Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Really Fantastic Green Tomato Relish

While I was leafing through the cookbook looking for dessert recipes I came across a couple of recipes for green tomato pie. That didn't quite work because of the oven, but it gave me an idea. Look at the chutneys and relishes. There it was, Green Tomato Relish.
This is not any Green Tomato Relish. This relish made me want to rush out and buy hot dogs on Saturday night, just so I could eat the relish with the hot dogs. The fact that I had already had dinner was of no consequence. This relish is amazing as topping for cheese and crackers. This relish is so good, you want to eat it with a spoon. If you can still find green tomatoes in your local farmers market, you should make this relish right now.
This is green tomato season. Farmers pick the tomatoes that are left on the vines, ripe or not. Some people ripen them on the window sill. I use them to can.
The last tomatoes of 2014

On November 13, the first frost of the season was forecast. I went out to the garden to see what we had that might be harvested. We had an amazing crop of green tomatoes, which I picked, as well as quite a respectable number of hot peppers. That took care of the tomatoes. I walked up to Bethesda to the Women's Farm Market in search of the peppers and onions called for in the recipe.
The farmer had a basket of  "smaller" peppers, half green, half red  and large sweet onions. I was perplexed as to quantities. The recipe called for 15 green tomatoes, which I had, and 36 red and green peppers. Even the smaller peppers were pretty large by the standards of the 1960s , so I reasoned that 15 peppers would be enough to make the full amount of the recipe. This may have been somewhat faulty reasoning, but it seemed to work out in the end.
The friendly farmer sold me the peppers, onions and a pound of Brussels sprouts, and gave me a large paper shopping bag from Whole Foods to cart it home in. No sooner had I walked out of the market that I noticed that the handle was torn, and would certainly not last the two mile walk home. I loaded as many peppers into my too small carry bag as it would take, thus reducing the weight on the paper bag,  and took the bus back to Friendship Heights. There I went to Giant to buy the rest of the ingredients, white vinegar and sugar, as well as a plastic bag to carry everything home in.
Once home, I started chopping. The tomatoes had to be chopped and then sprinkled with salt, after which they had to sit for an hour. Then came cutting up the peppers into "large cubes". This is a time consuming process that had to be interrupted when Bob and I went to church for the cabaret that a choir member stages every few months. The parish hall is transformed into a night club and singers in sparkly outfits sing torch songs.
I got back to the relish Saturday afternoon. This is a recipe that is greatly enhanced by a Cuisinart. The directions say, run the onions and vegetables through a food grinder. The Cuisinart, judiciously used, results in relish of a perfect consistency. Pulse, scrape and check. Don't just buzz, or you will have soup.  Another item that speeds things up is the tea ball.  The directions say to sew the spices into a cheesecloth bag.  I dumped the cloves and celery seed into the tea ball, and put the two cinnamon sticks into the relish, to be fished out prior to canning.
This recipe results in a perfect sweet/sour balance of flavors, and slightly crunchy relish. Many times my canned goods end up gathering dust at the back of the closet in the kitchen, but this one will be used up, I know it.

Really Fantastic Green Tomato Relish

12 green tomatoes cored
1/3 cup coarse salt
24 green peppers
6 red sweet peppers
12 large sweet onions
1 gallon boiling water
4 cups white vinegar
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon whole cloves
2 tablespoons stick cinnamon pieces
1 teaspoon celery seed

1. Chop the tomatoes and sprinkle with the salt. Let stand one hour. Drain.
2. Core and seed green and red peppers and trim away the white veins. Cut peppers into large cubes. Put peppers and the onions through a food chopper. (Cuisinart, please.) Add half the water and drain immediately in a colander.
3. Add the remaining water and let stand ten minutes. Drain.
4. Add the vinegar and sugar. Tie the cloves, stick cinnamon and celery seeds in a cheesecloth bag and add it. (Use a tea ball.) Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer, uncovered, exactly thirty minutes. Discard the spice bag.
5. Pour the relish into hot sterilized jars and seal in a boiling water bath for fifteen minutes, beginning the timing after the water is boiling. Remove from the boiling water allow to cool and store in a cool, dark, dry place. Makes about six quarts.

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