Green Tomato Mincemeat

Do I have green tomatoes? Oh, yeah, I have a whole five-gallon bucketful. We moved the hoop house to the winter position recently, which meant I had to say goodbye to the tomato vines which were still green and bright, and loaded with unripe tomatoes.

I went through and picked anything that showed even a yellow-orange tinge. I do fried green tomatoes, but like to use ones that are starting to ripen, and I have a green tomato pie recipe which is rather good that I will share here anon which is better made with partly ripe tomatoes.

My dear, frugal Toby couldn’t bear to see the green ones end up on the compost pile, and so he picked off all the sizable green tomatoes. I’m not fond of window-ledge ripened tomatoes; they remind me too much of what we can buy all winter, though usually if a tomato has begun to ripen, it will finish up with fairly decent flavor. Personally I find five gallons of green tomatoes a bit daunting in the face of recipes that say things like, “Take five or six green tomatoes…” My neighbor Nancy will use some of them in piccalilli, thank goodness. Toby declares he will help in the making of green tomato relish, and I have a green tomato and apple chutney recipe that will use up several. Meanwhile, there is always good old green tomato mincemeat.

Actually, this version of mincemeat has been around a long time. I find green tomato mincemeat in cookbooks from the late 1800s, though they often call for chopped suet, so, while they save the expense of meat, they are not vegetarian. Most prepared mincemeat these days doesn’t even have a whiff of meat in it anymore; it is built on apples and raisins with cornstarch to mimic the mouth-feel of melted suet. I love genuine mincemeat, but I can put up with the green tomato version pretty well.

The recipe that follows is based on one from an old Fannie Farmer cookbook. It calls for equal quantities of apples and tomatoes, but I like it with a bit more apple than tomato. Suit yourself, and your supply. I use my wooden chopping bowl with the old-fashioned curved blade for this recipe, though if you have an old grinder, that works very well, too, fitted with a coarse blade. A food processor goes so fast you might end up with mush.

As with all these sticky preserves like chutney, ketchup, and chile sauces, that tend to catch on the bottom of the pot and scorch, make sure you use a cook pot with a heavy bottom, or else plan on standing and stirring a lot. Let it season a bit, a couple of weeks or so, before you use it, to allow the flavors to get acquainted.

Green Tomato Mincemeat

7 cups of chopped apple
5 cups of chopped green tomatoes
4 cups of brown sugar
1 ¼ cup cider vinegar
3 cups raisins
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon mace or nutmeg
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons salt
¾ cup (1 and a half sticks) butter

Put all the ingredients except the butter into a heavy-bottomed cook pot, and bring to a boil, stirring, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently until a spoonful on a plate does not seep liquid. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add the butter and put into pint jars; then process in a boiling water bath for ten minutes to seal.

Makes about eight pints.

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About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.