GREEN TOMATOES // the local food report

It is suddenly, without a doubt fall. This morning on the drive into school, the temperature on the car thermometer read 40 degrees. The leaves on the fig tree have gone yellow, and the oaks are a brilliant, ruddy orange-brown. There are still tomatoes coming in, orange and red, and the roses are still in bloom. But soon enough there will be a frost.

I'm not sure the tomatoes realize this. They're still sending out yellow flowers, hoping for warmth and sun. And there's still plenty of fruit not quite ripe on the vine.

Last week I asked my gardening friends what they do with theirs. Jenn said she makes piccalilli and green tomato jam. Tracy and Teresa both make chutney. Anna is trying out green tomato fridge pickles. Victoria makes this brothy green tomato soup with scallions and ham that she learned about from a woman who shops at her farm stand, or puts them in a paper bag with an apple to ripen them. Marissa breads hers with panko and bakes them at high heat until they're tender, then snacks on them with sea salt and lemon. Dave makes classic garlic pickles with green tomatoes and eggplant. Lucas prefers ripe ones. There are all kinds of good ideas out there.

I wanted to share a few recipes I've come along over the years. The first is my great-grandmother's recipe for pickled green tomatoes. It's basically the same as Dave's, The second is a green tomato piccalilli recipe from Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cook Book, published in 1883. It's hard to say how long the green tomatoes will stick around. You need to pick them before it freezes, so keep an eye on the weather. The ten day forecast looks ok so far!


This comes from the 1902 edition of Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cook Book. My copy came from Lorenzo Dow Baker's family house on Baker Ave in Wellfleet, and it looks its age. For reference, a peck of green tomatoes is 2 dry gallons (apples are typically sold in 1/2 peck bags). Also note that the modern spelling of picalilli is different than the title given here. You can enlarge the scan below by clicking on it (the catchup looks good too!)

1 peck green tomatoes
1 cup salt
6 small onions
1 large head celery
2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon mustard
2 quarts good, sharp vinegar

Chop the tomatoes, mix the salt with them thoroughly, and let them stand over night. In the morning pour off the water, and chop the onion and celery. Mix the sugar, pepper, cinnamon, and mustard. Put in a porcelain kettle a layer of tomatoes, onion, celery, and spices, and so on until all is used, and cover with the vinegar. Cook slowly all day, or until the tomatoes are soft. Cauliflower, or cabbage, or one quart of cucumbers may be used with the tomatoes. Sliced or grated horseradish gives a pleasant flavor.


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.