Saving the Green Tomato

July 22, 2010

I mentioned that my garden exploded. What I didn’t mention was the ugly batch of blossom-end rot that came along with it. /: It seems that especially the hybrid tomatoes are bearing so heavily that they can’t get enough calcium, even with supplementing and with plenty of water.

My nursery guy suggested that I thin out the fruits. Since I was going to whack back the vines anyway so I could, y’know, walk around the beds, I thought this was a good idea. But what to do with the tomatoes? I hated the thought of composting them all, especially since there were still a lot of good ones.

Then I remembered: fried green tomatoes. Typically, green tomatoes are the ones picked at the end of the season, when it’s too cold for the tomatoes to finish ripening. But it seemed to me that there was no reason I couldn’t use tomatoes that were just picked early

Nearly 11 pounds of green tomatoes

Nearly 11 pounds of green tomatoes later ...

(Those are strawberries in the back, not tomatoes. I got about a pound of those, too.)

So yeah. That’s a large pile of green tomatoes. I looked at them, thought for about five minutes, and then did what any normal Italian-Californian would do. I made green tomato salsa. And then I made spaghetti sauce.

Green Tomato Spaghetti Sauce

This is more of a method rather than a recipe-recipe. Here’s what you do.

Chop up an onion. A big one, if you have a lot of tomatoes, and a small one if you don’t. Chop up as much garlic as you like — I used five very large cloves, because I had a heck of a lot of tomatoes. Saute those both in some olive oil until translucent.

While those are sauteing, chop up your green tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes don’t need to be chopped. You can chop them pretty roughly because you’re going to puree the sauce later. I did mine in quarters for the small tomatoes and in eighths for the large ones.

Add the green tomatoes to the pot along with a cup of water to help them cook down, and a generous splash of wine. I used red, but white would be fine. Add whatever spaghetti-sauce spices you prefer. You can use a mix. I don’t generally have one in the house, but mix mine each time. I like mine made out of basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, rosemary, garlic powder, onion powder, fennel, black pepper, and red pepper. Go light on the rosemary and red pepper or they’ll try to take over your sauce.

You’ll want to simmer this mixture for about half an hour, until the tomatoes are softened. If you’ve got a “boat motor” — an immersion blender — this next part is easy. Use the boat motor to puree the sauce until it’s pretty smooth. Add more water or wine if you need to. If you don’t have a boat motor, use a food processor or a blender, but be careful, because the sauce will be very hot.

At this point, taste-test the sauce. It will be a bit more sour than a typical red sauce. I wanted to round it out a bit, so I added a handful of brown sugar. Let the sauce simmer until the flavors are nice and melded. I let mine go about an hour and a half. I’ll usually toss some sausage in my saucepot, too, and let it cook while the sauce is cooking. It flavors the sauce and cooks up nicely. I used some chicken parmesan sausage, but pretty much any Italian-style sausage would be good. Of course, if you’re a veggie, you can leave the sausage out, or use vegetarian sausage.

You can serve this over pasta just like any other spaghetti sauce. I think it would make a really neat pizza sauce, but I haven’t had time to try it. I didn’t can the sauce — the leftovers are in the freezer. My big batch of tomatoes made three and a half pints of salsa and three quarts of tomato sauce.

Not bad for salvaging a garden emergency! (:

Leave a Reply