From the Forties: A Way with Green Tomatoes

May 8, 2014

Among the recipes I considered putting into my novel, Delicious!, this was one of my favorites. 

After Lulu harvested the last ripe Climbing Trip-L-Crop Tomatoes there were a lot of green ones left sitting on the vine.  In the cool of the Ohio Autumn, some simply never ripened.  But the war was on, everyone was using every edible bit, and Lulu didn't want to waste them. She went to her Department of Agriculture pamphlets and found they suggested this recipe for green tomatoes left on the vine.

What I love about this recipe is that it's a perfect example of what novice cooks had to contend with. This is exactly as printed in a pamphlet for wartime ration cooking. The recipe works…. but only if you fiddle with it. As a beginning cook, Lulu would have ended up with a liquid mess.  

Green Tomato Mincemeat

4 quarts finely chopped green tomatoes (about 30 tomatoes )

2 quarts peeled and finely chopped tart apples (about 8-10 apples)

1 pound raisins

4 tablespoons minced lemon or orange peel

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

2 ½ cups brown sugar

2 ½ cups sugar

¾ cup vinegar

½ cup lemon juice

Combine the tomatoes, apples, raisins, lemon or orange peel, cinnamon, salt, allspice, cloves, brown sugar, sugar, vinegar, and lemon juice in a large pot.

Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until thickened, about 2 hours.

If the mixture is still not sufficiently thickened, raise the heat and allow it to boil gently, stirring constantly until ready.


I tested the recipe as written and ended up with something sadly soupy. It certainly did not need those 2 cups of water. The apples, tomatoes, vinegar and lemon juice provide plenty of  liquid. I simmered it for a good two hours, which should have been enough.  Then, disgusted, I strained the liquid off, reduced it separately, poured it back into the pot and gently boiled the mixture, stirring constantly so it didn't burn.  

Would Lulu have known to do this?  Probably not. I think she would have simply sat there, staring at that sorry mess. 

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