Monday, October 13, 2008

Fried Green Tomatoes and Apple Sauce

I hope I get this post in while there are still green tomatoes to be had. I wouldn't know, because my attempt at container tomatoes this year was a huge disappointment: the seedlings never even flowered.

My father was a single parent for many years; he worked very long days, and still managed to not only keep a clean house full of cats, dogs, fish and the stray wooly bear caterpillar we would sneak in, but also to feed my sister and me really delicious and nutritious food. He toyed with the idea of writing a cookbook from the point of view of a single parent but never did; he could have, and should have. Below is his recipe for fried green tomatoes. They are, in his words, simplicity itself. I remember them as a huge treat at the end of summer and into fall when, in Vermont, the growing season ended much too early to ripen many of the tomatoes on the vine and there were too many to ripen on window sills. They are great with fried eggs or as a side for dinner. But you can eat many more if you have them by themselves.

Fried Green Tomatoes
Prep time 5 minutes. Total cooking time 20 to 30 minutes.
Serves 2 to 3 people as a side dish. To increase recipe, add more tomatoes until flour is used up, then add more flour/salt/pepper mixture as needed.

My father traditionally slices the tomatoes pretty thin, maybe 1/8 to 1/4 inch. However, he recently started slicing them thicker and recommends this way for a more intense tomato flavor.

In a clean paper bag put a cup of white flour and liberal amounts of salt and pepper (~ 1/2 teaspoon each)
Slice 2 to 3 medium to large green tomatoes 1/2 inch thick
Add enough oil (I use safflower) to a frying pan to generously cover the bottom and heat over medium-low heat
Put tomatoes in the bag and shake until completely coated
When the oil is hot but not smoking, add tomatoes, cover pan (if doing thin slices, do not cover pan), and let them cook, undisturbed, for 10 to 15 minutes. (Small peaks are okay to make sure not too hot; turn heat down if they are cooking too fast)
When nicely browned, flip tomatoes. At this point, check once in a while to make sure not too brown and move around if necessary
Cook uncovered until other side is brown, approximately another 10 to 15 minutes
Place on a paper towel-covered plate when done

Note: if doing thin slices, they will cook in around half the time.

Eventually, my father married Judith. My stepmother also has cooking skills, and one of her claims to fame is her apple sauce. It requires a Squeezo strainer, which I do not have, and am currently debating getting. At this point, it doesn't seem worth the money to get something I'll use once or twice a year, especially when I can get apple sauce from Judith. But, if I have a successful tomato crop next year, I could use it for tomato and apple sauce. hmmm. Stay tuned about my decision (opinions gratefully accepted).

I used to help make this sauce, including climbing the huge wild apple tree in the field behind my parents’ house to pick the sour scabby apples that make such gorgeous sauce. The actual making of the sauce was a production, but accompanied by popcorn and hot tea, it was pretty fun, and very worth it.


Pop plain popcorn
Melt 2 parts butter and 1 part tamari (soy sauce is fine) on stove top
When popcorn is popped, pour butter mixture over corn and sprinkle with garlic powder. Stir and eat.

Apple sauce

Slice clean apples in quarters, removing most of inner core and leaving skin on (skin will make apple sauce a lovely shade of pink)
Put an inch of apple cider in a large pot, add apples, and cook until soft but not mushy, approximately 10 minutes
Squeeze through Squeezo strainer (or other kind but it must remove skins and seeds)
Put sauce back in pot and bring to a boil
Put sauce in sterilized jars and can (see here for instructions)

Variation: save some sauce in pot. Add a few raw, chopped and peeled apples into hot sauce. This sauce needs to be eaten within a few weeks as raw apples will not keep for very long but it is worth it.

Note on sterilization: Judith, and many other people, can apple sauce in a way the USDA calls "open-kettle canning", which does not require heating the filled jars in a boiling water bath. The USDA does not recommend this type of canning. Judith does it because she doesn't like the sauce when it's been cooked more than the recipe allows. She has never had a problem with it, but for safety's sake, perhaps doing as the USDA suggests is best.