I love September because it’s apple season, but tomato season isn’t over yet.
Apple-picking has been a fall ritual for me since I was a kid, climbing the trees and sneaking fruit to eat right there. There’s a small orchard about 10 minutes from where I live now, and if I can get over there, I’ll pick a variety to eat fresh and for cooking or baking.
Last fall, near mid-October, one of the vendors at the farmer’s market was unloading what remained of his crop of McIntosh in 20-pound boxes. I took an afternoon and made several quarts of applesauce–red because I cooked it with the skin on–then froze it in quart-sized jars to eat all year. There’s no grocery-store applesauce that comes close to homemade, either in texture or flavor. I’ve made apple butter, too, but that takes longer, and is a bit fussier.
If you have a well-positioned garden plot–and it isn’t too gray and rainy–tomatoes will keep growing here into September. My own garden loses the afternoon light pretty quickly after Labor Day, however, and any fruit still on the vine usually fails to ripen. So I harvest it and put it in a basket on the counter. Green tomatoes keep at least a couple of weeks that way (they may ripen slightly), and I slice up a few at a time to dredge in cornmeal and fry as a side dish (they’re not bad on sandwiches, either).
Applesauce the Way It Should Be
As long as you use fresh fruit, I don’t think it’s possible to mess it up
Some apples. About five pounds if you want enough to last more than a day. You can find many charts online listing apple varieties to find out which ones are best for sauce, but don’t think it really matters. Just use apples that you like to eat raw. I usually use McIntosh, because they cook down quickly, or a mix of whatever I can find.
A cinnamon stick, or other flavorings (optional)
Core the apples, peel them if you like, and cut into large chunks. Put them in a pot. Add about 1/2 cup of water per 5 pounds of apples, along with the cinnamon stick or other flavoring. Cover the pot, and using moderate heat, cook until the water starts to boil. Uncover, stir and cook until the apples turn into sauce, (about half an hour) stirring again occasionally and lowering the heat if the apples begin to spatter or burn. When it’s done, remove from the stove to cool. At this point, if you’ve peeled the apples–or you don’t mind pieces of cooked peel–the applesauce is ready to eat. I’m usually too lazy to peel them at the start, and I like the color they give the sauce. I bought a food mill so I could extract the peels after cooking. If you don’t have one, you can also push the applesauce through a strainer, though that takes more time.
Fried Green Tomatoes
I didn’t know about these until I was in my twenties, and I lived in North Carolina for two years. Southerners I know might not consider this version authentic; Southern Living has this recipe calling for egg & buttermilk batter. Mine aren’t as crunchy, but I like them this way better.
4-5 medium sized green tomatoes
1 c cornmeal
Salt & pepper
Oil for cooking
Slice the tomatoes in 1/2-inch slices. Mix the cornmeal, salt and pepper on a plate. Heat 1/2 inch of oil in a skillet. When the oil is hot, dredge the tomato slices in the cornmeal mixture and fry until golden, turning once so each side of the tomato slices cooks evenly. Drain on paper towels and eat as soon as possible.