Dear Barbara: Are “fried green tomatoes” just unripe tomatoes, or is there a special tomato that is green in color that they use? Where can I find a recipe without having to buy a cookbook? — Peter from Lodi
Dear Peter: I think there are a lot of people that are not sure. I didn’t know myself until I was probably 30! Fried green tomatoes are exactly that. Toward the end of the tomato season, gardeners have an abundance of green tomatoes that are large enough, but they don’t ripen because of the weather. Because they are firm, but have good flavor, they are perfect for frying.
People have been frying green tomatoes for hundreds of years. Everyone seems to have their own recipe. You will find a good selection of recipes to choose from on the Internet.
Dear Barbara: This isn’t really a cooking question, but it does pertain to food. I bought a cast iron skillet at a garage sale. The woman said it was given to her as a gift but she had never used it. I know you need to do something to cast iron before you use it, but I don’t have any idea what I am supposed to do. — Camille from Herald
Dear Camille: I know most would say don’t wash it! Since you have never used it, I would scrub it with hot water and a scouring brush with nylon bristles. DO NOT use detergent on a cast iron pan! It is porous, and the detergent will get into the pores and your food will taste like soap!
After you have scrubbed it, dry it with an absorbent towel. Set the skillet on the stove over medium heat for 5 minutes to be sure it is completely dry.
When it is cooled, rub it with a little solid shortening or lard and bake it in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour. Let it cool, wipe out any excess grease and you are ready to go. After you have used it a few times, you will have a nice non-stick surface. Enjoy your skillet. With care, it will be there for you for years to come.
Dear Barbara: I know jelly is rather clear with no pieces of fruit, but when I get past that, I am confused. What is the difference between jam, preserves, and marmalade? — Crystal from Lodi
Dear Crystal: Jams are when the fruit is cooked until it practically dissolves. There are no distinguishable pieces of fruit and is very thick.
Preserves, however, do have chunks of fruit in them.
For the grand finale, marmalades have everything going for them. They not only have the fruit, but they also have the rind! Usually it is a citrus fruit, the most popular being made with Seville oranges.
Barbara Spitzer is a Lodi home cook who also develops recipes for specific consumer products. Do you have a cooking question? Send it to Barbara Spitzer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and city.