This is the spice season…is it not? Today’s post spotlights a simpler, more wholesome, and frugal time. And it all starts with the cold weather.
Back to green tomatoes. For gardeners and farmers’ market shoppers the short days, sun’s low angle, and chilly temperatures mean one thing: the garden is done. This translates into armloads of unripened bounty. Did you know you can turn green tomatoes into delicious filling for pies, tarts or cookie bars?
It’s true. And the process of turning bitter, hard, round, green tomatoes into a sweet-tart treat fills your home with a spicy, saturated aroma that is the ultimate aromatherapy for comfort, family, friends, and the approaching holiday season.
So consider this your engraved invitation to a private green tomato mincemeat making party. Ready?
It starts with my husband’s family. They host green tomato mince making parties. The recipe was passed down from his mother’s side. Now it’s important to understand something. This is not the result of a sophisticated culinary exploration. The idea that green tomatoes were worth saving came more from a need of frugality and desire to literally not waste the fruit of your labor.
As with all old recipes, if you don’t have the benefit of learning alongside the master, the recipes serve more as guidelines. The first 3 ingredients require prep work and a food grinder.
First you need some green tomatoes. Lots of them. A peck to be exact. Err…what exactly is a peck? Glad you asked because I had no idea. A peck is a dry measure of 8 quarts. That would be 32 cups. Wash them, cube them and then grind them.
I take that back. First you need to gather up friends and family because this is a monumental recipe and works best with many hands and a party. Then gather, wash, cut, and grind your green tomatoes. At this point you need to remove the bitterness from the tomatoes. Place the tomatoes into a large pot on the stove (you may have to divide them up). Pour boiling water over them…just enough to cover them. Then boil for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove from the heat and drain. Repeat two more times.
Next you need to gather up a peck of crisp, tart apples. Yep. Another 32 cups that needs to be washed, peeled, cored, and ground.
The (lower case) apple team working hard to deliver the goods.
The raisins are the last thing that require a lot of pre-prep work. The recipe card calls for 1 lb. of seeded and 1 lb. of unseeded raisins. None of us in the tomato mince making kitchen have ever heard of raisins full of seeds. I still can’t figure out why you would want to eat raisin seeds. So just use 2 lbs. of unseeded raisins. Then grind them in a food grinder.
The Spices Arrive!
In a separate bowl combine 2 teaspoons each of nutmeg, salt, cloves and cinnamon. If you’re really in the spirit use a fresh ground nutmeg.
Now you’re ready to combine with the other ingredients. We divided everything roughly in half and plopped it into two huge mixing bowls. You need to add:
- 3 lbs. brown sugar
- 2 cups of vinegar
- 2 cups of molasses
- 2 cups of softened butter
- the spices (each spice was 2 teaspoons worth…noticing a trend here?)
Start mixing! (The recipe calls for a wooden spoon. I can really up the ante and use the wooden spoon my dad carved.) When you’re done mixing and mixing and mixing and mixing and your arm is ready to fall off the mixture should look like this:
Now the mixture is ready to cook. my sister-in-law uses the divide and conquer method…two huge pots. Gently boil, stirring occasionally until mixture is thick, dark, and glossy. This will take a couple of hours but you’ll be rewarded with a scent from the gods.
When it’s done cooking divide into everyone’s mason jars and tupperware containers. It’s an impressive payload!
Admittedly, it is a bit of an acquired taste but if you enjoy the tart sweet flavors, tomato mince will be a natural love for you. To me the recipe is a perfect, humble antidote for the often food-must-be-perfect, wasteful world which dominates the modern holiday scene. This is a lovely recipe and to eat it is to share a bite of history, heritage, family and honest food. Oh, and I have to add my two spice cents. My niece and I agreed that fresh grated ginger would be a great addition. 🙂 Two teaspoons of course.
Now if you made it this far…thank you. Quite a lengthy post. The next entry will be shorter. Promise. But given that you’re down here why not leave a comment? Surely you can think of something to say about green tomatoes? Really, it’s such a weird ingredient for a sweet treat!