Friday, December 6, 2013

Green Tomato Pie

Piece of Green Tomato Pie
Slice of American History

Recipe from The Vegetable Gardener’s Cookbook

Back in the day—a century or two ago—most gardeners extended their growing season and harvest by baking with unripened fruits. Resourceful gardeners would often put still-green long-season fruits into pies, a special treat in days of few desserts. Too-early fallen apples and late-season green tomatoes and green pumpkins were good candidates—all technically fruits because they contain seeds. This recipe was published in the tiny 1979 Vegetable Gardener’s Cookbook, “conceived and created by the Community Gardens of Santa Cruz County.” Unlike more recent recipes, this green tomato pie has a retro flair with molasses, brown sugar, and spices. Its old-fashioned flavor reminds us of pies that our grandmas made for us, like their grandmas and great grandmas enjoyed.

Whole golden brown pie fresh from the oven
Egg Wash makes Crust Scrumptious
Just like apple pies green tomato pie benefits from incorporating a variety of tomatoes, adding complexity to the flavor.  This is a boon to end-of-season gardeners, who are likely to end up with an assortment of unripe slicing tomatoes, paste tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, heirlooms, etc. The more the merrier! To add flavor contrast to sweet and salty ingredients, I added a bit of lemon juice to the original recipe. I also reduced the butter in the pie filling from 2 tablespoons to 1½ tablespoons, since I made a buttery crust.

Green tomatoes, molasses, brown sugar, and spices
Retro Ingredients
The original recipe didn’t include crust instructions. I don’t use shortening, so opted for King Arthur Flour’s all butter piecrust. Another good choice is Elise Bauer’s all butter piecrust, from Simply Recipes. Or make your own favorite crust. King Arthur Flour recommends brushing a light coat of beaten egg on the bottom crust to keep an apple pie from getting soggy. They also advise baking the pie on the lowest oven rack. Both of these methods help keep green tomato piecrust crispy as well. Extra egg can be brushed on top of the pie for a lovely golden brown finish.

As with apple pie, green tomato pie filling can be quite runny if served hot. For best results, cool the pie completely before serving. If you like, you can zap up the individual pieces in the microwave at serving time, especially if you want to serve warm green tomato pie a la mode. I highly recommend that. Leave us a comment if you make a tasty variation, or have other ideas for cooking with green tomatoes.

two pieces of pie in pan
Thanksgiving Leftovers
Green Tomato Pie
serves 8 – 10

All-butter piecrust or other pastry for 9” 2-crust pie
Sunflower or other spray oil
2 tbsp. flour
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ginger
3 cups green tomatoes in ¼ inch slices
1 egg for egg wash
1 tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup molasses
1½ tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
French vanilla ice cream (optional)

Make the King Arthur’s Flour All-butter piecrust, or your favorite 9-inch double piecrust. Spray the bottom of your pie plate with a light coat of oil. Flop the bottom crust into the pie plate. Roll out top crust between two layers of plastic wrap. Let crusts rest and chill in the refrigerator for an hour or so.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Mix together flour, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. Sprinkle tomatoes with lemon juice and toss. Sprinkle flour mixture over tomatoes and toss until they are well coated.

Beat the egg well, and add a teaspoon of water. Beat again. Remove bottom crust from refrigerator. Brush a light coat (egg wash) over the bottom crust to seal it.

Arrange tomato slices evenly in bottom crust. Top with any remaining flour mixture.

Spread brown sugar evenly over tomatoes. Top with molasses. Dot with butter.

Cover with top crust. Seal edges (you can brush with egg wash first if you like), and crimp into an attractive pattern. Cut 5 or 6 slits in the top crust. Brush with egg wash.

Put pie on bottom shelf of oven. Bake at 425 degrees F for 10 minutes. Lower heat to 350 degrees F.  Bake for 35 – 40 minutes more, until crust is golden brown.

Cool completely before serving. Serve with ice cream if desired.

Pie before top crust is added
Old School Flavor: Molasses and Butter

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