What Can You Do With Green Tomatoes – Plenty!
It’s a bit early in the season for green tomato uses to be under the spotlight, but every year as the strength goes out of the sun keen home growers ask themselves the same question – what can you do with green tomatoes, err lots of green tomatoes… oh and don’t forget the growing zucchini mountain!
Well I like to plan ahead and have some sort of strategy for dealing with the inevitable beautiful glut coming our way, handled right it’ll see us through the winter without having to buy much in other than some fresh vegetables.
I’ve learned my lesson before – if I don’t plan and buy in vacuum bags and jam jar lids, they’ll be top price and possibly even sold out.
Incidentally, did you know you can speed tomato ripening along? By pinching the top out of tomato plants after the fifth truss has set, you force the plant to focus on the fruits already made so they ripen – but most times I forget until too late. Having forgotten there’s a lovely crop of green tomatoes just desperate to be preserved.
While you can ripen green tomatoes in dozens of different ways, when there’s already a food dehydrator whirring away with sliced ripe red ones, and you’ve made two gallons of Passata sauce. Why bother?
As with virtually all fruit and vegetables you have options on freezing, canning, dehydrating or preserves. To be honest I like to do all four and have a good variety to pick from when cooking, but if I had to choose, drying and preserves are top of the list for green tomatoes – dehydrated zucchini has real value as a thickener instead of cornflour or arrowroot.
Freezing used to be a personal no-no until I got a vacuum sealer, which has made freezing really worth doing and has totally removed that unmistakeable been frozen taste. Food which has been home vacuum packed then frozen lasts a lot better too.
If you dehydrate green tomatoes, because they have much less juice to start with, you’ll end up with a richly concentrated morsel of magic that adds a piquancy to winter soups and stews and can be added to all your pasta sauces – I keep meaning to experiment and make a green tomato Passata, maybe this year I’ll do it!
The other place that under-ripe green tomatoes really shine, is relishes and chutneys.
What’s The Difference Between Relish And Chutney
Relishes are a kind of halfway house between pickles and chutneys. Cooked for less time than chutney to retain some crunch in the ingredients, you don’t need to wait and can be eating them the same day as making – but do keep in the fridge after opening.
If you want to make relish, there’s a great recipe here at Mommys Kitchen using green tomatoes – I’ve bookmarked it myself for later on.
Hot, sour, sweet or spicy – or a combination of all three, relishes are a place to use what fruit and vegetables you have in glut and experiment with the spice combinations – have fun but don’t be too heavy handed with the chili is a good rule.
Chutneys are cooked for longer to develop a mellow flavor and they usually feature dried fruit which adds to flavor, sweetness and can stabilize a soft mix – dried apricots are a very good choice for this.
The recipe below is the base recipe I use for everything and it changes only in respect of what’s in glut,you’ll note this recipe using green tomatoes also uses zucchini which never know when to stop.
Of course the spice bag is where you can add your own twist to what’s in the pan. You’ll find this delicious served with all cold meats, sausages, cheese and it really peps up pork casserole (add a teaspoon during cooking)
As far as the color of your chutney goes, it largely depends on how dark the sugar is – red tomato chutney has always got a red hue, no matter what else goes in the pan.
Tips To Make Perfect Chutney
Making chutney isn’t something you can rush – it takes me about half a day to make a batch of twenty or so jars. It may seem like a big investment, but your time will be well spent and that’s a promise.
- Always use a wooden spoon and a stainless steel pan, vinegar does stain other metals, so play safe. If there is any chance you’ll make a lot of jams and preserves, you might want to consider a maslin pan. Maslin pans are purpose made for jams and chutneys and have a thick narrow base with wide sides to improve heat distribution and reduce sticking.
- Cutting your fruits and vegetables into small even pieces is time consuming – but it ensures everything cooks at the same time giving you much better chutney with defined tasty chunks rather than a slush.
- Long slow cooking in an open topped pan is essential if your chutney is to develop into a smooth, mellow rich delight.
- Towards the end of the cooking time, make sure to stir every now and again and watch it carefully, your aim is to prevent the mixture sticking to the bottom of the pan and at this stage it can do easily.
- Again, towards the end of cooking time take the wooden spoon and pull it firmly across the bottom of the pan. The chutney is ready when you’re able to see the bottom of the pan for a few seconds where the spoon was.
- Remember to use vinegar proof lids and make sure to fill the jars to within ½” of the rim. If you don’t make a good seal the chutney won’t keep well at all.
- Store the jars or bottles in a cool dark and dry place. Leave them for at least 6 weeks and preferably 8 weeks to develop fully before using.
Makes 10 x 12oz jars or 12 x 10oz jars (approx.)
- 2lb zucchini chopped
- 2lb green Tomatoes
- 1lb cooking apples peeled cored and diced
- 1lb onions peeled and diced
- 1lb sultanas
- 1lb of brown sugar – I use a light one
- 1 pint of cider or white wine vinegar
- About ¼ tsp of salt
The Spice Bag
Note – As an alternative to making a spice bag you can buy spiced pickling vinegar, but making your own special combination is worth the extra effort and gives you the opportunity to be individual with spices and heat.
- 1 ½ teaspoons of mixed or black peppercorns – leave these whole
- 1 ½ teaspoons of coriander seeds
- 10 – 12 cloves
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 oz of fresh root ginger lightly crushed (aka bash with heavy spoon) – you can peel it if you like
Tie all the spices up in a square of muslin and combine with everything else in your pan
* Bring slowly up to the simmer point – be patient, your cauldron will bubble!
* Leave to simmer gently for 2 – 3 hours (depends on size of chunks in the mix)
* Keep an eye on it, stirring gently every half an hour or so
* After 2 hours, watch more carefully. By now it should be much reduced and a rich medium brown
* The chutney is done when you can see the bottom of the pan for a few seconds after a wooden spoon is drawn across it – it’s the best way of knowing.
* Pot whilst still warm into sterile jars with a vinegar resistant lid and allow to cool fully before storing away for 8 – 10 weeks somewhere cool and dark.
* Use within a year to eighteen months, after that the chutney begins to deteriorate in flavor. Ours rarely lasts beyond about now, which is a good mental note to get thinking on making some more!
There are some great cooks out there and some of them are kind enough to share their inspiring recipes for preserves with the world. If you’re wanting to compare recipes and get those taste buds tuned up, here’s another green tomato chutney recipe over at MyTinyPlot.
So, let nothing be wasted and as to ‘what can you do with green tomatoes?’ Enjoy them, that’s what!