Mom’s Garden: “Mortgage Lifter” Tomato Sandwiches with Tarragon Mayo

featuredWhen it comes to produce, this is my favorite time of year–tomato season. I go into a bit of a depression when they start to disappear from the markets. As a kid one of my favorite snacks was a tomato plucked fresh from a backyard vine. I can’t think of anything that tastes more like summer.


When Mom gave me the latest bag of assorted tomatoes, the Mortgage Lifter was a real source of pride. Maybe it was because it was the biggest of the bunch. Maybe it was because she only got one. So far. She was generous enough to give it to me to play with, but she expected a report. It was a perfect sandwich tomato. Deep red, juicy but not gelatinous, sweet and firm. That said, any slicing tomato will do for this sandwich as long as it is in season and has good flavor on its own.

There is some debate as to who developed this tomato; some say it was William Estler, some M.C. “Radiator Charlie” Byles. The majority of accounts attribute it to Mr. Byles whose tomato was so popular people drove hundreds of miles to buy the seedlings. Back in the 1940s he charged $1 per plant, and the proceeds from this particular tomato allowed him to pay off his $6,000 mortgage. Another era indeed.



Tomato Sandwiches with Tarragon Mayonnaise

The number of sandwiches you get will vary. Eyeball the bread and tomatoes to figure out how many slices you’re likely to get. You will need one slice of bread per sandwich, and two to three slices of tomato. You should get about 8 sandwiches with a loaf like the one in the photo. And for 8 sandwiches, 3 big tomatoes should be enough. One big bunch of fresh tarragon. Salt. Pepper. Mayo (see below). And I like to lightly toast the bread. If you’re using a hearty multi-grain nut bread like in the photo, it isn’t necessary, but if you’re using a soft bread, toasting will help keep the sandwich from getting soggy.

breadloaf fixings
Tarragon Mayonnaise (makes about 1-1/2 cups or 360ml)

Everything should be room temperature–your ingredients, your bowl–nothing should be cold, otherwise your mayonnaise won’t thicken properly.

2 large organic egg yolks–this is a raw egg recipe, so you should use the best eggs possible
1 to 1-1/4 cup oil (240 to 300ml)–I used grapeseed oil. I prefer a light bodied oil for my mayo; olive oil–though delicious–is too strong for me. Canola or safflower would work.
1 Tbsp. (15ml) lemon juice or vinegar
1/4 teaspoon (2.5ml) Dijon mustard or powdered mustard
1/2 teaspoon (5ml) salt
2-3 Tbsp. (30-45ml) fresh tarragon, minced


It is a lot easier to do this using a food processor or standing mixer, but you can do it by hand. Wrap a dish rag around the base of your bowl to hold it in place, keeping your hands free to whisk and drizzle.

Whisk the egg yolks for a few minutes until they are slightly thickened.

Add the lemon juice or vinegar, mustard and salt. Whisk until thoroughly incorporated.

With the food processor or standing mixer running, add the oil little by little. Do not dump it in; you want a very thin very slow stream. If the consistency is what you want after adding 1 cup, leave it as is. If not, add the other 1/4 cup.

If using a bowl and whisk, you need to keep the whisk moving steadily for the first 1/2 cup of oil. After that you can take a break and add a bit, whisk a bit, etc., until you’re done.

Mix or blend in the tarragon. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Homemade mayonnaise should last for about a week in the fridge, maybe a bit longer if you’re good–don’t stick contaminated utensils in it and keep it in a clean container. I store mine in a sterilized glass jar. I sterilize all my homemade condiment jars. It seems to keep the pesky bacteria and mold away longer.