Green Tomato Pie

Traditionally this time of year the gardens are either winding down from summer crops or bearing their bounty with fall vegetables like pumpkins, winter squash and other fall produce.  Soon northern areas will be getting their first frosts and tomatoes that haven’t had time to ripen will be lost…or not.

Thanks to the popular movie by the same name, most people have at least heard of fried green tomatoes, even if they haven’t had the opportunity to eat them.   Frying however is just one use for green tomatoes.  As much people enjoy eating a delicious vine-ripened tomato you’re probably wondering why would anyone want to come between a green tomato and it’s potential of sweet juicy summer goodness?  What most people don’t realize is that tomatoes make good eating whether they are ripe or not, but as with anything, it all depends on how you prepare them!

There are various reasons people have traditionally cooked with green tomatoes, usually depending on the time of year.  The flavor of a green tomato is tart and acidic with the textural crunch of an underipe melon.  Green tomatoes can really be used in anything that you might use apples for.  In the early summer as tomatoes begin to set their fruit it might be necessary to thin the fruit on particularly prolific plants.  Thinning out by removing smaller tomatoes will allow the remaining ones to become plump and “Rubenesque”.   These small early tomatoes would be perfect for pickling whole or in quarters.   Later in the summer tomatoes would often be fried as a side item, either for variety or because that’s what was at hand, or sometimes used in a salad or canned in a relish for enjoyment during the winter months.  As the days began to get shorter and cooler,  green tomatoes could be picked and put in the cellar to prevent their loss to the first frost.  These fall tomatoes might often be cooked up into relishes, pickles, preserves and marmalades, or used for pie.   I recall my own mother taking her end of season tomatoes and cooking them into green tomato mincemeat.  Sadly, as a child I didn’t quite have the same appreciation for mincemeat pies that I do today!

A recent trip to Asheville and a stop at the state farmer’s market there led me to bring home a case of green tomatoes for playing and experimentation.  Until my recent experiments I knew of green tomato pie but had never made nor eaten one.  Most descriptions that I’ve heard describe green tomato pie as being similar in flavor to apple pie so those are the flavors that I’ve used here, influenced by several recipes that I researched and my own particular taste preferences.  I’ve added the golden raisins as a textural contrast to the tomatoes, a touch of sweetness, and as a nod to mom’s green tomato mincemeat of the past.

Here in the southern states it’s usually quite common to find green tomatoes in the grocery store.  If you’re in other areas of the country and don’t have the benefit of a garden, you might very likely be finding them turning up in your local farmer’s market this time of year.  If nothing else, you can always order them from your grocery store produce manager any time of the year.

I hope you’ll give it a try and share your thoughts!

Green Tomato Pie

Yield: 1 9-inch pie

Pie crust for 2-crust pie
½ cup golden raisins
¼ cup water
4 cups sliced green tomatoes
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Line the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan with pie crust, allowing the edges to drape over the side.

Place golden raisins and water in a microwave safe dish and heat on high for 1 minute. Remove and set aside to cool. When the raisins are plumped, drain off any remaining water.

Wash and core tomatoes, cut into quarters. Place each tomato quarter on it’s side and slice into thin slices (about ¼” thick). Place sliced tomatoes into a large mixing bowl and add the plumped raisins and the minced ginger.

In a small bowl, combine together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix well to make sure any lumps are broken up. Pour flour mixture over the tomatoes and add the lemon juice. Stir well to coat tomatoes with sugar and juice. Pour filling into the pie pan that’s been lined with crust.

Roll out top crust and drape over the filling. Trim edges so that only about ½-inch of crust hangs over the side and crimp top and bottom crusts together. Brush top of pie lightly with a little water and sprinkle lightly and evenly with granulated sugar.  Cut 3-4 slits in the crust to allow steam to escape.

Bake at 375F for 1 hour. If top of crust or edges are getting dark too early, cover lightly with foil.  Cool for one hour before cutting and serving so that the juices have a chance to thicken.

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