Photo by Judith Hausman
We all know about Fried Green Tomatoes by now and that not only Southerners enjoy them. But with a first frost on the way (followed by a couple of 70-degree days), I was looking for other ways to celebrate this once-a-year treat and squeeze the last pleasure out of that Queen of Summer, the tomato.
Our meaty Roma tomatoes seem to have survived best of all even when the lush plants shriveled and succumbed. The chunky, if small, specimens were just right for an easy pasta dish. I sautéed the sliced, green tomatoes with onion, garlic, olive oil and bacon. Then, I tossed the pasta with this sauce and a lot of good Parmesan. The same sauté would be wonderful on top of fried eggs or polenta. Mince a chili pepper into the mix and spoon it on top of tacos or enchiladas or inside a quesadilla. Because green tomatoes taste a lot like tomatillos, they can sub into any green-salsa recipe easily. They are also welcome in mixed vegetable curries, coconut-milk-based or otherwise.
Next, I turned to a classic chow-chow, a sort of mixed pickle relish, because I also had a lot of rag-tag cabbage to play with. I admit, I have to remind myself to use these relishes and chutneys throughout the winter but I give away a lot of sparkling jarsful as well. They make an impressive, homemade gift.
I started out with a classic, vinegar-y recipe from an old cookbook, to which I added my own touches. There are dozens of recipes (and canning directions on line) designed to use up the garden so if you don’t care for this one, tweak your own or your grandma’s. Carrots, cauliflower and celery often show up in chow-chow as well. I’d like to try Indian spicing next — maybe curry powder and black cardamom and lime peel. The food processor makes the job go so much faster.
Green Tomato Chow-Chow
- About 24 smallish, green tomatoes (about 8 cups worth)
- 1 medium-size head of cabbage
- 3 large onions
- 6 bell peppers, red and green mix
- 1/2 hot pepper, such as jalapeno or more, to taste
- 3 or 4 large garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup salt
- 7 cups vinegar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons dry mustard
- 1 1/2 tablespoons ginger
- 1 1/2 tablespoons turmeric
- 2 tablespoons mustard seed
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fennel seed
- 1 tablespoons pickling spices
- 2 cups sugar
Trim all the vegetables well and chop them in a food processor until chunky but not too small. Salt them and let stand in a non-metallic bowl at room temperature overnight. Drain. When you are ready to cook the chow-chow, wash and heat jars (dishwasher with hot water will do) and boil the lids and seals. Combine the vinegar and all the spices and sugar in a large pot. If you like, you can put the last three in square of cheesecloth so they can easily be removed, but only if the seeds bother you. Simmer this mix gently for 30 minutes. Then, add the drained veg and simmer again for another 30 min. Spoon the mix into hot jars and seal.
Yield: 6-8 pint jars