Growing up on the east coast of Canada, we frugally made the most of the garden harvest each year, right down to the last rock-hard green tomatoes left on the vine at first frost. It wasn’t until I grew up and moved away that I learned a whole chunk of the world has a completely different way to make fried green tomatoes!
Now, there are endless variations on the dish, of course, but I divide the recipes into two camps – northern style and southern style. Up north, it’s all about the bacon fat. Down south, you’re talking a delicious deep-fry delight. But one thing in common to both recipes is the distinctive sharp flavor of unripe tomatoes.
What are green tomatoes?
Green tomatoes are just the unripened fruit of your ordinary red tomato plant, not a special variety. When the season ends, you gather ’em up and bring them in before a hard frost can hit them, and you sort them out.
- Tomatoes that are almost red, just put them on a windowsill to finish ripening up.
- Any tomatoes that are showing the slightest bit of yellow-orange tint to them, put those into paper bags and let them ripen in a room-temperature place.
- But those hard-as-a-rock solid green orbs? Those, my friends, are perfect for making a fabulous feed of fried green tomatoes.
Which style of Fried Green Tomatoes will tempt your tastebuds?
Whether you’re cooking in northern or southern style, the recipe for fried green tomatoes will start out the same basic way:
Wash and slice your green tomatoes, and sprinkle them with salt (both sides) then set them aside to drain. Tomatoes contain a lot of water and if you skip the salt trick, they’ll go mushy when you fry them. It doesn’t really matter how thick you slice them – that’s a matter of personal taste – but we always go with about a quarter-inch thick or a little bit more. While your tomatoes are draining, you can get everything else ready for your meal and heat up the cooking fat.
Northern Fried Green Tomatoes Recipe
My country-folk grandparents, like many of their generation, always got a couple of pigs in the spring and fattened them through the summer, and that was an important part of feeding the family through the fall and winter. So it’s a long-time tradition around here to always have a little dish of bacon fat waiting in the fridge – just drain off the extra fat every time you fry up some bacon for breakfast and save it for cooking with later. That’s what we use for pan-frying green tomatoes.
Jen’s Grandmother’s Fried Green Tomatoes Recipe
Don’t even think about using anything except bacon fat – it’s the combination of piquant fruit (vegetable? fruit?) with salty bacon flavor that makes the dish.
Slice, salt and drain your green tomatoes. Put a good big skillet on over medium-high heat and put in enough bacon fat to cover the bottom of the pan generously (add more as needed), heating until it sizzles when you flick in a drop of water. Dip each tomato slice in beaten egg, let the excess drip off, then dredge in flour to which you’ve added salt and pepper to taste. Lay the tomato slices in the hot bacon fat and fry to a lovely golden brown – about 3 or 4 minutes (depending on the thickness of the slices), turning once to brown both sides. Place on a paper towel to absorb any extra grease, and keep warm while you do the next batch.
We always had these just plain as a side dish, like any other vegetable, but you could serve them as a lunch with a little chow chow or relish on the side, maybe a chunk of nice sharp cheese and a crusty bread.
Very simple, but very tasty.
Southern Fried Green Tomatoes
When it comes to the best-ever recipe for fried green tomatoes in the southern style, deep-fried and served with a savory-sweet onion dipping sauce, you can’t beat the kitchen queen Paula Deen.
Paula Deen’s Deep-Fried Green Tomatoes
Scroll on down for a video if you’d like to see Paula Deen whipping up a batch along with her dip to go with, but here’s the basic recipe if you’re in a hurry and just want to see how it goes:
Slice, salt and drain your green tomatoes. In a deep-fryer, heat peanut oil – or vegetable oil, if there are allergies in your home – to 325°F while the tomatoes drain and you prepare that all-important dipping sauce (recipe below). Dip your tomato slices in buttermilk and then into self-raising flour. (If you don’t have self-raising flour, you can substitute easily – just add 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp baking soda to 1 cup of ordinary all-purpose flour.) Deep-fry the green tomatoes for 3-4 minutes (depending on how thick you’ve cut the slices), flipping them over once or twice during the cooking time. When they’re golden-brown and crispy on the outside, fish them out and drain off the fat on paper towels.
Serve hot, with a dish of dipping sauce on the side.
Paula Deen’s Dip for Fried Green Tomatoes
Paula’s recommended dipping sauce is a mayonaise-based relish made by combining 1 cup chopped Vidalia onions, 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, and 1 Tbsp brown sugar. She says “should be almost like straight onion” – Vidalia onions are the nice big sweet ones, so don’t substitute the ordinary yellow or white cooking onions or the flavor will be too strong.