Blog June 9, 2023

Green Is The Color of a Delicious Fried Green Tomato!

Green Is The Color of a Delicious Fried Green Tomato!

My mother and both my grandmothers were obsessed with these delicious round crispy orbs of goodness. During tomato season you see Fried Green Tomatoes on our meal table whether it was breakfast, lunch or dinner.  There was never any leftovers of this dish.  I LOVE FRIED GREEN TOMATOES!  I still make them.

Fried green tomatoes are a culinary dish usually found in the Southern United States, made from unripe (green) tomatoes coated with cornmeal and fried.

Fried green tomatoes are usually associated with the South, but if you were to look in Southern newspapers or cookbooks before the 1970s, you wouldn’t find mention of them anywhere. This dish was brought to the US in the 19th century by Jewish immigrants and later appeared in Northeastern and Midwestern cookbooks. I kid you not!

Traditional preparation

Traditional preparation of fried green tomatoes begins by cutting the tomatoes into approximately 1/4-inch (~0.6 cm) slices. They are then seasoned with salt and pepper, coated with plain, coarse cornmeal, and shallow fried in bacon fat for a few minutes each side, or until golden brown. Shallow frying is preferred, as the tomatoes do not float in the oil, which allows the weight of the tomato to press the cornmeal to the underside of the tomato.

Alternatives include using breadcrumbs or flour instead of cornmeal and frying in vegetable oil or other fat.

The sliced tomatoes may be dipped in a liquid before the cornmeal is added. This liquid is usually buttermilk or beaten egg; egg results in a slightly firmer texture than buttermilk. Liquids are used because cornmeal does not readily stick to tomato slices. Adding the liquid helps the cornmeal stay in place during the cooking process. It also results in the coating on the tomato becoming thicker and less crunchy when compared to tomatoes cooked without a liquid wash.

Pennsylvania Dutch version

While fried green tomatoes are usually considered a southern dish they can be found in northern Pennsylvania Dutch homes as well. The northern version is more likely to be made with white flour rather than corn meal.[2] Also, green tomatoes tend to be prepared at the end of the season in the north when the remaining fruit is harvested before the first frosts, whereas green tomatoes are picked throughout the season in the south.

Other preparations

Fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade is a southern and Creole combination served at many restaurants in New Orleans, Louisiana.

While fried green tomatoes have traditionally been a side dish, they are sometimes used in main dishes.

Every day seems like a celebration of fried green tomatoes when you’re dining in South and North Carolina. Served hot from the skillet, these crispy, spicy slices star as appetizers and in tantalizing entrees at restaurants across the state. Creamy gravies, dollops of soft, piquant cheeses, a scoop of creamy pimento cheese, fruity glazes and drizzles of balsamic syrup all make fine appointments to this beloved dish. Fresh, local shrimp and crabmeat can add a rich, crowning touch. Pair with a side of grits and you’ve got breakfast, lunch or dinner fit for Carolina royalty.

Now for some shocking news about this rousing Southern favorite: It’s a Northern invention. According to food writer and author, Robert F. Moss, recipes for the dish first appeared far above the Mason-Dixon Line, namely in cookbooks popular in the Northeast and Midwest in the early 1900s. Yep, that’s right—while we were swigging sweet tea, sweating and watching tomatoes ripen on the vine, farmers in Indiana, Ohio and other cold-prone places were furiously harvesting their unripen crops to save them from impending early frosts. Hence, it is theorized that fried green tomatoes were born out of frugality, the progeny of a dire thrift that frowned upon wastefulness.

Now to confuse you further: Fried green tomatoes are as embedded in Southern food culture as pimento cheese, and you can thank Hollywood for that. It all started with the 1991 release of the hit movie, “Fried Green Tomatoes.” The Southern setting and all those tantalizing fried green tomatoes served up at the Whistle Stop Cafe changed the way people think about them, leading almost everyone to believe that these beauties have always belonged to the South. Of course, a good many Southerners took a cue from their Northern brethren and had been cooking up green tomatoes for a long time before the big screen made everyone hungry for them. But the film’s success catapulted them squarely into our lap and we ran with it. To do otherwise would have been impolite, don’t you think?

Like with other dishes we’ve adopted, such as pimento cheese (read all about it here), Southern chefs and cooks have a knack for adding special touches to make them their own. When that hankering hits, you won’t find a more creative, mouthwatering lineup of fried green tomatoes than you will in South and North Carolina, where the dish is prepared as if it’s very roots are firmly planted in the state’s earliest farms, plantations and settlements. Whether you order them on a burger, as an elegant, seafood-topped entree, or just hot on a plate with a little gravy—or not, you’ll taste the South in every taste bud-titillating bite.

Ready to experience some ’mater magic? You can pull out your frying pan and give it a go, or try one of the many Southern recipes a few suggestions to get you started:

Betsy’s Round the Corner, Aiken

Big Mike’s Soul Food, Myrtle Beach

Cru Café, Charleston

Julia Belle’s, Florence

Lighthouse Lake Keowee, Seneca

Low Country Backyard, Hilton Head Island

Mr. Friendly’s New Southern Cafe, Columbia

Pump House, Rock Hill

Rivertown Bistro, Conway

Soby’s New South Cuisine, Greenville

Organize a coating station when making fried green tomatoes at home.

Classic Fried Green Tomatoes

2 large green tomatoes, cut into ½-inch thick slices

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups cornmeal or cracker crumbs

2 eggs

½ cup milk

Oil for frying

Salt and pepper to taste

Cayenne pepper (optional)

Pat dry tomato slices with a paper towel. Season both sides with salt and pepper and a sprinkle of cayenne if you like a little spice. Create a fried green tomato station by lining up a plate of flour, a wide bowl to whisk the eggs with milk, and a plate of cracker crumbs or cornmeal. Now, you are ready to coat the tomatoes. Dust each slice on both sides with flour. Using a fork, dip each floured slice into the egg mixture and hold up to drain over the bowl. Set them into the cracker crumbs or cornmeal, carefully coating each side. Place coated tomatoes on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper. Once all the slices are coated, fry in an inch of hot vegetable oil over medium heat until both sides are golden brown. Drain on a brown paper grocery bag, flipping them over to drain both sides. Serve alone or with your favorite accompaniment like pimento cheese or gravy.

I hope you enjoy you some Fried Green Tomatoes.  I know I sure will!