2019 Grateful 24: Green Tomato Day

The responsibility that comes with having a garden weighs heavily on me. It dictates what I do and when I do it. I’m tied to the kitchen. Try as I might, I can’t seem to get Mother Nature on my schedule. Her latest parry has been of the green tomato variety.

We’ve a bumper crop of tomatoes this year. Apart from the occasional one that has managed to ripen, most of them are still green. And instead of turning red, they’re just growing bigger. Four of the plants have keeled over, laden with fruit and battered by the rain we’ve been having. I hate to see anything go to waste and rather than having to deal with hundreds of kilos of red tomatoes in a few weeks, I’ve been harvesting some of the green ones and Googling what to do with them (other than the usual breads, cakes, and muffins – green tomatoes are an excellent substitute for zucchini!).

Green tomato chutney *****

The chutney recipe I used called for allspice, which I tracked down four shops later and solid 30 minutes spent translating the labels. But I misread the recipe and bought egész (whole) rather than őrölt (ground). Thankfully, the well-travelled AC had recently brought me back some spice mixture from Jordan made of up all sorts of stuff, including allspice, so I figured that would do nicely thank you very much. And it certainly did something for the taste. My chutney is bloody delicious, even if I say so myself. So good that I’m planning on making another batch next weekend.

Green tomato relish ****

The green tomato relish recipe had me wondering at the instructions. Coarsely grind… not chop but grind. I was at a loss. I tried using a food processor and pulsing the red peppers first. I ended up with something strangely like calamine lotion – that same hideous pink. So I switched to the Nutribullet for the green peppers and got a sickly looking green wash. I was more careful with the onions but ended up with chunks and finally got the hang of it when I started on the tomatoes. I let the whole lot drain through cheesecloth for an hour, a little worried that I’d just wasted 36 tomatoes, 12 onions, and 8 peppers (and very grateful indeed that I’d bought all the cheesecloth I’d found in a little huxter shop near Slab City, California, when we were there earlier this year as I’ve yet to see it sold anywhere this side of the pond). But once the fluid drained off, what was left looked like it’d make a decent relish, stray chunks of onion aside. My green tomato relish is a little on the sweet side for my taste but my tasters gave it a thumbs up – and they’re not the sort to be polite. It also yielded two litres of a pure pepper/onion/tomato juice that is in the fridge waiting for the next pioneer-pinned vegan who visits.

Green tomato salsa **

The recipe I used for green tomato salsa called for jalapeños. I didn’t have a fresh ones. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fresh one. I’d no idea what size they were and couldn’t be arsed getting up to check. [I find the longer I spend in the kitchen on a hot day, the more careless I get.] So I opened a jar of jalapeños and guessed. Bad move. Very bad move. Awful mood, in fact. This is only for palates that go for entrées marked with three chilis; one is as far as I’m prepared to go. Others seem to have made a similar mistake though, as there’s a Wiki page on how to fix salsa if you’ve made it too hot. I tried adding lime juice. I tried adding more tomatoes. I tried adding sugar. But it’s still too bloody hot.

Green tomato side-dishes *********************

DF made fried green tomatoes for me once upon a time in Hawaii. I loved the movie and like how the three words sound together – in an American accent. She fried tomaytoes – I fried tomahtoes. I’ll eat either. A fair chunk of my Google searches begins with ‘What can I used if I don’t have XXXXX’. Not having a well-stocked supermarket within spitting distance has seriously added to my creativity in the kitchen. It’s rare that I have all the ingredients I need to hand, despite my doomsday big-shop approach. I might never run out of baked beans or mayonnaise but cornmeal hadn’t yet made an entry into the larder. So  I used semolina (búzadara) instead and it worked a treat.

A search for green tomato recipes turned up a little gem – parmesan-crusted green tomato gratin. Thankfully it came with a  picture, as the written instructions addled me. It’s scrape-the-dish-and-fight-over-the-last-spoonful delicious.

Encouraged by the prospect of having these green tomato side-dishes in December, I sliced up a bunch of tomatoes, stacked them singly in layers, froze and bagged them. That’s one drawer of my four-drawer freezer space gone and I’m giving serious consideration to commandeering a second. Have I mentioned how gobsmackingly tasty that gratin is?

Once again, I’m grateful for what comes out of my garden. But more so, I’m grateful for being able to do something from start to finish and see the end result. My recipes are covered in hand-written lessons learned and reminders for next year as this preserving lark is definitely a learning process.

Sadly though, when I went to store this batch of jars, I discovered that one of the jars of cherry plums had morphed into some nasty-looking white goo and another was bubbling dangerously. Am not quite sure what went wrong as the others look healthy enough. Having already been the cause of one cherry-bomb explosion that resulted in a complete kitchen renovation (not my kitchen but my cherries), I could do without a repeat performance. I’m glad I checked.

jars of green tomato chutney, green tomato relish, green tomato salsa

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