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19 posts from October 2011


It's time for the great green tomato experiment

This afternoon I got a call from a woman who advised that I should put my green tomatoes on an east facing window sill and that they would ripen one by one. However, she said this wouldn't work if the tomatoes had been refrigerated.

My green tomatoes haven't been refrigerated, but they have been in paper sacks in the garage for a few days, and it's been getting pretty cold out there. Before that they were on vines in my garden getting cold at night, so I'm not sure how refrigeration would affect the ripening process.

Someone else suggested I wrap each green tomato separately in newspaper and then put them in a brown paper bag, close it up, and place it in the basement for a few days. A couple of other people suggested the same formula, only with a cardboard box. Still another person advised me to put the tomatoes under my bed in a cardboard box.

So, I'm going to experiment with all of these methods. aI'll keep you posted on how they turn out.

But a lot of readers have been advising me, instead, to just keep my green tomatoes and use them in recipes, such as green tomato pie. Add enough sugar, I'm told, and it'll taste almost like an apple pie.

A couple of readers have told me that you can use just about any apple pie recipe for this, just substitute sliced green tomatoes for apples. But here's what looks to be a good, simple pie recipe specifically for green tomatoes from Taste of Home.


  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 cups thinly sliced green tomatoes (about 4 to 5 medium)
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • Pastry for double-crust pie (9 inches)
  • 1 tablespoon butter


  • In a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Add tomatoes and vinegar; toss to coat.
  • Line a pie plate with bottom crust. Add filling; dot with butter. Roll out remaining pastry; make a lattice crust. Trim, seal and flute edges. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until tomatoes are tender. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator. Yield: 6-8 servings.



Lung transplant recipient Sarah Hackenmiller — in her own words

IMG_0918_thumbOne of the things I enjoy most about being a journalist, and especially a columnist, is that I get to meet a lot of really remarkable people. Sarah Hackenmiller, whom I wrote about in my Saturday and Tuesday columns, is one of those people.

She had no clue how soon it might be before she might receive a transplant when I talked to her last Monday. But it was clear she was getting pretty frustrated with being cooped up in a hosptital room on a ventilator and not knowing what the future might bring.

As I reported Tuesday, she got her transplant on Sunday. Her father, Jim Siebenaler, reports today that Sarah is recovering as well as can be expected, but that she still has a long road ahead.

Sarah sure seemed to have the right mind set as she awaited her transplant. Here's part of what she wrote to me (she was unable to speak because of a treacheostomy) as she prepared for my interview with her six days before the transplant:

"Being here is interesting. I spend time reliving regrets I have, only to know that regrets don't change where I am now. I try to think of great things I can do with the future that I don't know when or if will happen.

But I have learned a lot about myself and that this journey alone would be hard and those around me, my parents, husband and siblings, deserve credit for helping me make it through. The group of nurses up here and doctors are dedicated to their patients' well-being. Your can't spend 4+ months somewhere and not to get to know someone. I've learned so much — ventilators and suctions and the different alarms machines make. I've learned that sleep is very hard to come by here and it dictates how the next day will be. I've learned that being silenced by a ventilator gives me a lot of quiet time for reflection."



Time for some fried green tomatoes

Images-9Being an Upper Midwestern boy from northern Minnesota, I'd never heard of fried green tomatoes before I saw the 1991 move, "Fried Green Tomatoes" based on the novel by Fannie Flagg.

But not long after that, when I had some leftover unripe green tomatoes in my garden one fall I decided to give them a try. They're excellent. The trick is to fry them in oil that is just hot enough to give them a nice crisp cornmeal crust. If the oil isn't hot enugh, the tomatoes will be mushy, if it's to hot you'll burn the crust and they'll be inedible.

Here's a good recipe from You can use regular milk if you don't have buttermilk on hand:


  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 medium-size green tomatoes, cut into 1/3-inch slices
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste


  • Combine egg and buttermilk; set aside.
  • Combine 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, cornmeal, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl or pan.
  • Dredge tomato slices in remaining 1/4 cup flour; dip in egg mixture, and dredge in cornmeal mixture.
  • Pour oil to a depth of 1/4 to 1/2 inch in a large cast-iron skillet; heat to 375°. Drop tomatoes, in batches, into hot oil, and cook 2 minutes on each side or until golden. Drain on paper towels or a rack. Sprinkle hot tomatoes with salt.




