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Green tomatoes: There's more to do than just fry them

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Posted: Tuesday, August 14, 2012 11:04 pm | Updated: 10:34 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — Is there an Alaska gardener who does not meet the first frosts of the season with kitchen counters laden with green tomatoes? I think not.

You can, of course, force them to color-up by wrapping each in newsprint, putting them single layer in a shallow cardboard box and storing them in a cool dark place. Alternately, you can nestle them into a box of shredded paper, straw or thoroughly dried leaves, instead of wrapping them in newsprint. No matter how you store them, be sure to check weekly and cull those that are rotting instead of ripening.

However, there are people who actually prefer to end the season with a bushel of green tomatoes, feeling that greenies have their own charms in terms of taste and texture.

Whether you like green tomatoes or you just want to use some up, here are five recipes.

Green tomato jam

I like this recipe because you make it over two days instead of having to plan for a marathon Saturday canning session. The ingredients are simple and yield about six half-pints of a marmalade-style preserve: 5 pounds of green tomatoes, diced into small pieces (some people prefer to

rinse off the seeds, I do not); 6 cups of sugar; the juice and zest of one large lemon and two large oranges; and a teaspoon of butter. (You make zest by grating off the outside of the lemon and oranges, stopping when you reach the white pith underneath the outside color.)

Mix all the ingredients except the butter together and put in the fridge overnight.

The next day, bring the concoction to a boil and then, stirring frequently, let it simmer for about two hours, or until it reaches a thickness that suits you. Stir in the butter about half way through and at the end spoon off any scum that may have formed. Fill half pint jars, leaving a quarter inch of head space. Use the boiling water canning method, process for 10 minutes.

If this recipe doesn’t appeal to you, click onto http://www.yummly.com/recipes/green-tomato-jam. There you will find 57 green tomato jam recipes.

Pickled cherry tomatoes

Green cherry tomatoes are too small to bother wrapping and ripening, so this is a great way to use these miniatures.

The recipe makes about 6 pint jars of pickles.

The ingredients are: 8 pounds of cherry tomatoes, each one sliced in half; 4 cups apple cider vinegar; 4 cups water; 5 tablespoons pickling salt; 6 large cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed to release the flavor; 6 teaspoons of dill seed; 1 and a half teaspoons celery seed; 24 whole black peppercorns; and one and a half teaspoons of crushed red pepper flakes.

Bring the water, vinegar and salt to a boil. Meanwhile, in the bottom of each of the six pint jars, put one crushed clove of garlic, one teaspoon of dill seed, one quarter teaspoon celery seed; 4 whole peppercorns, and one-fourth teaspoon of red pepper flakes.

Then pack the jars with cherry tomatoes, tight but not crushed.

Pour the hot brine over the tomatoes, leaving a half-inch of headspace. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

If you think you will use them up within a month or so, you can skip the canning process and just put them in the fridge. I use them pretty much as I do dill pickles.

Higdom

I was first exposed to this dish when I worked at a job that required me to go on speaking tours to a particular denomination of churches all over the U.S.

Almost every presentation, especially in Texas and Kentucky, was followed by a potluck, and higdom and Jell-O were pretty much guaranteed to be on the table

Higdom is basically a way to pickle small amounts of vegetable remains; individually there would not be enough to preserve, but process them together and you can get eight pints of goodness.

If you like sauerkraut, you’ll probably like higdom.

For the brine: 4 cups of cider vinegar; 1 and 1/2 cups sugar; 1 teaspoon peppercorns; three very finely chopped garlic cloves; 1 teaspoon whole allspice; and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes.

Bring to a boil, simmer for 10 minutes, let cool and store in the fridge overnight.

For the vegetables: 10 cups finely chopped cabbage; 5 pounds finely chopped green tomatoes, with most of the seeds rinsed out; 2 large onions, finely chopped; 2 large red peppers, finely chopped; three fourths of a cup of pickling salt.

Put all of these ingredients in a bowl, stir well, cover and put in the fridge overnight. (If you don’t have enough cabbage or enough green tomatoes, then simply put in more of the other. I have had higdom made with 80 percent green tomatoes and other times with mostly green cabbage.)

The next day, rinse the bowl of vegetables well, squeeze hard to remove excess water and put in a large pan. Strain the brine and add it to the vegetables.

Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes. As the vegetables cook, there will be juice released but that should begin to cook off and the mixture thicken. If not, let it cook a bit longer. Keep stirring so nothing burns.

When the mixture is ready, ladle into pint jars, leave half an inch of head space and process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Roasted green tomatoes

Coarsely chop a bunch of green tomatoes and put in a single layer on a cookie sheet with high edges so your oven doesn’t end up a mess. Drizzle on plenty of olive oil, a little sugar and some salt and pepper. Stir.

If you like garlic, throw in a few peeled, crushed cloves.

Roast at 250 degrees for about 2 hours (it depends on how finely you chopped up the tomatoes, so start checking at an hour and a half.)

The tomatoes are ready when soft and sweet.

My favorite way to use them is to stir in pesto or basil, as well as a little ricotta, and mix it into hot pasta.

These tomatoes will keep in the fridge for about 4 days; for longer storage, use the freezer.

Fried green tomatoes

Although this is commonly thought of as a Southern dish, the first recipe for it apparently appeared in 1870 in New York City. Basically, you slice three large green tomatoes into one quarter inch thick slices and pat them dry.

Prepare three plates: one containing a half a cup of plain flour; another with two hand beaten eggs and a half a cup of buttermilk, and a third with a quarter cup of flour and a half a cup of corn meal.

Dip each slice in the plate of flour, then the beaten egg/buttermilk, then the cornmeal/flour mix. Make sure both sides of each slice are well covered.

Meanwhile, have a few slices of bacon frying. When done, remove the bacon and drain the grease into a bowl.

Sparingly use the bacon grease to fry the coated tomatoes until they are a golden crispy color on both sides. Serve hot. You can, of course, use oil, spray or butter, instead of bacon grease.

I’m stopping at five because I have run out of room, but email me if you want a copy of the peach-green tomato salad featured in a recent issue of Rachael Ray’s food magazine.

Linden Staciokas is a freelance writer. Contact her at dorking@acsalaska.net.

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