Monday, October 21, 2013

Hancock Shaker Village India Relish

This condiment contains green tomatoes. Theoretically, green tomatoes are available all summer long if you can just go out to your garden and pick them. In practice, with most people buying their produce from a farm store or farmers market, October is green tomato season. It's getting colder in the mid Atlantic. When I go out to walk the puppy in the mornings, I wish for a hat and gloves.  Farmers are anticipating the first frost. Pick those suckers now, while people are still coming for fresh local produce. Don't wait for the frost.
Last Wednesday, Bob and I hustled out to the Bethesda Women's Farm Market early to buy our green tomatoes. At first I was afraid that I would have to drive to the Homestead Farm in Poolesville, which, this time of year, is like a convention center for preschoolers and their teachers. Yellow buses park in ranks, disgorging young kids to visit the pumpkin patch. But, luckily, I was spared the drive, as a man named Ray had baskets of lovely pale green tomatoes at his stall.
On Saturday afternoon, after noticing that the green on the tomatoes was starting to shade into a pale orange in a few spots, I decided I had better get busy and turn the tomatoes into relish before they all ripened. This happened twice last year. Baskets of green tomatoes became red tomatoes before I got around to canning them. So even though I had to go to the grocery store. I began chopping and measuring.
The only potentially hard to find ingredient in this recipe is citron. Citron, according to Wikipedia, is an actual citrus fruit. However, the pulp, the part of the other citrus fruits we eat or squeeze into juice, is not very good. What you get when you buy citron is the candied flesh of the inner rind. It is used for fruit cake, mincemeat and other vaguely esoteric foods. You can buy it on line at, among other places.
The relish is sweet and tart at the same time, due to the vinegar and sugar. In the 19th century, cooks served relishes to spark up their meals. Wikipedia says that relishes came from India. However, the website warns that the article on relishes "has multiple issues" so we can take that with a grain of salt (or sugar.).
You may be wondering what to do with India relish once you make it. First of all,  you have to remember you have it. Bob wants to move all the canned goods canned by me downstairs to the laundry room where they could be displayed on shelves at eye level.  Right now, they are all jammed together on a shelf in the upper reaches of the pantry. then, I would do what the 19th Century cooks did, and serve your relish with a meat dinner, roast chicken, roast beef, roast pork. Or, you can spread them on crackers and make an hors d'oeurve with brie or cheddar cheese and a dab of relish.
This recipe requires sealing in a boiling water bath. That means a great big canning kettle with a rack so you can lift up the jars. Hewitt does not give us any guidance about time. Sadly, neither do the various state cooperative extensions that have websites devoted to safe canning. I guess it is a bit much to expect home extension agents to determine canning times for every conceivable food people want to can. The website Seasoned Advice, at, suggests that the cook use the processing time for the ingredient with the longest processing time. In this case, the processing time would be 40 minutes. Don't forget to sterilize your jars and lids.

Hancock Shaker Village India Relish

8 pounds very small green tomatoes (you may have to make do with regular-size tomatoes)
8 cups light brown sugar or maple sugar
2 cups water
3 sticks cinnamon
2 tablespoons ground ginger
3 lemons very thinly sliced
2 cups citron, shredded. (It comes diced now.)
3 cups raisins
Peel of one small orange, finely chopped

1. Wash to tomatoes and cut into quarters (or smaller pieces if using regular size tomatoes)
2. Bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves and simmer tow to three minutes. Add tomatoes and remaining ingredients. Simmer, stirring, three hours, or until lemon slices and citron peel look transparent and tomatoes are very tender. Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal. Cool and store in a cool, dark, dry place. Serve with cold meat. Makes eight to ten pints.

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