I recall a few years ago, debating with a friend whether “Fried Green Tomatoes” were inspired by the impatient gardener who couldn’t wait until the season began or the thrifty gardener trying to make the most of the season’s last harvest.
Wherever the inspiration came from, you can find them on restaurant menus throughout the season. And a few weeks ago, still during peak (ripe) tomato season, I even saw someone buying 2 *cases* of green tomatoes to make jam for the winter.
As nighttime temperatures drop, the tomato plants turn yellow and the leaves wither. The tomatoes won't have a chance to ripen on the vine, before I need to dig up the plants. I’m confronted with pounds of green tomatoes.
I’ll sort the tomatoes into three categories. The tomatoes which have begun to blush pink (or more) will finish ripening on the counter. The green tomatoes that have a glossy sheen will be cooked into chutney. And the matte tomatoes will get fried.
It's hard to really see in these photos, but ...
Here's a green tomato with a glossy sheen:
And a matte finish:
Unlike tomatoes with a glossy sheen, tomatoes with a matte finish will never ripen once picked. They’re ideal for frying because they stay firm and have a bright tartness. Once the tomato transitions into its ripening state by developing the gloss, they break down more easily when cooked. And even though they turn red on the counter, they will never have the same texture and taste as a truly vine-ripened tomato. If you’ve eaten a tomato in February, you know this. These tomatoes are best suited for a cooked chutney.
Fried Green Tomatoes
3 green tomatoes
1 cup buttermilk or 1 cup regular milk mixed with 1 tbs. sour cream
½ cup flour
¼ cup corn meal
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
Pinch or more of cayenne
½ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. cumin
¼ cup plain oil or bacon grease
1. Slice tomatoes ½ inch thick.
2. Soak tomatoes in buttermilk.
3. Mix together flour, corn meal, salt and other spices.
4. Heat a large skillet over a high flame. Add oil and/or bacon grease. When hot, dredge tomato slices in flour mix and gently place in pan. Cook on both sides until brown and crispy.
5. Serve with remoulade or tomato salsa.