Tried and True Thursday *Flashback to July 2009
Fried Green Tomatoes
Growing up in the South and in a gardening family, we had plenty of vegetables to eat fresh all summer long. Often lunches were vegetable plates only, no meat. And it wasn't uncommon to have cucumber sandwiches, tomato sandwiches or vegetable garden sandwiches (whatever was fresh and ripe and ready to eat along with a lettuce leaf between two slices of white bread!).
Occasionally we'd have green tomatoes on the vine come end of season and at that time Mama and Granny and Big Mama went into a frenzy of making up huge batches of green tomato relish. Boy was that stuff good, especially on a mess of black eyed peas mid-winter. (A mess of anything is a potful). During the relish making it was inevitable that we'd want lunch. And with all those green tomatoes on the counter it seemed only fitting that we'd eat them for lunch.
In later years, we often didn't wait for relish days to make fried green tomatoes. When tomatoes were plentiful and in various stages of ripeness they were brought indoors and put on the windowsill. Just let Mama think for one minute she didn't have a green vegetable to go on the table. Why right there was a green tomato on the windowsill. She'd take two, slice them and fry them right up.
Then Fannie Flagg wrote a book, which was made into a movie, both titled Fried Green Tomatoes. Suddenly, everybody wanted to try those fried green tomatoes. Nowadays many groceries carry green tomatoes as well as ripe ones, so I can buy them. And do you know they charge more for green tomatoes? Well they are worth it.
Several years ago a friend from up North happened to drop by as I started to prepare supper, which happened to have Fried Green Tomatoes in the menu. He was fascinated by the whole concept of eating a green tomato. My kitchen was very small and as I took up the tomatoes from the pan, I put them on a plate on the counter behind me. I urged him to "Try one..." Well I should have known better! The man not only tried one, he tried every single tomato slice that came out of the pan. Imagine my surprise when I turned to pick up what was supposed to be a platter full of tomato slices and found just three lonely little slices on the plate! He looked at me sheepishly and apologized...for not eating them all! "I got full," he said. Needless to say, he was a convert to eating green tomatoes!
I do things a bit differently. Number One, I don't garden. I know it's a darned shame, but Chance was city born and bred and truly did believe for many years that gardens were for those who couldn't get to the grocery store! He's changing his thinking though and perhaps next year, he says, we shall plant a small garden of our own. Being limited to the grocery store, meant I didn't have access to green tomatoes for a long time, unless someone with a garden blessed us. (2016 and he's still saying, "Maybe next year..." or more often, "When I retire...")
Number Two, I have perfected my own method of making Fried Green Tomatoes. Mama's method was straightforward, dip the sliced tomato in flour, drop in a skillet of hot oil, brown, flip and brown and eat. They are perfectly edible prepared this way. A neighbor of ours used to dip them in corn meal, which was pretty darned good, too.
Here's my way of making them:
Fried Green Tomatoes
2 or 3 large green tomatoes (some red streaks are okay but all green are even better)
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup corn meal
1/2 cup flour
Slice tomatoes thin (I know in the movie they sliced them thick, but honestly no one I know ever cut them that thick to fry. Thin is best. The tomatoes will crisp up a little). Pour buttermilk over tomato slices.
Mix the dry ingredients in a pie plate. Heat oil in skillet (you don't need to deep fry, just cover the bottom of the frying pan with oil. You'll be adding more as you go).
Take a tomato slice that is fairly wet with buttermilk, dredge in dry mixture, drop into hot pan and repeat until pan is filled but not overfull. They will fry fairly quickly and about the time you drop in the last that will fit in the pan you'll be turning the first one over. By the time all the slices in the pan are turned over, it's time to take up the first one.
The slices are best put on a rack over paper towels to cool slightly, rather than right on a plate, if you want them to remain crispy. Otherwise, as you layer them on a plate they will get soft, but believe me they are still wonderful. Repeat process until all slices are cooked.