Overcoming the green tomato prejudice

Until now I have been heavily prejudiced against green tomatoes. Not that I ever ate a green tomato. When I occasionally had green tomatoes in the garden because a branch broke off, or I ended up with green tomatoes at the end of the season, I would rather throw them on the compost pile than using them for cooking.

Maybe it’s the idea of eating something unripe that put me off. I know fried green tomatoes are a southern specialty but I was never tempted to try them. I am not a health fanatic but when I use artery-clogging ingredients, I prefer do to it when there is no alternative, such as butter in a piecrust. Also, I do not like the idea of buying additional produce in the height of the harvest to make something with green tomatoes.

When I collected a couple of pounds of green tomatoes from the garden this week, I reconsidered. I constantly try new things, so why not give green tomatoes a second chance and make chutney? I browsed recipes online and went through my cookbooks for inspiration. The only condition I set for myself was that I would minimize the purchase of extra ingredients. Since I have jalapeno peppers in the garden right now (also a premiere), and lots of fresh garlic, the only thing I had to buy for this Green Tomato Chutney were apples. All the other ingredients were staples I had in the house.

As the prospective main chutney eater besides me does not like it too spicy, I removed the seeds from the jalapenos. I am glad I did because the chutney is already quite hot as is. For a hotter version, simply include some or all of the seeds.

I don’t think I will ever actually pick green tomatoes but at least I have a simple recipe that I like in case green tomatoes come upon me. I look forward to opening the first jar of chutney and eat it with Indian food this fall or winter.

For now it’s back to fresh red tomatoes.

Green Tomato Chutney

2 to 2¼ pounds green tomatoes

10 garlic cloves

1 large onion

1 large or 2 small tart apples (I used green summer apples)

3 jalapeno peppers

1 1-inch piece fresh ginger

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

1 tablespoon whole allspice

6 cardamom pods

1 pound 6 ounces Turbinado sugar

1 tablespoon salt

1 cup white wine vinegar

3 bay leaves

1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds

6 whole cloves

1 teaspoon dried orange peel

1 teaspoon finely grated zest from an organic lemon

You also need:

A canning pot, or a very large stockpot

5 half-pint canning jars

5 bands

5 new (unused) lids

1. Remove the core from the tomatoes and cut them into 1-inch dice. Slice the garlic cloves thinly. Chop the onion. Peel the apples and remove the core. Cut the apples into 1-inch dice. Cut the jalapenos in half and remove the seeds. Chop the jalapenos very finely. Wear disposable gloves to do this, or wash hands thoroughly afterwards to avoid skin and eye irritation. Peel and finely chop the ginger.

2. Crush the peppercorns, allspice and cardamom in a mortar.

3. Mix all ingredients in a non-corrosive pot (no aluminum) and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours.

4. Slowly bring the mix to a boil. Cook uncovered for 20 minutes. Fill into sterilized canning jars using a slotted spoon, as you don’t want to fill the jars with too much liquid but make sure the chutney is fully immersed. You will have about 1 to 2 cups of cooking liquid left over; discard. Close jars with brand new lids and bands immediately and process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

5. Remove from the water onto damp kitchen towels. Let rest 24 hours before storing the jars in a cool place away from the light.

Makes 5 half-pint jars

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