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Fish House Style Green Tomato Pickles

This week I've been picking as much of the garden produce as I can before a killing frost comes. We've had 2 light frosts but even the basil plants haven't been hurt much. Yet. After a summer of drought and heat and low tomato and pepper production, those plants have gone into high gear, trying to catch up on production.

Adam, who I have written about here many times, left us with a fabulous fall garden. Too bad he didn't get to enjoy such lushness during the summer when he was farming the garden and selling at local farmers markets. (Adam left in mid September to work on a farm in Maryland for the winter; that farm sells at the DuPont Circle farmers market the year around).

Ten pints of fish house green tomato pickles.

I've spent the day today, putting up some of the excess produce. With all the green tomatoes, I wanted to use the smaller ones for fish house green tomato pickles. They're a favorite in the catfish restaurants in the South and it's a great way to use up some of the tomatoes. Josh plans on making green tomato mincemeat, too, for pies this winter.

Tomatoes ripening in the window.

The larger green tomatoes will simply stay on the kitchen windowsill where they will slowly ripen over the few weeks. (I've used the wrap-in-newspaper method, which is a hassle, also the put-in-the-basement method, also a hassle to check every couple of days; on the windowsill, where I see the tomatoes every day, is the easiest and simplest and works just fine. Some years we have the last of our summer's ripe tomatoes on Christmas Day. However on the windowsill, the tomatoes ripen a lot faster).

You can use green tomatoes in any recipe that calls for ripe tomatoes, too.

Here's the recipe in case you want to use up your green tomatoes:

Catfish-House Green Tomato Pickles

2 quarts quartered green tomatoes
2 cups chopped onion - about two onions
1/3 cup chopped hot peppers
1/3 cup chopped sweet red bell peppers
2 (scant) cups sugar
2 1/2 Tablespoons salt
3 cups white vinegar
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard seed

Combine ingredients in a large cooking pan and bring to a boil. Let simmer for about 5 minutes. Ladle into hot, sterile jars, wipe lip edge of jars, screw on hot, new jar rings and flats and lightly tighten. Place into a boiling water bath, with at least 1/2 inch of water above the jar lids. Bring to a boil and keep slowly boiling for 15 minutes (for pints). Remove and cool on a towel. Don't tinker with the lids, they will seal in a few minutes. Let cool overnight then label and store in the pantry. These are best after the flavors have matured, about 2 weeks or more.


Green Tomato Hot Sauce for Canning

The hot sauce and the salsa are the same recipe, just processed differently.
I have a lot of green tomatoes, harvested in advance of the freeze that's coming. The larger ones are on the windowsill to slowly ripen over the next couple of months. Some are reserved for Josh's green tomato mincemeat, and some have been made into Fish House Green Tomato Pickles (for the recipe, go to my garden blog).

Green tomatoes with a few ripe cherry tomatoes.

Green tomatoes can be used in salsa recipes. They're more acidic (a good thing when you're canning) than ripe tomatoes, and they still have a tomatoey flavor. So the base of this recipe is green tomatoes, with a lot of hot peppers. I used a variety of peppers, including scorpion, yellow bhut jalokia, jalapeno, cayenne and seranno, plus some sweet New Mexico peppers. I divided the recipe in half, after cooking, and processed some into hot sauce and kept the rest for green tomato salsa. Here's the recipe.
I used a variety of hot pepper varieties in this recipe.

Green Tomato Hot Sauce and Salsa

2 1/2 pounds green tomatoes, quartered
2 yellow onions, cut up
Mixed hot peppers, seeded (if you wish), cut up to make about 1 cup or more
2 large red bell peppers or 1 large New Mexico sweet pepper
6 cloves garlic
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of 3 limes
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 sprigs Mexican oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried regular oregano)
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons dry, ground cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Combine ingredients in batches in the food processor, coarsely chopping.

Don't over-process the ingredients.
Pour the chopped ingredients into a cooking pan and bring to a simmer, cooking for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Hot jars, ready for filling. They'll go back into the pan for processing.

Ladle into hot, sterilized canning jars, attach hot, new jar rings and flats and tighten moderately. Lower into a hot water bath with at least 1/2 inch of water over the tops. Bring to a boil and begin timing. Let slowly boil for 15 minutes. Remove from hot water bath and cool on dry towels.

I divided this recipe in half when it was cooked and ready to can. I put half of the salsa into a blender and blended to a sauce and canned that. The remaining batch I canned as salsa. Both have the same flavor and heat, but I'll use them differently. Sauce goes on eggs, salsa goes on burritos and everything else.
Hot sauce and salsa, great way to use up green tomatoes.


How to Freeze Pesto

Rows of sweet basil in our garden.

With predictions of frost in our area in the next week or so, friends have been thinking about ways to preserve basil. It doesn't have to actually frost, for basil to drop its leaves, just a very chilly night and the leaves start falling. I know my friends have been thinking, "pesto" because I've gotten 2 phone calls and an email, asking for a good pesto recipe. Here's my favorite and it can be frozen and kept for the winter months. Just fill ice cube trays with the fresh pesto, freeze, then pop out the pesto cubes into plastic bags and keep frozen until ready to use. And there's asimple trick to keeping frozen pesto tasting fresh (below).

Freezer Pesto

4 cups basil leaves, loosely packed
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons almonds or walnuts (you could use pine nuts, they're more expensive, but I like almonds better)
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

Put everything into the food processor and blend ingredients until smooth. Scrape the edges to make sure everything has been processed.
Pour the mixture into ice cube trays, filling each section. Freeze for 24 hours, then pop out the cubes into Zip-Lock bags and keep frozen.

Now the trick. When you are ready to use pesto, combine it with half Romano, half Parmesan cheese, freshly grated if possible. Since those cheeses don't freeze well, the flavor of your pesto will stay much fresher if you don't put the cheese in the pesto before freezing.

Rose and Basil Pesto
Roses and basil taste great together!

2 cups fresh basil
1 cup fragrant *rose petals
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup pine nuts (I prefer walnuts)
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon food grade rose water
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (don't substitute bottled juice) 
1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/4 cup Romano cheese, freshly grated
Salt, optional

Peel and coarsely chop garlic, then add rose petals, basil, nuts and olive oil in food processor. Pulse blend until everything is well pulverized.
Add remaining ingredients and mix well. This can be stored for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.

*If you aren't sure what roses you can use, visit my YouTube video for tips on using roses in food.
You'll find more of my videos at http://youtube/longcreekherbs/ as well.

You might also enjoy my book, How to Eat a Rose, available from my website.

Another suggestion about pesto. Collect the leaves from plants that aren't blooming, the flavor will be better. Lemon basil is tasty mixed with sweet basil or any of the varieties. Thai basil is the least interesting basil for pesto, but even that works if you've kept the flowers clipped off.
Sweet basil is one of the best flavored basils for pesto. Clip off and discard the flower stalks.

Lemon basil gives a fresh flavor to pesto, so use it in combination with other basils if you have it.