Green tomatoes harvested. Deer dine on cabbage, and another recipe

Images-8Last night, as a frost loomed, I went to my satellite garden at Slatterly Park in Rochester to harvest the green tomatoes that remained.

I noticed that one side of the fence I'd put up months earlier to keep the rabbits out had been bent over and one remaining small cabbage I'd been waiting to harvest was gone, eaten to the roots. Given the condition of the fence I figured it had to be either a mutant ninja rabbit the size of a small pony. Or, a deer.

I'm putting my money on an urban whitetail. Well, I guess they've gotta eat, too.

Between the Slatterly garden and the one I have in my backyard I picked about a bushel of green tomatoes, so I look forward to trying some of the recipes readers have offered. I'm also going to try the cardboard box with newspapers recipe for ripening green tomatoes. I'll let you know how it turns out. 

In addition, I harvested enough ripe tomatoes to make my favorite fresh tomato pasta sauce recipe one last time. The recipe below is from the Food Network, but my wife first found a version of it in the "Enchanted Broccoli Forest" Cookbook by Molly Katzen, of Moosewood Restaurant fame. The only major difference is that Katzen's recipe, which I prefer, doesn't call for anything to be cooked, except the pasta. Be forewarned, though. If you don't like raw garlic and fresh basil you won't like the Katzen version. If you do, though, you'll love it. The no-cook version is best served at room temperature.


  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 5 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 1/2 cup shredded basil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 pound fresh salted mozzarella, sliced or cubed
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese


Put a large pot of salted water on for the pasta. Meanwhile, prepare your sauce. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook until just fragrant, about 1 minute or less. Add the tomatoes and cook them for 3 to 5 minutes, just until they begin to release some of their juice.

Cook the pasta in the pot of salted boiling water for 12 to 13 minutes until al dente. Drain the pasta. Add the pasta and basil to the pan with the tomatoes and toss. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve the pasta in bowls, equally distribute the fresh mozzarella and grated parmesan between the bowls. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the bowls of pasta and serve immediately.



Reader: Put green tomatoes in a cardboard box under your bed.

I've been receiving a steady flow of emails from folks after my Tuesday column in which I asked readers for suggestions about what to do with the many unripe tomatoes left in my garden. Most of the suggestions are in the form of recipes for green tomato salsa or green tomato jam. (I'll keep passing those along to you.) But here's one from a reader who suggests putting them under my bed to ripen. Does it work?

I have the  answer for your green tomatoes. And I'm sure this is what your grandma would have told you. Don't rinse them, wrap each one seperately in newspaper, put them in a flat cardboard box. Only one layer,at a time. Use another box. And put them under your bed. Check one or so a couple times a week. Turn them when you check them. Keep them dry . THEY WILL SLOWLY RIPEN. You may have a spoilage, but I imagine it's warm under the bed. GOOD  LUCK.




What to do with all of those green tomatoes

Images-7I commented in my Tuesday column that I've got a bunch of green tomatoes that I don't know what to do with. Following is a response from reader Carol Shirley McDonough:

Just a note to let you know what to do with 'those green tomatoes'.  Either last week or the week before that, the Amish cook had the best recipe for green tomato jam.  I know, I was a bit skeptical also but I just made my second batch today and it is delicious.  Try it!  It is so easy anyone can do it.  The hardest part is getting 'Grandma's old meat grinder' out to grind up the green tomatoes.  From there it is clear sailing.  Good Luck and enjoy it!!

Here's the recipe:


6 cups ground green tomatoes

4 cups sugar

6 ounces raspberry or strawberry gelatin

In a large mixing bowl, mix green tomatoes and sugar. Boil over medium heat for 20 minutes. Add gelatin. Remove from heat and stir well. Put into sterilized jars and seal.

I'm skeptical, but I might give it a try. I've also seen recipes for green tomato salsa. Here's one from that I'm going to try:

Green Tomato Salsa

4 c. chopped green tomatoes
2 c. chopped and seeded sweet peppers (banana, red bell)
1 c. chopped and seeded jalapenos, approximately 1/2 pound = 1 cup chopped
1 c. chopped onion
2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. cider vinegar
3 cloves crushed garlic

Chop all ingredients and place in saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour salsa in hot jars (pints). Seal and water bath for 30 minutes.

Makes about 5 pints.





My garden's wonderful bounty — the end is near... And another recipe.

ImagesIt's been a very good year for my garden. The beans weren't so productive, but everything grew well. Heirloom tomatoes, summer sqash, cucumbers, zuchinni, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, herbs and peppers. I still have a few things left to harvest in — some beets, carrots, squash and a few tomatoes. But it's nearing time to pull everything up and get the garden ready for winter.

