Tag Archives: fried

Granny Recipe #2: Not Just a Movie


Green Tomatoes.  These babies are a delicacy.  To get green tomatoes, you have to know someone with a tomato plant.  The grocery store doesn’t know what one of these is (although to taste tomatoes from the store, you’d think they were green).  The farmer’s market won’t even do you for a good green tomato (unless they’re the kind that never turn red).  No, most sane people like to keep their tomatoes on the vine until they turn red.   Don’t get me wrong, a juicy red tomato pulled straight from the vine is the essence of perfection; a good one will almost make me cry.  But as anyone who has ever successfully grown tomatoes knows, if you wait for all of them to ripen before you pick them, they’ll be rotten before you can finish eating them.  And you’ll never want to see another tomato again.  Nor will your neighbors. *

Simple solution: pick some of them before they’re ripe, and figure out a different way to use them.  Hence, the fried green tomato was born.  According to granny, you have to fry them green, because the red ones “don’t have a strong enough constitution” and they’ll fall apart in the frying pan.  Personally, I think it would be doing a ripe tomato a disservice to fry it; they’re delicious enough already.  I know it’s another recipe that calls for deep frying something, but it’s not too bad–you don’t need a whole vat of oil (unlike Granny’s fried ribs)–and you can use olive oil if it makes you feel better.  I still recommend the cast iron skillet, though!

*Funny story–my first job after college took me to Boston for awhile; I found an apartment with a guy who had lived in the city his whole life.  When I moved in, I found no less than fifteen tomato plants scattered in pots on the back balcony.  My roommate called it his “agriculture experiment” and hoped to get enough tomatoes for a couple of salads by the end of the summer.  Needless to say, we ate a lot of salads. And spaghetti.  And tomato sandwiches.

The method for frying green tomatoes is pretty self explanatory:

slice 'em up

slice 'em up

Dredge each slice in some cornmeal, salt, and pepper, and throw in a hot skillet.

Leave them alone while they brown; you don’t want to flip them more than once or they’ll fall apart.  It should take 2-3 minutes for each side.  Remove from skillet and drain on a paper towel.

eat 'em while they're hot!

eat 'em while they're hot!

Savor the beauty that is an unripe tomato.  If you can get your hands on them, that is.


Next time:  something from granny that isn’t dredged in cornmeal and deep fried–promise!


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Meet (the real) Granny


This is my grandmother (and my brother, who, though not entirely irrelevant, you can ignore for the moment).  She is one of my heroes.  The oldest daughter of 5 sisters (they also have an older brother), she grew up on a large farm in rural Florida during the Depression and World War II.  She’s raised sisters, children, grandchildren, and just welcomed her first great-grandchild (don’t worry, not mine!) into the world.  She’s lived through a lot, put up with even more, and is still the sweetest human being I know.

Her younger sister, Sharon.  Look at that attitude!

Her younger sister, Sharon. Look at that attitude!

She’s never known what having money felt like, though if you ask her she’ll tell you she’s never wanted for anything, either.  Living on a farm meant you always had plenty to eat, acres and acres of playground, and if you needed a new dress, you just made one from an old flour sack.  After my grandfather got out of the navy, he worked for the telephone company, and was president of the workers’ union.  When they were on strike—sometimes for 6 months at a time—my grandmother managed to provide for her family of five with just her salary as a part-time school board administrator.  She’s held my grandfather’s hand through months of a terminal illness, seen her children through marriages and divorces, and hasn’t missed a single grandchild’s birthday or graduation.  She is amazing, plain and simple.

And good Lord, can the woman cook.  I mean, damn.  Paula Dean is my grandmother incarnate (sans the heart attack hamburger).  In the fifth grade when we had to write an essay about our favorite restaurant, I wrote about my granny’s kitchen.  I’d take her cooking over the fanciest restaurant in Baltimore any day of the week.  She’s the one that taught me how to really cook.  Good ingredients and fancy techniques are all well and good, but they won’t get you there.  It’s all about soul, and taste, and intuition.  If a recipe calls for a teaspoon of salt but it tastes like it needs two, then, gosh darnit, put two in.  That steamed broccoli looks lovely, but it would taste even lovelier with a dollop of butter on them.  And cheese grits aren’t cheese grits unless there’s “enough cheese to choke a goat” in them.

For Christmas this year, my grandma gave me a booklet full of handwritten recipe cards, full of the things that defined family dinners at her house: squash (cooked in bacon grease, of course!), potato salad, macaroni and cheese, and banana pudding.  They’re less recipes than they are guidelines, with instructions like “add butter until it tastes right” or “cook until done”.  They would be useless without years of experience in the kitchen to know what “tastes right” is, or what “done” looks like.  Nonetheless, it is, without a doubt, the best Christmas present I’ve ever gotten.

One of the recipes is a family trademark, saved only for special occasions (usually when I come home to visit): fried ribs.  Yes, it’s a heart attack waiting to happen, but I don’t care.  If I died eating one, I’d die a happy woman.  No one I’ve ever met outside my family knows what a fried rib is, so I thought I would enlighten ya’ll.  Don’t eat them every day, but you should definitely give them a try.  I’ll do my best to translate the original recipe into a photo essay that you can actually follow, but will also include Granny’s recipe at the end, because her advice is sound.

First, the meat.  Pork ribs, please; this ain’t Texas.  Get the butcher to slice them individually, if you can.  You can do it yourself, but it’s a lot less work if you get them to do it. Sprinkle them with tenderizer and let sit for a few hours. Then wash them, pat dry, and chuck em’ in a bucket of cornmeal, salt and pepper.  It should look something like this:


Those are my brother's hands--told you he wasn't entirely irrelevant!

Those are my brother's hands--told you he wasn't entirely irrelevant!


Throw the ribs a batch at a time into some hot peanut oil (well, don’t literally throw them, as you might regret it).  I have no guidelines for temperature, but you want it to be pretty hot—I’m guessing around 350 degrees?  At any rate, you want it to look like this when the ribs are in:

notice the presence of cast-iron--I promise I wasn't trying to be stereotypical, it just...happened

notice the presence of cast-iron--I promise I wasn't trying to be stereotypical, it just...happened

Tip: Fry these outside to keep your kitchen from overheating and smelling like McDonald's!

Tip: Fry these outside to keep your kitchen from overheating and smelling like McDonald's!

“Cook until done”, approximately 7-10 minutes, then pull them out of the oil and let drain.  Start another batch, because you’ll need a whole bunch of these babies to satisfy everyone.  Guaranteed: the first batch will be gone before they get to the table.



Granny’s Recipe directly transcribed:

Pork ribs—I usually get them cracked at the store (that’s cut almost through each rib)because I can’t cut them anymore.  Also I like baby back—more expensive but more tender.  If I use just Pork Ribs I put tenderizer on them for awhile.  Wash and let drain, then salt.  Mix self-rising meal and pepper (you decide amount) in gallon bag or bowl.  Shake ribs in bag or dredge in bowl.  Put enough oil in deep skillet to cover ribs, heat, put ribs in and fry.  Fry until they are nice and brown—make sure they are done.  Guess someone will have to do a taste-test! Wait, wait, one’s all you need to test!


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