the classic known as Fried Green Tomatoes. I made some on Saturday, using the largest green tomatoes I had, and they were good. Cut the green tomatoes into slices ½" (1.5 cm) thick. Spread them out in a big dish and salt them. Also sprinkle on some black pepper, and some hot red pepper if you like it.

Sliced green tomatoes, salted and peppered...

...and then dredged in cornmeal, drying on a rack

After 30 to 60 minutes, you'll see that the green tomato slices have released some water. Since they are wet, you don't need to use any milk or egg in the breading process (you can if you want to, of course). Just take the tomato slices and dredge them in cornmeal or fine bread crumbs. Shake off the excess meal. Fry them in a skillet in vegetable oil. Delicious. We had them with lean pork loin chops and a mustardy cream sauce.

Green tomatoes fried in about ¼" of vegetable oil

The third way to deal with green tomatoes is to make Green Tomato Ketchup. It's easy and the result is good. Well, it's easy if you have a food mill — un moulin à légumes. See the accompanying picture.

When you have this many green tomatoes, you need a plan.
And this is after making the fried green tomatoes
and a batch of green tomato ketchup.

Here's the recipe I used:
Green Tomato Ketchup

3 lbs. green tomatoes
1 lb. onions
3 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. dry mustard
½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. mixed pickling spices*, optional
1 cup vinegar
½ cup honey

Slice green tomatoes, onions, and garlic; place in a large pot with pepper, mustard, bay leaves, and Worcestershire sauce. If using, put the mixed pickling spices* in a small cheesecloth bag or a tea ball and add to the mixture. Pour 1 cup vinegar over all and cook for 4 hours over very low heat, stirring occasionally.

This is a moulin à légumes — a food mill.

Run the mixture through a food mill, using the finest blade, or puree it in a blender and then press it through a fine wire strainer or sieve to remove the tomato seeds and skins. Return to pot and bring to boil; add honey.

Can the ketchup in sterilized jars and store in a cool dark place. The refrigerator is good. Also, refrigerate the jars of green tomato ketchup after opening.

Makes about 3 pints.

* Mixed pickling spices can include coriander, cumin, dill, celery, and fennel seeds; hot red pepper flakes; allspice berries or whole cloves; juniper berries; a cinnamon stick — and nearly anything else you think might be good.
Green tomato ketchup with onions, spices, vinegar, and honey

The batch I made came out nice and thick. It's a little bit of work to cut up and trim the tomatoes, but less so if your tomatoes are big ones — I had a ton of little green tomatoes. Personally, I wasn't sure about the honey, but I decided to use it for this batch. I might just use sugar if I make more green tomato ketchup this fall. I still have a ton of tomatoes.


  1. A forth way to use green tomatoes is to make jam. It is delicious.
    I can send you Annie's recipe if you don't have it.
    Unfortunately, I never had a chance or enough green tomatoes to try it.

  2. Mmmm, both of your food items are very tempting! I'd love to taste them :) Those pork chops with a creamy mustard sauce sound great, too.


  3. I agree with Judy...please tell us more about the creamy mustard sauce.


  4. I had to laugh when you mentioned having plenty of apples to put with your tomatoes;-)

    I sometimes make a simple relish of green tomatoes, bell pepper, sugar and vinegar. I use a food processor at the end to get the right texture. This relish turns a nice pale green color and is great with those black eyed peas we eat at the first of the year.

  5. And chutney, don't forget that!

  6. Thanks, CHM. I'm sure I have Annie's recipe. But I also have quarts and pints and liters of jelly, jam, and preserves in the cellar. We're more likely to eat ketchup (if it's good) than confiture.

    You too, Patrick. Actually, recipes I've seen for green tomato chutney closely resemble the recipe I used, except that I pureed the mixture. Maybe I'll make the chutney style sauce with the rest of our green tomatoes.

    Evelyn, that does sound good. We had some of the green tomato ketchup with french fries and boudin blanc today. I think the honey flavor is a little strong in it. Next time I'll use a little bit of sugar instead.

  7. I can't remember the last time I actually saw a green tomato.

  8. Not fair! The photograph of the fried green tomatoes caused me to downright drool! lol

    Thanks for sharing your recipe. Great post!

  9. And you could use some apples in the chutney too.

    (and another thought about the apples - "mincemeat" as we have it for Christmas mince pies is basically spiced sweetened apples and dried fruit)


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