Tuesday, October 4, 2011

One of the Fragrances of Autumn

I'm making green tomato mincemeat today.  When my kids get home from school, the house will be filled with the tangy, sweet, and spicy smell of the mix, simmering on the stove.  My house will smell like a Yankee Candle.  But besides filling my kitchen with the rich aroma, my work will yield jars of savory, sweet goodness to use during the winter.

What is mincemeat?  I can't say I've ever had the genuine article, which is apparently made with meat pieces and suet.  What I make is primarily sweetened and minced green tomatoes and apples, along with raisins.  It is then stewed in a tangy spice mix until thick.  I can it, and occasionally take out a jar to use as fillings for pies, coffee cakes, muffins; or even as a topping for plain muffins or toast.  It lets me recapture those autumn fragrances all winter long; and the smell will give a warm and homey feeling to the kitchen on a cold and blustery day.

The challenge for me most years is having enough green tomatoes and apples available at the same time. I won't use grocery store apples for this, but wait for those times when somebody has too many from their own tree to use for themselves.  This year I bought several bags from Janice B.'s trees at the Nazareth bake sale.  Joe's mom had brought me a bunch of green tomatoes, but I didn't have time to make the mincemeat that week.  Now those tomatoes are all turning red, so they will become spaghetti sauce instead.  When I mentioned to Jan D. on our morning walk yesterday that I was disappointed I didn't get my mincemeat done, she said she had plenty of green tomatoes left.  Wow!  She sent them over with her daughter yesterday afternoon.

I got this recipe from my mom, and I believe my grandma made it the same way.  I certainly associate it with Grandma's house, but perhaps that is a fabricated memory.  Here's what I believe is the the recipe the way I originally got it from Mom, but I've added commentary within parenthesis.
Green Tomato Mincemeat
8 c green tomatoes
1tbs salt
Mince the tomatoes, mix with salt, and let stand for 1 hour.  Drain well.

1 tsp cloves
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice (I have this crossed out on my recipe.  I don't know why, but since it's crossed out, I don't use it.)
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
2 lbs currants
1 lb raisins (I never keep currants on hand, so I generally use 2 lbs of raisins and omit the currants.)
4 c peeled and minced or grated apples
6 c brown sugar (I cut the sugar to 3 1/2 cups.  Again, I don't remember why.  But it is plenty sweet this way.)
1/2 c vinegar

Stir tomatoes into the rest.  Cook slowly for 3 hours (or so; watch carefully so it doesn't scorch.  I've done this in a crock pot. Probably one could bake it, too, either within a pan of water, or with one sitting on a different rack.  I'm notorious for letting things scorch on my stovetop, so this step is the hard part for me.)

Pack immediately into clean and hot jars.  Arrange pre-heated seals and rings, then tip upside down for a few minutes.
Or process in canner 30 minutes. (I've never processed mine, and although the experts would frown upon this, I've kept it for up to 2 1/2 years.  It's always stayed good.)


No comments: