November 10th, 2010

Green Tomato Madness

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I have told you all about my friend Maggie and her place out in the country, where I take carefree breaks from my city ways to hang in her kitchen, drink coffee, visit, and cook. On a given day, we might bake bread, or stir up a pot of gumbo, or can tomatoes, or fix a grand salad, using her garden’s finest. All, I should note, with splendid results.

This time was a little different. I know, everything looks pretty nice in the picture. But, things went a bit mad, green tomato mad.

It was unintentional, this madness. Our initial plan had been to cook with pears harvested from her craggy, fruit laden tree–perhaps we would make pear butter, or pear butter coffeecake.

But, this fall had odd weather, super warm in September and October, and Maggie’s tomato plants had an unexpected resurgence. They were covered, almost as much as they were in summer, with fruit. When her husband Steve learned that a hard freeze was coming, he hastened to the garden to gather what he could. He returned with a 10 gallon bucket, piled with all manner and size of green tomatoes.

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So, outside of breading them in cornmeal and frying them crisp, what do you do with 10 gallons of green tomatoes?

Maggie and I decided to find out.

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Some ‘net surfing turned up ideas for charred green tomato salsa, green tomato ketchup, and green tomato cake. A few recipes called for slicing, salting, and sweating the tomatoes to remove excess water. Other recipes called for tying the slices up in cheesecloth, and letting them drain overnight.

Needless to say, this notion was rejected.

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We plunged headlong into green tomato projects, making things up as we proceeded. It would be some time later before certain aspects of a green tomato’s nature would be revealed.

We oven-roasted green tomatoes, jalapenos, garlic, and onions to a char for salsa.

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While those cooled, we chopped more tomatoes for the bundt cake, and improvised a quickbread style recipe, not unlike ones that you use for, say, carrot cakes, or zucchini cakes.

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Maggie had a small bundt pan. So, we used the excess batter for muffins. The muffins, we thought, would be our afternoon snack with coffee. Then, we turned our attention to the task of the green tomato ketchup.

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Whoa. We quickly cleaned, cored, and quartered a mighty mound, and tossed them into a big pot. For spicing, we used the same ingredients–cinnamon stick, whole clove, and allspice– as I had for my Real Red Ketchup.

At one point, Maggie surveyed the counters, covered with cake pans and batter, vinegars and spices, food mill parts, canning jars, and then the cauldron of green gurgling on the stove and said, “I feel like we’re mad scientists and this is our laboratory.”

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And, like any good mad scientists, we recognized that cooking in this manner was very experimental. And, our green tomato experiment yielded mixed results.

Our Assessments:
1. Charred Green Tomato Salsa: This had terrific heat and tangy flavor, not unlike tomatillo, which it resembled also in texture– that gelatinous mouth feel, the kind you notice, at times, with cooked eggplant. We decided that this would be better as a sauce baked over enchiladas.

2. There was likely a good reason to salt and drain the green tomatoes in advance. Our ketchup did not get as thick as we would have liked. The taste was surprisingly good, pretty ketchup-y, really. There was something visually jarring about the color. Close your eyes when you taste it.

3.Green tomatoes need to be chopped very very finely for the bundt cake. Or, pulse them in a food processor. When the muffins were warm, the larger pieces of green tomato were fine—they reminded me of apple, in a way–but as the muffins cooled, the pieces became weird, a little unpleasant–that same gelatinous texture thing. Otherwise, we gave this cake a thumbs-up. I’ve given you the recipe, with the appropriate remedies.

4. It’s always a good idea to find clever ways to use what you’ve got. (Think–there have been thousands and thousands of farm women who had bushels of green tomatoes and little else to work with.)

5. Mad or not, kitchen experiments are fun. And, we welcome any green tomato tips, tricks, or recipes! Suggestions?

GREEN TOMATO BUNDT CAKE
2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 t. Salt
1 t. Baking Soda
1/2 t. Cinnamon
1/2 t. Allspice
1/4 t. Clove
1/4 t. Black Pepper
2 Eggs
1 c. Brown Sugar
3 c. Green Tomatoes, chopped very finely
1/2 c. Buttermilk
1/2 c. Canola Oil
1 c. chopped Walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Measure and sift dry ingredients together.
Whisk eggs and brown sugar together. Stir in buttermilk and oil, then tomatoes. Stir in dry ingredients and walnuts. Pour into greased and floured bundt pan.

Bake 50-60 minutes. Allow to cool, and remove. Dust with powdered sugar.

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Beautiful collection! Maggie is ready for winter.

Posted in Breads, Recipes, Sauces

28 Responses to “Green Tomato Madness”
  1. Barbara Says:

    Nancy, what a fun day that was! I love doing things like this. I had an aunt whom would ask me over every once in a while to do canning, make jams etc. I enjoyed it so much.
    You girls did good work!

  2. Kath Says:

    It sounds like you had a wonderful time and what wonderful recipes. The cake sounds particularly interesting, I have never before heard of it. The mad scientists did good it seems.

  3. Heather @ Get Healthy with Heather Says:

    I wish I would have read this when I harvested all my tomatoes that just wouldn’t change to red. Yummy idea!

  4. rhonda Says:

    Wow,,,,seemed like so much fun, i thought i’d do a very specific search: “fun with green tomatoes” and it turned up a very promising recipe…you might want to check it out if you get the fever again! ;-)
    and, this recipe can be added to that very beautiful pantry!
    http://www.theslowcook.com/2009/09/17/green-tomato-and-apple-chutney/

  5. nancy Says:

    Such creative work! The bundt cake recipe sounds delicious. I don’t have much experience cooking with green tomatoes, but maybe next summer I will need to do some mad-kitchen-scientist experimentation of my own – or at least make the tried-and-true bundt cake :) Thanks!

  6. Tracy Says:

    Now you’ve got me thinking. I’m actually wondering how a green tomato sauce would taste over penne or on a pizza. The bundt is quite stunning.

  7. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Rhonda—that green tomato-apple chutney recipe looks really really good. When Maggie and I were cooking, and talking about options, I mentioned chutney, and that this seemed liked something we would be making in India!

    Tracy–I wonder too, I have never heard of the Italians working with green tomatoes. Perhaps Roberto can shed some light?

  8. Ingrid Says:

    I’ve never tried anything with green tomatoes. But, it sounds great!

  9. rhonda Says:

    Came across this tidbit of information and a couple of yummy Italian recipes….unfortunately the squirrels and racoons left me without tomatoes, so i’m off to the market!

    “The one thing you do not do is cook a green tomato for a short time. Use the fruit raw, or cook it down, but do nothing in between or you’ll unleash its worst characteristics, as in slippery textures (think okra) and more flatness than flavor.”
    http://www.redding.com/news/2010/sep/15/green-tomatoes-still-ripe-flavor/
    and, just one more:
    http://splendidtable.publicradio.org/recipes/vegetable_pickle.html
    I don’t know what we did before the internet!!!love it.
    Thanks, Nancy, for the great blog!!

  10. Faith Says:

    This is my kind of madness! I love kitchen experimentation. :) Looks like you ladies came up with some gorgeous dishes, I would especially love to try the bundt cake. Hmmm, I wonder, do you think baked stuffed green tomatoes would be good?

  11. Michele Napoli Says:

    Wow, you and your friend had an excellent green tomato adventure! Very inventive. Unbelievably, I have never cooked a green tomato.

  12. Maggie Says:

    Nance, we did have “mad” fun, didn’t we!? Because of the mouth feel of the salsa, I decided to try one more thing – I heated it up and served it over jasmine rice, with an extra dash of hot sauce. It was excellent! It would have been really good with some shrimp added in. Can’t wait till our next adventure!!

  13. Christine @ Fresh Local and Best Says:

    This is such a fun experiment! I like that you guys tried a multiple recipes with the tomatoes. I’d love to taste green ketchup one day. I think the color would change the way I taste it.

  14. Barbara Says:

    I guess it takes sheer bravery to be a good cook. You ladies showed it in trying out all these different dishes. I do not possess that quality but wish I did. Cooking for a “meat and potatoes” kind of guy keeps my creativity in the kitchen a bit stifled as well. Our tomatoes are gone, but maybe next year I will try something a little different. Thanks, Nance.

  15. Leisa Hammett Says:

    Oh. So love this. All!

  16. Patsy Vaughan Says:

    I seem to remember that some years ago one of the “big” ketchup companies put out a green ketchup. Does this ring a bell with anyone else?

    Nancy, I love how food for you is always an evolution, not an ending!

  17. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Faith–I’m not sure if it would work out well–maybe if the tomatoes were somewhat hollowed–seeds and such scooped out so that the rest of the green tomato could bake thoroughly with whatever stuffing (check Maggie’s comment about the salsa-like stuff with rice and shrimp!)

    Michele–I doubt that I would have ever, either, had I remained living in New York! It’s definitely a Southern Thing.

    Patsy–thank you for the compliment. I think that Heinz did the green ketchup thing a few years ago—anyone know for sure?

  18. blackbookkitchendiaries Says:

    i really love this post… your blog is really beautiful.

  19. Karen Says:

    Love the green tomato bundt cake and muffins!! Would have never thought to use them in a cake. That’s ingenious! Your post makes me want to get some fried green tomatoes with a biscuit and crispy bacon on the side…Sunday brunch love. :-)

  20. foodonfifth.com, Teresa Blackburn Says:

    Hey Nancy, I love all the wonderful things you guys did with Green Tomatoes of which I have many! I think I might try the cake as I really like just the idea of that so much. Lovely shots as well. T

  21. Katie@Cozydelicious Says:

    How fun! I have never done anything with green tomatoes besides fry them. The ketchup looks awesome! And the cake is so creative.

  22. FOODESSA Says:

    Don’t I wish I knew you when I got stuck with a crate full of greenies left in my garden. Well, that was then and now I’ll gladly share your very interesting experimentation with my MIL that has them lingering in her cold cellar. I get the feeling that the cake is something she wouldn’t have thought of…very creative.

    Nancy…as always…great post as well as fun photos ;o)

    Ciao for now,
    Claudia

  23. Nirmala Says:

    Green tomato bundt cake! Wow.

  24. Tammy Says:

    It looks like you had such fun! I would have never thought to use green tomatoes in this way but obviously, I have a lot to learn. Maggie’s canning looks fabulous.

  25. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    So the results were mixed, oh well, it seems you two had a blast in the kitchen and that’s the important part.

  26. Joyti Says:

    Why haven’t I tried a green tomato yet? Hmmm….
    And that collection IS beautiful!!!

  27. Juliana Says:

    Wow, I never seen so many green tomatoes recipes all together…beautifully done :-)



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