As the growing season draws to a close, and the atmosphere is no longer warm enough to ripen the many tomatoes still on the vine, green tomatoes are one of the last products our gardens have to give.
What can be done with them? They can be fried or battered sweet or savory, but I tire of them quickly. I have also made green tomato ice cream. It may sound bizarre, but it is great, and unlike anything anyone who has tried it has ever tasted. Pickles, and green tomato pie are my favorites. I had one habenero plant which burst into intense production at the end of September, and by last week had produced more than forty multi-colored peppers which hung in clusters like Japanese lanterns. I decided to pickle them along with the green tomatoes.
I chose the simplest method. I sterilized the bottles, and then packed them with herbs and alternately, the tomatoes or habeneros. I salted the tomatoes which I had sliced into wedges, and let them weep their water out for a few hours. I dried them and put them in the jars. I had enough babies for only one jar, and these I put in whole with just the stem removed. I put one slice of habenero into each jar of tomatoes. I cut the tops off of the peppers. Some I sliced, some I used whole. I made a brine and poured it just boiling into the jars and sealed them.
1 CUP WATER/ 1/2 CUP RICE WINE VINEGAR/ 2 1/4 CUPS SUGAR/ 1 TBSP KOSHER SALT/ 1 CLOVE/ 1 TSP MUSTARD SEED/ 1 TSP BLACK PEPPER CORNS/ 1 TSP CHOPPED FRESH GINGER/ 1 FRESH THAI CHILI ( OR ANY KIND ). YOU CAN USE CRUSHED RED PEPPER AS WELL ( 1/2 TO 1 TSP DEPENDING ON HOW SPICY YOU LIKE THINGS TO BE ).
Bring the above ingredients to the boil, stirring occasionally to dissolove the sugar. You can put almost anything you fancy into a pickle brine which you feel will make the objects to be pickled taste good/interesting. I strain the brine when using sliced items like the above green tomatoes because the peppercorns and seeds get stuck in them, and some people do not find that to be delicious. When the brine is to be strained I let it sit for a couple of hours or overnight and then bring the strained brine to the boil to be poured into the jars.
Many times when doing a project, there are only a few pictures good enough to use. This time, the opposite was true and I spent over an hour picking out the ones you see here. Maybe it was my new 500 watt, sunlight counteracting photography bulb.
I make the green tomato pie almost exactly like making an apple pie, and they are wonderful. I put sugar on the tomatoes and let them weep their liquid, then I squeeze out most of the liquid. I then put more sugar and corn starch, and just the barest hint of cinnamon. Most of the time I resist the temptation to add brown sugar, more cinnamon or other spices, raisins etc. The taste of the green tomatoes is unique, and oddly compelling, and seems to resist complication. Like apple pie, the tomatoes can be sauteed first, but a true, classic American apple pie starts with raw fruit - and that is how I like my green tomato pie.
My favorite pie dough is made by working 3 ounces of vegetable shortening into 18 ounces of flour, to which I add 14 ounces of almost frozen butter cut into 1/2 inch cubes. You may add salt if you wish. I use two pastry scrapers to cut the butter and flour together. ( I like to use paint scrapers from the hardware store, instead of the kitchen ones. I use them for everything, and I find them easier to hold. ) A solid strong pastry blender is good too. Avoid the wire ones, they always seem to get bent cutting butter of the hardness I like. When the mixture looks like rough meal, flake it with your fingers a bit, and then use the blender, or two scrapers again to break up any clumps. Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup ICE water. Take the trouble to put ice and water together and then strain it. The reason for this is that if you have worked the dough a little too long, if it is a warm day or a warm kitchen the flour will absorb some of the butter, instead of forming the hundreds upon hundreds of layers nescesary for puffing up beautifully. Ice water is fool proof in this regard. Start with 1/2 cup of water and hold back the rest. The least amount of water you can use, and still have the dough come together produces the tenderest flaky pastry. Just press the mass together and let it sit. The molecules need time to absorb the water on the microscopic level, and only time will allow this to happen. Use the heel of your hand and press, touching as little as possible. The warmth of your hands is a danger to the dough. Put the bowl in the freezer if you need more time. If after ten minutes or so, the dough still crubles when touched, and you can still see dry flour, sprinkle a little more ice water. This may seem like too much trouble, or unnecessary, but the result is the lightest, tenderest, flakiest dough you have ever tried. I promise. Let the dough rest in the fridge for an hour before using. I also give the dough a couple of turns ( like puff pastry ) to give it more pizzazz. Questions? Want to tell me off? Call the Chefworks Hotline: 551-200-9359