Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Green Tomato Pie


A couple of weeks ago, we had our first hard freeze, so I spent the two days before that madly scurrying to get the last of the vegetables out of the garden.  Since then, I've been pickling beets, making cole slaw, and otherwise putting food into storage as I've had time.  I've still got dishpans and baskets full of apples, peppers, and green tomatoes to take care of.

The dishpan of bell peppers and tomatoes that I picked before the freeze.
Years ago, when I worked in our local bank (which was between full-time teaching stints), we had a customer named Fern.  I can't remember Fern's last name, but I remember that she was from Denison, Iowa, so she had about an hour's drive in order to get to our little town.  When she came to the bank, she almost always brought us some of her baked goods, and once she brought us a green tomato pie.  I was fascinated and asked for the recipe.  In the fifteen years that I've had Fern's recipe, I've never made it, but with this year's garden having been so bountiful right up until the end, I've now made three of these pies in the Margin Gem cookstove.  The Margin Gem does a beautiful job of baking pies--better than our gas oven, I think, because there is less humidity in the oven.

To make a green tomato pie, you want to have green tomatoes that are freshly picked and have not had any time to begin to ripen.  If the tomatoes have even the slightest tinge of orange or softness to them, the result will be much more like a ketchup pie than green tomato pie.  For this reason, the first green tomato pie I made this year was superior than the two that you see in these pictures.  If your tomatoes are firm and very green, you'll have a hard time distinguishing between this and an apple pie.

You will need the following ingredients:

      • Prepared pastry dough for a double-crust pie
      • Enough green tomatoes for a nine-inch pie (The original recipe says 4 or 5 tomatoes, but I used Romas, so it took more like ten.  I don't measure the fruit for pie filling.  I do like my grandma Marian taught me and use the green  2 1/2-quart bowl from my multi-colored vintage Pyrex set, and stop peeling/paring when I know I've reached the right amount by how it looks in the bowl.  Sorry!)
      • 1/4 cup flour
      • 1 cup white sugar
      • 1 TBLSP. white vinegar (The original recipe called for 2 TBLSP. of vinegar, but I've changed the second tablespoon to orange juice to help avoid the ketchupy taste.) 
      • 1 TBLSP. orange juice  
      • cinnamon to taste (You could use whatever spices you would ordinarily reach for to flavor your apple pie.)
Directions:

1. Build your fire so that you have a hot oven.  Because our cookstove is being fired constantly now, this process is a little different than it would be if I was starting the fire from scratch just to bake a pie.  Last night, for example, the fire was keeping the oven right around 300-325 degrees.  To get it as hot as I wanted it for when the pies first go into the oven, I put in several pieces of wood that I would ordinarily have used as kindling. These brought the oven up to the temperature that I wanted and kept it nice and hot for the full hour of baking time.

2. Cut the tomatoes into small chunks as you would with apples.


The right amount of green tomatoes in the green Pyrex bowl.
3. Add the flour, sugar, vinegar, orange juice, and cinnamon.

The green tomatoes with the flour, sugar, vinegar, orange juice
and cinnamon.
4. Stir all together.

The filling ingredients all stirred together.

5. Assemble your pie, being sure to vent the top crust.

6. Place in a hot oven (400-425 F) so that the crust cooks quickly.  After ten or fifteen minutes, let the fire cool down to moderate heat (350-375 F) to finish cooking the filling.  The pie should be in the oven for approximately an hour.
To green tomato pies in the oven of the Margin Gem. I put tin
foil under them to make sure that they don't run over onto the
bottom of the oven.
7. Remove the pies from the oven to cool.


The finished product.

A slice of green tomato pie.
The first green tomato pie that I made was a huge hit with my family.  My sister-in-law, an excellent baker herself but not a tomato lover, liked it, and so did my brother.  My grandmother, who was a superior baker in her day, thought it was delicious too, but none of them would have guessed that it was made out of green tomatoes.

The second pies were made with tomatoes that were a little riper, so they had a slight tomato flavor.  People at school liked them, though, and you can't imagine what fun it is to have people guess what the pie is made of.  I think Fern would be proud!

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