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Fall brings chances to explore plethora of green tomato recipes

| Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012, 9:02 p.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Green tomatoes can be used in many recipes. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Green tomato relish on a sandwich. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Fried green tomatoes, one of the many recipes for green tomatoes. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Green tomato pie, one of the many recipes for green tomatoes. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review

Fall has arrived.

For the average Western Pennsylvanian gardener, the change in season signifies many things. It's time to harvest the rest of the melons and sweet potatoes. Zucchini and many varieties of squash are plentiful, and pumpkins and apples are ready to pick.

And, if your tomato plants did well this summer, the slow decline in the daily average temperature and increasingly cooler nights means you probably have an abundance of green tomatoes that are no longer willing to ripen on the vine.

The good news is that tomatoes have been used for cooking since at least 500 B.C., so there is no shortage of recipes available for green tomatoes beyond the most well-known breaded-and-fried preparation.

Green tomatoes, in terms of flavor, are unremarkable, some being bitterer than others. The taste of the unripe tomatoes used for these recipes was basically neutral, finishing with just the slightest hint of tangerine. Like most varieties of unripe tomatoes, they are like a blank canvas waiting to adapt to the sweet, spicy, sour, savory or acidic whim of the culinary artist using them.

If you don't already have a cache of green tomatoes, you can probably find a friend with more tomatoes than time who is willing to hand them over to you for free or buy them at reasonable prices at the area farmers markets.

Green Tomato Relish

Use a food processor for the vegetables if you have one. An optional for spicy relish is to add 2 to 4 habanero peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced.

6 large green tomatoes, cored and finely diced

1 green, 1 red and 1 yellow sweet bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely diced

2 small red onions, finely diced

1½ tablespoons salt

1 cup apple-cider vinegar

1 cup water

1½ cups sugar

½ tablespoon celery seed

4 tablespoons flour

3 tablespoons prepared mustard of choice

1 / 2 cup milk

Rinse and finely dice the vegetables and transfer them to a heavy, 6 quart or bigger sauce pan.

Add the salt, vinegar, water, sugar and celery seed.

Bring the pot to a boil on high heat, stirring occasionally and set a timer for 15 minutes.

Make a paste of the flour, mustard and milk.

After the mixture has boiled for 15 minutes, add the mustard paste, stirring constantly and continue to boil for another 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Cool and serve on hot dogs and hamburgers, deli sandwiches as a condiment on a cheese plate or anywhere else you would serve sweet or dill relish. This can be canned and stored, as well.

Makes 6 to 8 cups relish.

Green Tomato Pie

Green tomato pie tastes almost exactly like apple pie when it's cooked.

Water

8 small green tomatoes, thinly sliced, skin on

¾ cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar

¾ cup dark corn syrup (Karo)

¾ cup warm water

¼ cup flour

1½ teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice

Pinch salt

2 (9-inch) prepared pie crusts

Ice cream, milk or whipped cream, for serving

Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil while you rinse, then thinly slice the green tomatoes. Transfer the sliced tomatoes to a mixing bowl. When you've finished slicing the tomatoes, cover them with the boiling water and allow them to sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Then, drain the tomatoes well, and pat dry. Combine the sugar, syrup, water, flour, spice and salt in a mixing bowl, whisking well and set aside.

Line a 9-inch pie pan with a crust, pressing firmly and poking a few tiny holes throughout the bottom of the crust with a fork. Fill the shell with the green tomatoes so they're evenly distributed and fill the pan to about an inch below the rim. Then, slowly add the sugar, syrup and seasoning mixture so it fills the nooks and crannies. Stop adding the sugar mixture when it reaches the same level as the top of the tomatoes.

Add the top crust, crimping the edges and making a few decorative cuts or poking a few holes in the top. Transfer the pie to the refrigerator for another 20 to 30 minutes before baking.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees, and bake the pie (on a cookie sheet with an edge to avoid messes) for about 45 minutes or until the top of pie has browned.

Allow the pie to sit for 15 minutes before serving. Serve as you would apple pie, with ice cream, milk or whipped cream.

Makes 1 9-inch pie.

Fried Green Tomatoes

1 cup flour

1 cup corn meal

2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning

1½ cups frying oil or bacon grease, divided

3-4 large green tomatoes, cored and sliced into ½-¾ inch thick slices, skin on

Jalapeno-Dill Sauce (see recipe )

Combine the flour, corn meal and Old Bay in a mixing bowl. Heat about ¼ cup of oil or bacon grease in a cast-iron skillet or sauté pan on medium heat until hot. Add one slice of tomato to the flour mixture at a time, pressing the coating onto both sides and into any gaps. Very lightly shake off just a little of the excess and transfer the tomato slices, one at a time, into the hot oil. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes on the first side, or until brown, then flip and cook the second side for an additional 6 to 8 minutes. Use a thin spatula to carefully flip the tomatoes. You can continue to flip both sides until they are golden brown. The tomatoes and breading will soak up all of the oil in the pan.

Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel to remove excess grease. Then, hold completed tomatoes in a warm oven until all of the tomatoes are cooked.

Cook in batches, add ¼ cup of grease each time and allowing it a few minutes to heat up. Repeat the cooking process until all the slices are cooked.

Serve hot with a dollop of Jalapeno-Dill Sauce.

Makes 15 to 24 slices.

Jalapeno-Dill Sauce

This sauce can also be used as a dip for chips or a topping for grilled salmon or chicken. Make this at least an hour before cooking your tomatoes, and set it in the refrigerator so the dill flavor in the sauce has time to develop.

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup sour cream

4 large jalapeno peppers, stems and seeds removed, minced

2 tablespoons dried dill weed

1 teaspoon dried, granulated garlic

1 teaspoon dried, granulated onion or 2 tablespoons minced onion

2 teaspoons lemon juice

A few dashes Red Hot or similar Louisiana-style cayenne-pepper sauce

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Combine the sauce ingredients in a mixing bowl, and whisk until thoroughly combined. Cover, and set aside in the refrigerator before using. This sauce will hold well in an airtight container, refrigerated, for 7 days.

Makes about 2 1 / 2 cups.

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