The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

The Struggle to Survive

November 21st, 2007 · 6 Comments · Posted in Uncategorized

Finally, I had caught up enough with chores to start disassembling the tomato cages here on our edible landscape in the District of Columbia. The tomato plants seemed to have given up the ghost weeks ago, although the reappearance of August in October stretched the growing season to unheard of lengths.

But lookey here! Two days before Thanksgiving and the tomato plants are soldiering on, making new flowers and fresh leafy growth. Tomatoes are a hot weather plant, and temperatures lately have been dipping into the 30s. We are actually below normal for a change. But the tomatoes refuse to die. I can only admire their determination.

In fact, I have recently been scraping the bottom of our last jar of last year’s green tomato and apple chutney. Powerfully good stuff. Green tomatoes are utterly transformed by the addition of brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, raisins, coriander, mustard seed. We spread it on cheese with crackers. So as I started breaking down the tomato plants, I kept an eye out for green tomatoes and, sure enough, there they were. Not many, some old and gnarly, some small and very new. There were clusters of them on the cherry tomato plants. I collected those, too.

There may just be enough to make another batch of green tomato and apple chutney. On the chance others of you may have green tomatoes still to be harvested, I’m giving the chutney recipe we use, from Fancy Pantry. This chutney lasts a long time, and makes a thoughtful Thanksgiving or Christmas gift.

3 pounds completely green tomatoes

2 pounds firm, tart apples

2 cups raisin, either dark or golden

1 1/2 cups diced onions

2 teaspoons finely minced garlic

2 cups (packed) light brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons pickling or other fine non-iodized salt

1 1/2 cups cider vinegar, plus a little more if needed

3 to 4 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger, to taste

1 1/2 tablespoons mustard seed

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon finely minced fresh hot red pepper, 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or 1/4 teaspoon (or to taste) ground hot red Cayenne pepper

Rinse and drain the tomatoes. Cut out the stem scars and any blemishes and cut the tomatoes into 1/2-inch chunks. You should have about 8 cups. Place the tomatoes in a preserving pan or heavy pot.

Peel, core and cut the apples into 1/2-inch chunks; add them to the tomatoes. Add the raisins, onion, garlic, brown and granulated sugar, salt and vinegar. Mix the ingredients well and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and boil the mixture slowly, uncovered, stirring it often, for 30 minutes.

Add the ginger, mustard seed, coriander, cinnamon and hot pepper. Return to a boil, adjust the heat and continue to cook the chutney uncovered at a slow boil, stirring it often, until it holds a mounded shape when lifted in a spoon. Taste it carefully, remembering that the balance of flavors will improve as the chutney mellows in the jar; add, if needed, more vinegar, sugar, and/or salt.

Ladle the boiling-hot chutney into hot, clean pint or half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Seal the jars with new two-piece canning lids according to manufacturer’s directions and process for 10 minutes in a boiling-water bat. Cool, label and store the jars. Let the chutney mellow for a few weeks before serving.

This is a perfect chutney to have on hand the next time you make curry. Or, as I said, a small spoonful with cheese and a cracker makes a delicious snack. It will remind you all year long why we cherish our tomatoes.

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