Friday, November 19, 2010

Beyond Fried Green Tomatoes

“Snowfall possible this weekend!” Gary cries out.

“Yippee!” goes up a chorus.

Gasp!  “Tomatoes!” pipes up Elizabeth, turning to Rachel, “Tomorrow we harvest the rest, okay?”

Rachel nods enthusiastically; Lydia looks on without a shred of interest, preferring to write a poem or play a tune – both involve clean hands.  ; )

And so the gardeners head out after all hearth chores have been completed.  I set to pruning yet another stand of roses, while the girls swarm about the heavy laden tomato plants. 

“So many that didn’t ripen,” sighs Elizabeth.

“We’ll find a use for them,” I sing out in the warmth of an autumn afternoon bathed in jewel-toned hues of gold and pink and fierce hot reds and oranges blazing a beautiful farewell.

Later as we sort and wash colander upon colander of green, orange, yellow, and red tomatoes.  I toss out ideas. 

“We could have fried green tomatoes,” I say, looking over the smallish globes with a skeptical eye.  “On second thought, maybe not,” I add as I calculate how many hours I will be standing over a HOT stove frying up finger-tip sized green tomato slices.

I dry my hands and make my way to the cookbook section of our library and plop down within easy access to every “country” cookbook I own.  (Please don’t ask . . . it’s MANY!)  Questing for fried green tomato recipes would have found me immediately victorious.  Every home-making cook and a fair portion of “chefs” offer a favorite way to bread and fry the immature tomatoes abundant at season’s end, but very few move beyond the frying thereof.  I pull out my trusty copy of American Country Cook by Pat Katz (purchased as a bride scouring a sale table at a discount chain).  This ranks as my favorite “basics” cookbook.  She covers an abundance of veggies, fruits, meats, and all the ways to prep and save them.  Pat has been a true blue kitchen mentor for me.  

I settle down and read away, “Hmmmmm, a whole section entitled ‘Tomatoes, Green.’  Excellent!  Let’s see . . . Green Tomato Curry, Green Tomato Hot Sauce, Green Tomato Cookies – hey, that looks interesting!”

“What!” gasps Rachel.  “Are you serious?”

I nod and read on, “The recipe calls for Green Tomato Mincemeat.  What is that?” I say as I begin flipping back a page or two in search of the earlier recipe.  By now the girls are blanching a bit at the thought of green tomatoes, raisins, etc. put into a cookie and passed off as dessert.

“Well,” I sum up, “I don’t like raisins (don’t have any either), don’t care for those fruit peels either, so I’m going to have to modify this whole recipe.”  And back to the kitchen I dance with cookbook in hand to stand before an audience of mild skeptics who were really hoping for some dessert tonight.

After sorting the tomatoes into categories: ready to ripen on the counter, suitable for frying, and "other"

I heft the big bowl of “other” and load it into the food processor for chopping.  Two batches in my 16-cup bowl, lightly pulsed until evenly chopped but mush-free,

and then I set about chopping a batch of apples (peeled and cored) to the same texture.  Combining the 2:1 mixture of chopped “stuff” I add a cup of blackstrap molasses, ¼ cup lemon juice, and ¾ cup apple cider vinegar.  Now for the spices . . .

I look at the quantities and KNOW instinctively that this will not have the deep spicy tang I seek, so I add the requisite 1 Tb cinnamon, ¼ tsp allspice, ¼ tsp cloves and then add some more (I nearly doubled the quantities).  I stir and taste this rather unattractive glop, and opt to add a generous dollop of strong bourbon vanilla.  I taste.  It still tastes . . . ummmmm . . . ODD with a touch of bitterness.

“Only time will tell,” I shrug as I turn on the heat.  I bring it to a boil, and then return it to a simmer for about an hour.  In the final minutes of cooking I turn up the heat to reduce the mixture to a nice thickness.

By now the house smells absolutely Holiday-Fantastic and everyone “MMMMMs” and “AAaaaahs!” their way to the kitchen.  Gary even walks in from next door (his office resides in the guest house) saying, “It sure smells good in here!”  And it does!

Now, I have a vat of “Tomato Mincemeat” simmered to perfection, but I am out of time for cookie baking as I really need to top the chicken stew with herbed dumplings so that we can eat around six.  What to do with this mincemeat?

“Let’s do some canning!” pipes up Elizabeth.

“Okay,” I respond, less than certain that my mere four-burners can adequately accommodate a pot of chicken stew, a pot of chicken-bone broth simmering, a pot of mincemeat, AND the GIGANTIC canning pot.  But, we give it a try and it fits . . . barely.  So she sets to boiling the water whilst I ladle out one heaping cup of mincemeat for a pudding, ladling the rest into sterilized pint-sized canning jars.  I fill five jars and she processes them while I set about adapting my persimmon pudding recipe for the mincemeat.

I reach for my trusty copper recipe box (a wedding gift) and dig out the “family” recipe for persimmon pudding.  (I admit this came from my sister-in-law’s grandma – sadly, my mom always baked a Mrs. Smith’s Apple Pie from a box, hence she neither needed nor had a recipe box.)  2/3 cup sugar, 2/3 cup milk (I use up the last of the cream in the bottle and add whole milk for the balance), 1 cup green tomato mincemeat, 1 tsp (or so) vanilla, and one egg all whisked together.  In goes ¼ cup shortening and since the mince is still warm it melts into tiny pellets; usually I have to whisk a bit to disperse the shortening.  Now to add the dry ingredients: 1 cup flour (I use freshly-ground whole-wheat pastry), 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, ½ tsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon (or so – we are cinnamon lovers around here).  Mix all together and pour into greased pudding bowl (or any baking dish – you decide what shape you desire, but keep in mind a shallow dish will bake faster than a deeper pudding bowl) and bake uncovered at 350 F for about 50-60 minutes.  Underbaking yields a gooey pudding, longer bake times result in a moist steamy cake – you decide.

