Sadly, very few Americans will ever sample old fashioned, southern-style, out-of-this-world fried green tomatoes. The dish now served nearly everywhere has absolutely no resemblance to the genuine article. That’s because it is a batter dipped and deep-fried concoction. Batter made from a mix. Fried like French fries. It’s not fried green tomatoes, which are green tomatoes, dredged in a cornmeal/flour mix and pan-fried in fat or oil.
But since author Fanny Flagg popularized them in her novel and subsequent movie, many Americans unfamiliar with the dish want to try them. Alas, our southern restaurants were quick to capitalize, but in a manner that, frankly, shames us.
If FGT are done right, a restaurant would sell a lot of orders and that would keep one person busy making and frying them. Properly made FGT are labor-intensive and therefore expensive for a restaurant to put out. There’s just no getting around that.
It really bothers me to see folks order the bland, batter covered concoction in restaurants and be so disappointed. Have you ever wondered why a dipping sauce is always served with them? A big amount of dipping sauce? I imagine there’s a few places that do them the way they’re supposed to be done, but they are few and far between and I’ve never known of one.
Fried green tomatoes are just downright delicious and ought to be enjoyed so. I think folks would be much happier if they learned to make them at home, and just ignored the mass market imposter.
Some time ago, I pulled together several slightly different versions of the basic recipe in a Word document to share with friends and a cooking community I belong to. I’ve even sent this compilation to a few restaurants in hopes they would reform. Last year, I sent a copy to Jestine’s Kitchen in Charleston, S.C. Jestine’s is a favorite place where I’ve eaten many fine meals, and I hated seeing them sully their good reputation with a tasteless FGT. Served with dip, of course. Incidentally, Jane and Michael gave Jestine’s high marks in their 1999 review. Deservedly so.
In the matter of foods and cooking, I only know a few things pretty thorougly: sorghum syrup, Appalachian cooking, barbeque in the south and fried green tomatoes.
I’ll be glad to email the FGT Word document to anyone who writes and ask. It’s one page. But I am copying it here, in full, with family names removed.
SOME RECIPES FOR FRIED GREEN TOMATOES
MY FAVORITE RECIPE is the one used by my late mother. My sister-in-law makes them this way all summer long.
Slice the green tomatoes into ¼ inch slices and place on a tray or sheet of waxed paper. Mix equal parts of white corn meal and plain flour. Sprinkle salt, black pepper and a little white sugar on the tray of tomatoes. When liquid is drawn out of the tomatoes (about 30 minutes), dredge them in the flour/cornmeal mixture and fry them in hot oil till nicely browned on both sides. Sprinkle a little more sugar over them, just as they are beginning to fry. You may drain on paper towels to absorb any excess oil.
THE FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS appear in The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery
. Edited by Linda Page and Eliot Wigginton.
Lola Cannon: “Pick tomatoes before they start showing any sign of ripening. Slice tomatoes. Roll in a mixture of flour or meal and salt and pepper and fry in hot fat. Brown on both sides.”
Bertha Waldroop: “Use green tomatoes before they show any sign of ripening. Wash and slice just as you would for tomato sandwiches. Roll the slices in cornmeal and flour or a mixture of the two. Heat grease in a frying pan and put the slices in. Salt and pepper them. Then turn them over to brown on the other side. When browned, remove and drain on brown paper or paper towels and serve.”
RECIPE OF Sinnie H.Watts from What’s Cooking in Kentucky
by Irene Hayes.
Slice desired amount of green tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a small amount of sugar. Roll in corn meal. Fry in hot bacon drippings until golden brown. Remove tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Add flour and milk to grease to make tomato gravy.
RECIPE OF Barbara Highley, Orange Beach, Alabama.
1 egg, beaten
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. cornmeal
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. sugar
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
4 medium tomatoes
3 to 4 T. hot vegetable oil
Combine egg & milk, set aside. Combine dry ingredients. Dip tomatoes in egg mixture then dredge in flour mixture.
Heat 3 T. oil in large skillet over medium heat. Arrange single layer of tomatoes in skillet and cook until golden brown on each side. Continue cooking, adding more oil for each batch. I drain mine on paper towels before serving.
Recipes collected by Jim D., Lexington, Ky.