October’s Green Tomato Late Season Harvest

Digging around in my freezer, I came across a frozen reminder of the season just past. A tub of green tomato salsa reminded me I never got around posting about that late season crop of green tomatoes.

Way back in late October, the night’s were getting chilly and I still had a ton of green tomatoes on the vine. I harvested 4 pounds of green tomatoes on October 27th and another 4 pounds a few weeks later.  Back in those balmy fall days, I posted this photo on Instagram of my harvest and asked “What would you do with them?”

Comments suggested pickles, chutney, fried green tomatoes and, of course, green tomato salsa.  I harvested mostly grape and cherry sized tomatoes, so I opted out of frying them. My current overly excessive stockpile of fermented vegetables also meant pickles were out.

So, armed with supplies I scrounged up from my cupboards and refrigerator, I landed somewhere between a green tomato chutney and a green tomato salsa. I don’t have a recipe to tell you about because, seriously, I tossed this together using stuff I already had around the house – onions, garlic, dried hot peppers, smoked salt, pepper, cayenne powder and lime juice.  I opted to make a run for fresh limes if only for the fresh zest to really amp up that hit of lime flavor.  Why zest? Well, I think Bon Appetit put it best… “Zest is the Best”!

These tomatoes were very, very, very. .  .very under-ripe, so the flavor landed somewhere between cardboard and chalk – not too different than green picked flavorless red globes that are ripened with ethylene gas except they were also quite dry and firm. So, I helped get the juices flowing by including a couple of red tomatoes (not ethylene ripened, but the few ripe ones on the vine).

Given the lack of ‘tomatoey’ flavor, these green tomatoes were really just a blank canvas to paint  flavors like lime, smoke, garlic, onions and heat onto.
I buzzed the tomatoes through the food processor for a rough chop then dumped them into a slow cooker with a generous helping of sea salt and smoked salt.  I also crumbled in dried cayenne and chipotle chiles.  Right now, I am obsessed with this Yakima – Applewood Smoked Salt from Gryffon Ridge Spice Merchants out of Maine.

While those simmered away, I stuck quartered onions and a whole head of garlic under the broiler to roast and get get a bit of caramelization and char for more layers of flavor.  Keep an eye on them because it is only a matter of a few moments to go from caramelized and lightly charred right to allium charcoal.

With the onions and garlic ready, I added them to the slow cooker full of tomatoes with the juice from three limes (note, be sure to zest them before you juice them), covered the whole mess and let them simmer away for a few hours. Yes, I said “hours”. Heck, go overnight.

As a finishing touch, I gave the pot a few buzzes with the immersion blender to eliminate any big chunks. This can also be done in the food processor. However, the longer this simmers the softer those chunks and then a hand potato masher will suffice.

Now, rather than 4 pounds of green tomatoes, I owned a HUGE pot of green salsa. Feeling too lazy to hot water bath can, I divvied up the salsa into 8 and 16 ounce portions and stuck them in the freezer to be discovered on a snowy winter day and used for delicious enchiladas or as a simmering sauce for chicken or simply as a tortilla chip dip.

Happy Cooking!

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