It's fall, and therefore, green tomatoes are in abundance. If you're not a gardener this may seem odd. Well, if the gardener thinks they are going to ripen she'll leave them on the vine. If there is a chance of a frost, she will pick them for possible sale.
Last week, I went out to Poolesville to ride the horse and on my way back stopped at Homestead Farm to see if they had green tomatoes. Bingo. Amid a scrum of parents with nursery school children and other assorted folk, I got two large bags and a small bag of Jonagold apples. Then I left town for a wedding.
One of the first things my husband said to me when I came back was, "You'd better hurry up and make something. Your green tomatoes are turning red." So Monday afternoon, after I went to Safeway and bought the brown sugar and the vinegar, I got to work.
With Hewitt's usual specificity, the recipe says "chop" the apples and tomatoes. But she doesn't say how small. At first, I chopped the apples into sort of wedges, the size of pineapple segments. Then after I dumped everything else in the pot, I went back and looked at those wedges. It's mince pie, not lump pie, so I fished the pieces of apple out of the pot and minced them into fragments the size of peas. After a half an hour of remincing, and fingers covered with spices, I dumped the apples back into the pot.
Allow time for this recipe, since you have to let it simmer for three hours. Again, Hewitt doesn't say, but Joy of Cooking lets us know we should seal the jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. If this is your first foray into home canning, check out www.freshpreservingstore.com, the Ball Jar manufacturer's website, for specific information and equipment.
Astute readers will notice there is no meat in this mincemeat. Well, very often, there is not. For a very interesting article on the history of mincemeat, check out Linda Stradley's article on www.whatscookingamerica.net. Mincemeat originated after Crusaders back from the Holy Land returned with spices that could be used for preserving meat without salting or smoking it. Originally, the pies were baked in an oblong shape reminiscent of a coffin or cradle, with a figure of the Christ Child on top. The children in the family removed the Christ Child. It was considered lucky to eat one mince pie for each of the 12 days of Christmas, finishing up with Epiphany on January 6.
Since mince pies were closely tied to Christmas, they were banned in both England and the colonies by the Puritans. Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, considered mince pies to be a sinful, guilty pleasure, and sent his soldiers through the streets of London to sniff out, and confiscate Christmas dinner. The pies and Christmas itself, were banned in Boston until 1681.
So we should all celebrate religious freedom, which allows us to make and eat mince pies, whether or not they have any meat in them.
If you want to make this, get the green tomatoes now, possibly at your local farmers' market. It may even be too late further north than DC.
Green Tomato Mincemeat
6 cups chopped (the size of peas) peeled apples
6 cups chopped peeled green tomatoes
4 cups light brown sugar
1 21/3 cups cider vinegar
3 cups raisins
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon allspice
3/4 teaspoon mace
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup butter
1. Mix the apples and tomatoes together and drain well. Add the remaining ingredients except the butter. Bring gradually to the boiling point and let simmer three hours, stirring often.
2. Add the butter and mix well. Spoon into hot sterilized canning jars and seal the covers (for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.) Cool and store in a cool, dark, dry place.
Makes about five pints.