While the pudding bakes away I whip up a batch of herbed dumplings (just a biscuit recipe with a handful of herbes d’Provence tossed in for fabulous flavor).  I top the bubbling stew with dough globes and replace the heavy lid on that gently steaming pot.

Whew!  Now I turn back to watch Elizabeth hover over the waterbath canner for the requisite 10 minutes and then hoist out her first batch of canned goodies.  She worries and thumps tops and frets a wee bit more before setting them to rest for 12 hours.  I tell her to stop worrying for we will gladly eat up any non-sealed jars.  (As I write this I count 100% success!  Way to go Elizabeth!)

Finally we sit down to a lovely dinner of chicken stew with herb-a-licious dumplings

followed by the most amazingly flavorful Green Tomato Mincemeat Pudding!!! 

I have adapted that persimmon pudding recipe to make gingerbread pudding, sweet potato pudding, pumpkin pudding, and more, but I have to say the spicy kick of that green tomato mincemeat wins the prize.  The family begs me to WRITE DOWN the recipe immediately so there’s no chance of forgetting it.  (Elizabeth gets up from the table amid mouthfuls and runs for pen and paper.)  I decline, preferring to savor my portion of pudding in the moment, vowing to record the recipe here on my blog in hopes of inspiring y’all to move beyond fried green tomatoes into the realm of Green Tomato Mincemeat and more. 

What do you do with a bounty of green tomatoes at season’s end?  I’ve got another lot waiting and I’m thinking green tomato relish.  What would you do?

* * *

The comments you have been leaving are so precious!  Thank you!  I intended to reply individually via email but Yahoo refused to take my text.  Hrmph!  But then I figured you’d all like to share in the newsy bits. 

As for the pot of soup simmering away at the top of my last post, that would be a Stuff 'n Nonsense soup that came from leftovers in my fridge – some rice, a few carrots, some collards, a zucchini, half a package of bacon, some leftover butternut squash pasta sauce (you can find it on the shelf made by Dave’s Gourmet If you don’t want to process the squash yourself – I bought a 3-pak at Costco on a lark and now it is a staple in my pantry), an apple, a can of diced tomatoes, half an onion, some thyme, and that’s about all I remember.  It was DELICIOUS!  Pair this with a good whole grain muffin like carrot/zucchini and a few slices of sharp cheddar cheese and you have quite a delicious feast on a cold evening.

Dear Miss Hostage (Jeri), thanks for introducing me to Jamie Oliver’s Revolution.  Clearly, I’m a kindred!  Yes, let’s cook and share, and teach, and inspire!  I have reserved the book at the library.  I’ve only seen one Jamie Oliver program years ago.  I thought he was adorable as he cooked a feast for his expectant sister in his slim-sized kitchen.  I look forward to reading more.  I was a big fan of the Slow Food movement when it emerged on the scene several years ago, but sadly it got too bogged down in politics for my tastes.  I wish Jamie success in his revolution and I have my wooden spoon and whisk at the ready!

And finally, as for the fungi study:

 It continues around here.  I have some of the oddest bits of “growth” littering my counters and tabletops.  Rachel “nature walks” daily with her eyes glued to the undersides of leaves and the earth-level bark of trees. We have watched dvds and perused books.  They all agree:  Nobody wants to be the one to say, “This is safe to eat.”  They all balk and say, “Many of these varieties are edible and delicious,” but they fail to pinpoint the safe ones, begging off with the disclaimer that videos, photos, and even YouTube fail to accurately depict the specimen and therefore it is dicey to decipher the green-spored cap of culinary delight from the green-spored cap of emergency-room invite.  When I find an expert I’ll be inviting him for a walk and a dinner . . . until then we’ll seek, study, and photograph the mitochondrial wonders, but I shall NOT be serving anything that didn’t pass through the watchful eyes of David, my green grocer.   : D


Tricia said...

Sounds like a delicious recipe! We haven't had an abundance of green tomatoes at seasons end yet. NE has had two bad summers for gardening. Maybe next year.

kylie said...

i'm glad green tomato chutney is an option, i love that stuff!

had to laugh at your nervousness over fitting everything on the stove. i have four burners close together and cooking for six means i usually have large pans and if i'm using more than two it is a genuine problem, many of the handles are burned because i couldnt centre the pan over the flame!

farmlady said...

We just got through wrapping our green tomatoes in newspaper and putting them in a closet in hopes that they would get red sometime soon, but that green tomato mincemeat looks really good and the cake looks even better. May have to go out and scrounge some more of what's left outside and try this pudding cake.... if the cold tonight doesn't freeze them on the vine.
Thanks for the ideas....

FancyHorse said...

That does look and sound delicious! You and your family have a lot of fun together!

Kathy said...

very interesting.... I've just tossed green tomatoes in the compost because I do not like green fried tomatoes. This year we have had very few green ones and the plants are finished producing. The soup sounds as delish as it looked!

Scrappy quilter said...

Can I come to your house and be the taste tester. Sounds scrumptious. Hugs