It's always a sad day when the first killing frost puts an end to things. Someday, I'll learn how to can so I can take advantage of my garden's bounty all year long.


I just love that Greg Brown song, "Canned Goods."

There's peaches on the shelf, potatoes in the bin

Supper ready, everybody come on in
Taste a little of the summer
Taste a little of the summer
Taste a little of the summer
Grandma put it all in jars

For the first time in many years I grew cabbage this year. I thought I'd have to turn a lot of it into sauerkraut. But as many of the entrants in my "Ultimate Potluck" recipe contest know, there are plenty of really good, tasty cabbage recipes out there. 

Here's another of the finalists.

Cabbage Lasgana

Submitted by Karen Shutz of Rochester

1/2 small head of cabbage,Canned goods rinsed and dried

1 1/2 pounds of lean hamburger

1 24-oz. jar of Ragu spaghetti sauce

Shredded Mozzarella and cheddar cheese

Ripe olives

Cherry tomatoes

Shred cabbage thickly or cut into thin wedges. Place in a 9x13 greased pan. Cook the hamburger, drain and combine with the Ragu sauce. Pour over cabbage. Top with cheese to taste. Add a few cherry tomatoes and black olives on top. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.



The long-awaited recipe for Vickie's Kickin' Calico Beans

I wrote about this recipe in my Tuesday column. Its author, Vickie Edgerton of Rochester recommended that those who eat it might benefit from a couple of flatulence suppressant pills before indulging. Regardless, it tastes great and was one of the 19 finalists in my contest...

1 package of pre-cooked bacon strips, diced

1 pound prepared barbecued pulled pork

1/2 cup chopped sweet onion

1 tablespoon olive or peanut oil

1 15-oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 21-oz. can pork and beans

1 15-oz. can butter beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup ketchup

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons malt vinegar

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

A few shakes of Tobasco or other red hot sauce

Gently sautee' sweet onion in oil until translucent. Combine everything listed above and put into a 2-qt. casserole dish. Bake uncovered at 325 for 45-60 minutes, or until beans are as thick as desired. You can easily double or triple this dish for larger groups. Goes great with jalapeno cornbread and coleslaw. 


Corrected Chicken artichoke hotdish recipe

Yikes! I left out an ingredient in the recipe for Lynn Olson's winning Chicken artichoke hotdish recipe.

Jody Myers, the Mt. Olive "church lady" who cooked the dish for the judging, pointed out that I left out the 1 cup of parmesan cheese the recipe calls for.

My apologies! I've reprinted the corrected entire recipe below...

By the way, apparently is getting some attention. Here's a note I received today from reader Donna Sandstrom:

Thought you might enjoy this small story.  Monday I went to Hy Vee in search of ingredients for the chicken artichoke hot dish.  I couldn't find artichokes so I asked the woman who has a job there helping people find things.  She took me to the artichokes & asked if I was making 'the' hot dish.  She said she's had many requests for directions to the artichokes.  Next I went to the pasta department for the bow tie pasta.  Guess what?  No bowtie pasta in any brands!  Conclusion: 'the' hot dish is being made in many kitchens. 
Donna Sandstrom, frequent reader & enjoyer of your column

Here's the winning recipe in its entirety:

Lynn Olson's Chicken Artichoke Hotdish

2 cups bow tie pasta, cooked as directed

2 cups cooked cubed chicken

1 14-oz. can of water packed artichoke hearts. Rinsed, drained and chopped

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup parmesan cheese (can also use half Swiss and half parmesan)

1/3 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Crushed croutons for topping

Bake in a greased casserole dish at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.


Finally — a wild rice casserole recipe

No Minnesota recipe contest would be complete without at least one that contained wild rice. I received several recipes for wild rice casserole. But this is the one that the judges chose to be included among the 19 potluck finalists. It's from Ruth Deckert of Rochester.

1 cup wild rice

1 1/2 pounds groud beef 

3 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, chopped

3/4 cup celery

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1 bay leaf

2 small cans of mushrooms

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 cup hot water

1/2 teaspoon each of celery salt, garlic salt, and onion salt, or more or less to taste.

Soak the 1 cup of rice in boiling water for 15 minutes. Saute' onion, celery and ground beef in the butter. Mix all ingredients together and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. Retrieve the bay leaf before serving. Add more water, if needed.