I sort of wondered just what I was going to do with 10 heaping cups of green cherry tomatoes. From the last of September through the first of November, we’d carefully harvested every ripening cherry tomato in our volunteer patch, keeping summer on our plates just a little longer. But about two weeks ago the tomatoes gave in to autumn and stopped turning. What now?
I just couldn’t condemn them to the compost, so I started talking with friends about recipes for green tomatoes. Of course, ideas for fried green tomatoes abound, but these tiny cuties just weren’t the right size.
Then, my neighbor Carol told me how her mom and aunts put up “Chow Chow” every fall, using the green tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and cabbage–all those great vegetables that populate the garden at harvest time. She photocopied a couple of pages out of a well-worn, ring-bound, handed-down notebook that has contained her family recipes from the time she was a child. This got me going—searching my cookbooks and looking up leads on the web. I found all kinds of interesting ideas for chow chows, relishes and chutneys.
I found something else, too: In the copies Carol made for me, with side notes by “Sister Julia” and “Amelia”, I caught a glimpse of a time when a backyard garden wasn’t a hobby—it was a necessity. When “putting up” chow chow, canning tomatoes and carefully storing apples and squash weren’t just fun to do but matters of survival. I could see these women in a sunlit kitchen assembling ingredients, stirring steaming pots, discussing techniques used by their families for generations, slicing and dicing mounds of fresh-from-the-garden produce in order to ensure their families ate well in the cold winter months ahead.
Am I romanticizing? Well, yeah. But I do believe there must have been a certain satisfaction that came from being thrifty and creative with what the end of the harvest had to offer. There must have been a healthy respect for nature’s abundance and a beautiful sense of ritual and community in that kitchen. Frankly, I long for that.
So I made up my mind—with inspiration from Carol’s ancestors—to be more industrious next year, to study gardening and cooking more this winter, to plant more carefully next spring, maybe learn to can (Oh my!), and appreciate more fully every meal we are lucky enough have—beginning with my 10 cups of little green tomatoes. I decided on chutney in the end, combining a couple of recipe ideas that sounded promising.
- 10 cups chopped green cherry tomatoes
- Two cups chopped yellow onion
- Two to three tablespoons olive oil
- One-half to one whole finely minced ghost pepper (This depends on the amount of heat you want. You could use a jalapeño or just red pepper flakes. Since I have quite a few ghost peppers in my freezer, the choice was obvious.)
- Four tablespoons freshly grated ginger
- One tablespoon crushed coriander
- One teaspoon crushed mustard seed
- One cup raw sugar
- One quarter cup water (only if you think you need the liquid)
- One half cup apple cider vinegar
- One cup organic raisins
- In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onions. Add the ginger, coriander and mustard. Cook and stir for about five minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, sugar and vinegar. Stir. Add the water (if necessary) and continue to cook for about an hour or so. Stir occasionally. The chutney will become thicker and syrupy.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the raisins. Cool the chutney and transfer to screw top jars. Chutney, according to Emmons and others, should keep about a month in your refrigerator if your jars seal tightly.
This is gluten-free and is pretty low-fat, too. Surprisingly sweet, so if you are looking for more heat and less sugar adjust amounts of ingredients accordingly.
Try the chutney with Indian-spiced foods, roast meats or potatoes, grilled fish or on burgers—veggie or beef. I’m serving some on the Thanksgiving dinner table—a new experience for the turkey lovers and something tangy for the grilled cod.
Still thinking you might want some of those fried green tomatoes? Check out the September issue of Delicious Living Magazine for a really easy recipe that bakes, rather than fries, the tomato slices.