I don’t know who decided to fry the first green tomatoes, but I am sure glad they did!
Credited with strictly Southern roots, a quick bit of investigative research indicates that recipes date back as far and the mid to late 1800s, several from Jewish and Kosher cookbooks, too. The popularity of this crunchy summer favorite, however, soared with the popularity of Fanny Flagg’s novel “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.” And then later, in the movie of the (abbreviated) same name, in the late 1980’s. Since then, chefs around the country, and perhaps the world, cleverly continue put innovative spins on the basic “batter, bread and brown” technique.
Anyway you fry it
Whatever your spin on green tomatoes, do fry up a batch of this fabulous summer treat before the season’s end.
As I write this, it is the end of May 2019 and we are on the the veritable cusp of tomato season in the Carolinas. We are just starting to see marvelous green house tomatoes popping up at local farmers’ markets. Soon the harvest of red ripe juicy tomatoes will be in full swing.
But, before these gems turn red, they’re firm and green and equally delicious to their red ripened counterparts. As is the case for ripe and heirloom tomatoes of all sorts, the best place to buy green tomatoes is from a local farmer, at any local farmers’ market or farm stand. Or, if you are shopping at a grocery store, be sure to read labels so that you know its local product.
You could grow all sorts of varieties of tomatoes yourself. I have many friends who do. But for me, I have found over a years of summer growing seasons, that I am much better cooking with tomatoes than growing them. So I am happy to rely on the harvest of local farms and farmers with greener thumbs than mine to stock my tomato larder.
This post, with a nod to Certified South Carolina
The tomatoes photographed for this blog post all came from Tega Hills Farms in Ft. Mill SC and Bush-n-Vine in York, SC. They are all photos I took last summer at the height of the ‘mater season. No matter where you live, it is always most important, I think, to Shop Local so you can Eat Local. And you help support local farms and farmers in the process. As I started with South Carolina tomatoes, I’ve opted to make this whole post South Carolina-centric with recipes that feature Certified South Carolina peaches and peach cider; apple cider vinegar, and one of my favorite South Carolina cheeses.
Green Tomatoes on the Fry
This week I am pairing these local South Carolina green tomatoes, with riper red tomatoes, and, keeping it all in a local South Carolina theme, Clemson Blue Cheese from Clemson, South Carolina.
Of course green tomatoes aren’t just for frying, cut them and toss in spices and vinegar to make your own house pickles, season with salt and pepper to use in place or in addition to cucumbers; or scoop out, stuff and bake as you would bell peppers.
More ways to serve Summer Fried Green Tomatoes
Master Recipe: FRIED GREEN TOMATOES
2-3 local firm green tomatoes, thick sliced
organic All Purpose Flour ( gluten free works well too)
2-3 local eggs
dry seasoned bread crumbs ( gluten free works well too)
Canola oil, Avocado Oil or your favorite Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The 411 on Standard Breading Procedure
Dip each slice of tomato first into the flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs. The secret is to allow the battered and breaded green tomatoes to rest on a wire rack, for at least a minute or two before you fry. This time allows the egg, flour and bread crumbs to firm up around the tomato. It creates a bond that will not come off in the hot oil. To fry the breaded green tomatoes traditionally, Heat about ½ inch of oil in a sauté pan or frying pan using my infamous wooden spoon test
Testing the Oil
To test to see if the oil is hot enough for frying, place a wooden spoon in the pan of oil. As the oil heats, little bubbles will form around the edge of the spoon just as they would if a piece of food were in the pan frying – when you see the little bubbles, the oil is hot enough to fry.
To fry with less fat, use a non stick pan and coat lightly with a flavorful olive oil. Brown as you sould in the greater amount of oil.
When the oil is hot, put the breaded tomato slices in, cooking just until brown. Remove from oil and drain on several thicknesses of paper towels.
Fried Green Tomato Croutons?
Lots of ways to serve ’em. With pimento cheese and red ripe tomatoes for a stack; with peaches, local cheese and arugula for a great summer salad; in a Parmesan casserole as you would fried eggplant or chicken. Or get creative and cut your fried green tomatoes into cubes to make croutons to top a ripe tomato salad.
For a fabulous summer sammy, you can also make the peachy bacon jam recipe found below and spread it on two slices of local bread. ( its also great on toasted English muffins in the morning, but I digress!) Layer on local lettuce and slices of ripe tomato for an excellent and innovative PBLT (Peach, Bacon, Lettuce and Tomatoes)
How to create a cheesy tomato stack
For another variation on the theme, spread sliced green tomatoes with a bit of softened Clemson Bleu or a local goat cheese or ricotta. Refrigerate to keep firm. Coat and bread the cheese and tomato “stack” as you would just the tomatoes in the Master Recipe.
Serve drizzled with Balsamic vinegar and enjoy this delicious taste of summer!
ISO the perfect Fried Green tomato condiment? Think Peaches…
Gotta love it when peach and tomato seasons collide. It’s always nice to offer your fried green tomato or fried green tomato stack with a special made-for-the-occasion condiment. In a quandary about where to turn? Take my word for it. My summer bacon jam, sweetened here with local SC peaches is pay dirt.
Peach Perfect Bacon Jam
1¼ pounds sliced bacon, diced
4 Medium sized South Carolina Peaches, peeled and chopped with the juices
2 of each: local onions, finely chopped; large local or organic carrots, peeled and finely chopped; local or organic celery stalks ( or 1/2 cup local lovage leaves), finely chopped
1-3 sliced fresh jalapeños or hot peppers ( you’ll have to wait late in the summer for local jalapeños, but keep this recipe around till then)
2 cups South Carolina peach cider
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme or savory leaves, roughly chopped
Now, Get your Jam on…
Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add the chopped bacon and cook until browned, stirring often, for 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the peaches and any of their liquid along with the onions, carrots, celery and jalapeños, cooking until the peaches are really soft and the vegetables are tender, 10 minutes or so. Pour in the cider and vinegar, increase the heat to high, stir and cook until the liquid is thick, 7 to 8 minutes.
Turn off the heat and move the skillet to a cool burner. Stir in the thyme leaves and cool to room temperature. Puree with an immersion blender if you would like your jam to have a smoother texture.
Serve immediately, spread on the fried green tomatoes or just eat with a spoon! This jam will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
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