What to do with the seven bushels of green tomatoes, a bushel of green peppers, and a bushel of small eggplants we picked at the first threat of frost? Temperatures dipped below 32 degrees here two nights this week and with that, it’s over for the hot weather-loving crops. It’s always a little sad and shocking to see the damage frost does in a garden overnight where just a day before everything was lush and growing. I can truthfully say it’s a relief though. One of the best reasons for living in a seasonal climate is we get to put things to bed and have a rest from the summer’s routines.
We’re still farming however, and there’s lots to do before the snow flies. New beds for next spring still need to be plowed, and we’re working on the greenhouse. We’ve harvested the winter squash.
We’re pulling up plants, which go on the compost pile, and seeding the beds with winter rye. Irrigation hoses and equipment must be rolled up, labeled and stored. We’ve put simple hoop and Reemay row covers over a couple of late crops of hearty spinach, winter lettuce. The brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, kale) aren’t harmed by a light frost. These will hold out until there’s a killing frost. (Kale being the exception, which will pretty hold up to anything Nature throws at it!) The celery and leeks are nestled under a thick layer of salt hay mulch. Garlic, which winters underground, will soon be planted and thickly mulched.
Meanwhile, indoors, we’re doing our best to preserve what remains of this summer’s best tomato, pepper and eggplant crop ever. How we hate to see it go! But the freezer is filled to the brim with peppers cut into strips for fajitas, halves for stuffing and chopped for soups. Bags of celery are in there that will go into our winter cooking, along with separate bags of celery tops to flavor our stocks. We’ve frozen chopped tomatoes, and several batches of sauce laid flat and frozen in sheets. The eggplant gets sliced and dipped in flour, egg, and panko crumbs and fried in olive oil. We undercook these slightly and freeze them flat. Makes it easy to throw together a nice Eggplant Parmesan some winter night, using our home-made tomato sauce. I also roasted some chopped eggplant cubes that can be thrown into a bubbling pot of Minestrone. There’s going to be much good eating in my house this winter!
But what to do with all of those green tomatoes???
A search of Google turns up some intriguing possibilities. http://southernfood.about.com/od/tomatoes/a/green_tomatoes.htm
Green tomato pie… green tomato ketchup… baked green tomatoes… tomato fritters… green tomato hash… green tomato chutney… pickled green tomatoes. On Monday we made fried green tomatoes for lunch and they’re easy and good. Coat with a layer of cornmeal and fry until brown on both sides in olive or canola oil. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for a few more minutes in the oven at 350 until done.
We haven’t yet counted the many boxed dozens of jars filled with things we’ve put up over the course of the summer. Tomatoes, dilly beans, cucumber pickles, pickled hot peppers of all kinds, salsas and hot sauces, sauerkraut, and jellies.
Many of our green tomatoes are getting made into India Relish, from my mother’s recipe. I think we’re on the third batch. Or is it fourth? I’ve lost track!! Habanero peppers were added to at least one batch, giving those jars a nice kick.
Mimi’s India Relish:
(You can do this in a food processor, but I personally prefer the texture you get with an old-fashioned grinder like my mother always used. I got mine at the Co-Op. .) Store-bought relish just won’t cut it once you’ve tasted this! My favorite use is on baked beans, but it’s also excellent mixed into potato salad, and of course, on hot dogs…
Grind a peck of tomatoes. (What’s a peck, you ask? It’s one quarter of a bushel, or about 15 lbs…)
Add 1- 1/2 cups canning salt (no idode) which sweats out the excess water. Let sit overnight. (There sure has been a lot of sweating going on at Mehaffey Farm this year!) [see:https://mehaffeyfarm.wordpress.com/2010/08/11/ratatouille-like-my-mama-made/.])
The next day:
Chop 1 medium head of cabbage
Drain the salty water off the green tomatoes. Add chopped cabbage and 1-1/2 quarts white vinegar. Boil for 30 minutes.
Grind 6 green and 3 red peppers, and 6 onions. Add to the pot along with:
6 c. sugar, 1/2 package of light brown sugar, (remember, this is my mother’s recipe. I think she means one of the small boxes, not the big bag it comes in now…so maybe 1/4 of one of those 2 lb. bags…)
Now, get ready for an intensely pleasurable olfactory experience…(this one brings me right back to childhood in my mother’s kitchen.)
Add 2 Tbsp. celery seed, 2 Tbsp. mustard seed, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and 1 tsp. ground cloves.
Cook until the onion is tender. Pour into sterilized canning jars with the two-piece lids. Leave 1/2 inch headroom. Process for 15 minutes.
Mimi would be proud!