Making use of your food
This is no novelty, but I really like the idea of using as much of your food as possible, whether it’s using beet greens for a salad or saving the fat from a pork shoulder to cook your winter greens. In Florida, we have the sort of climate that allows for plentiful and delicious tomatoes. As a result, we don’t mind using our tomatoes in things other than salads or marinara sauce. In fact, we use tomatoes before they ripen – aka when they are still green. This is not to be confused with varieties of tomatoes that are actually bred to be green. When I say green tomatoes, I mean un-ripened tomatoes. There is a difference.
Of course, there is the ever popular fried green tomato (FGT, not to be confused with the movie – it’s a great one if you haven’t seen it.) I eat FGTs plain or with a little goat cheese schmeared on top. Actually, I have dreamt of making myself a BLT with an FGT and some goat cheese on top. However, that might induce a gallbladder attack and I can’t have the surgeon laugh at me again when I tell him what I ate, so I will restrain myself.
Another fun green tomato idea is ice tomato pickles. Ice tomato who? Essentially green tomatoes that have been pickled and canned in a sweet syrup. They are crunchy and sweet and you can enjoy them solo or on a sandwich.
I have fond memories of my grandfather arranging a weekend in the summer to prepare and can ice tomato pickles with my cousins. Some how I got out of any responsibility associated with the task (thank goodness for being the youngest) and was free to just pop-in and check things out in between playing. When I say that I got out of having any responsibility, I don’t mean to say that spending time with granddaddy was a chore, but canning and pickling (two things I hadn’t done myself until a few weekends ago) green tomatoes certainly was. It is a laborious and time-intensive process to say the least.
I got together with three good girlfriends to do exactly what granddaddy did with my cousins – process these tomatoes. We had 14lbs (thanks to Nancy and Susan) of green tomatoes. Why so many? Here in Colorado our summers aren’t as long and so you end up with a fair amount of tomatoes at the end of the season that don’t have a chance to turn (red) before our first snow. 14 lbs ended up producing 15 wide-mouthed pint jars.
The first day was devoted to washing and slicing the tomatoes, followed by soaking them for 24 hours in a lime solution.
Day 2 called for draining the lime solution and soaking the tomatoes for several more hours in fresh water. After the fresh water soak, you must make a syrup in which the tomatoes sit over night.
Day 3 involves thickening the syrup and actually canning the tomatoes in the syrup.
And here is my finished product along side a can from my grandfather’s last batch before he left this world. You can see that with time, they darken. And, if you aren’t sure you’ll like ice tomato pickles and aren’t ready to commit to canning just yet, you can order some online.
Ice Tomato Pickles
7 lbs washed green tomatoes (slice 1/4 inch thick) – stems removed
3 cups of lime
2 gallons of water
4 lbs sugar
3 pints of white vinegar
1tsp of ground cloves
1 tsp of allspice
1 tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of mace
1 tsp of celery seed
1 spice bag or cheesecloth bag
Soak the tomatoes in 2 gallons of lime water (3 cups of lime in 2 gallons) for 24 hours. Drain and rinse the tomatoes and soak in fresh water for 4 hours. Drain the tomatoes again. In a pot, boil sugar, vinegar and spices (in the spice bag). Once the syrup has come to a boil and the sugar is dissolved, pour over the tomatoes and let stand overnight. In the morning, pour the syrup back into a pot for boiling, and boil it for an hour (this is just to boil out some of the water). Then add the pickles/tomatoes and bring to a boil. Now can the tomatoes and syrup and you’re done!
Canning details could require an entire blog post. In an effort not to “re-create the wheel” I will share a website with you that my friend Nancy shared with me. It was quite helpful. I would definitely do research on canning if it’s your first time. If canning is not done properly, and the food has a chance to spoil it could be dangerous. And one last suggestion: think through what time of day the waiting periods will fall. You don’t want to be stuck canning in the middle of the night!