Sunday, July 27, 2014

Green Tomato Pie



"The pie connoisseurs who have been enumerating and classifying the different brands of pie in print of late have been guilty of a grievous omission in leaving out green tomato pie. Like sweet potato pie, the green tomato articled is indigenous to the southern section of the great pie belt, but there it is in high favor. There is no geographical reason why it should not become equally popular up North. The tomatoes distinguishing it are sliced and stewed in sugar in a way very taking to the sweet tooth, but they must first of all be green. Pie is still hopelessly unfashionable, but now that the doctors have come out with a denial that it is unhealthy, it bids fair to be in for a new lease of popularity, in which green tomato pie deserves to be included."

From "Don't Forget Green Tomato Pie," Washington Post, March 12, 1901 (p. 6)



Over one hundred years later and Green Tomato Pie may still be in need of this rallying cry. Fitting squarely in the family of "nothing in the house" or desperation pies, with apple pie-like seasoning, Green Tomato Pie is a kissing cousin to the mock apple, mincemeat, and funeral pie varieties. But it is decidedly its own unique entity. Green Tomato Pie, made from unripe tomatoes, is earthy and masculine, teetering on that savory-sweet divide, erring just towards the dessert side of things. It's one of those pies you don't see often on restaurant menus, and when you do you know you're somewhere special. It's more likely that when you encounter it, it'll be homemade, offered at an Amish market, a potluck, or in a "pie belt" kitchen in late summer, when the tomato vines are hanging heavy, gardens and kitchen counters overflowing with fruit. 

Appearing in cookbooks in the late 1800s, Green Tomato Pie seems to always have had a rural identity, with its footing in the Midwest and the South. Some claim it as an Amish or Mennonite recipe, but it has other lineages that may or may not overlap, African-American and prairie among them.



This version is an amalgam of a few different recipes I've come across, including Travis Milton's, the chef at Richmond, Virginia's Comfort and the man behind the Appalachian Food Summit's green tomato hand pies, of which I've heard such rave reviews. I also incorporated some ingredients from Nancie McDermott's Green Tomato Pie, as well as the Mennonite recipe my dad uses, which includes apples and raisins. 

This recipe really showcases the sorghum and molasses flavor--if you're not a fan of those ingredients, this may not be the pie for you (or you can opt to substitute with brown sugar or maple syrup). The sorghum does make it a little runny, which I don't mind, but if that's a pet peeve of yours, that might be another reason for a sugar substitution or adding a little additional thickener. This would also be a great pie to bake in a skillet, as Travis does, and serve with buttermilk ice cream and a glass of rye.

Green Tomato Pie
Inspired by a few recipes including Nancie McDermott's and Travis Milton's

Ingredients
Nothing in the House pie crust
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup sorghum or molasses (I used sorghum)
4 Tblsp. cornstarch or all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups (about 3 1/2 lbs) green tomatoes, thinly sliced into wedges (make sure these are unripe tomatoes, not ripe green heirloom tomatoes!)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into small chunks
2 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice or 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Egg wash (1 large egg whisked with 1 Tablespoon whole milk or heavy cream)
Turbinado sugar, for dusting

Directions
1. Prepare Nothing in the House pie crust as per the directions. After chilling the dough for at least 1 hour, roll out half of the crust and fit into a 9-inch greased and floured pie pan or a greased 9-inch skillet. Place pan and unrolled crust back into the fridge while you prepare the filling.

2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine the sugars, sorghum or molasses, thickener, spices, salt, and sliced green tomatoes, stirring everything together with a wooden spoon until  tomatoes are coated and everything is well-combined.

3. Pour the filling into the pie crust and arrange them so that they're mounded slightly in the center. Scatter the butter pieces over the filling and sprinkle on the lemon juice or vinegar.

4. Roll out the remaining pie crust and cut and arrange into a lattice or crust design of your choice. Seal and crimp edges. Brush crust with egg wash and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar. 

5. Bake pie on a baking sheet (this is to catch any drips) and bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees F. Lower heat to 350 degrees F and bake 40-50 minutes more, until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling throughout. Once baked, let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.



Related recipes: Apple Fried Pies
Cracker Pie aka Mock Apple Pie
Funeral Pie
Grandma Good's Green Tomato Pie
Savory Heirloom Tomato-Ricotta Galette

4 comments:

Panda Head said...

this looks INCREDIBLE!!!

emily said...

Thanks, gal!!

Nancie McDermott said...

You just keep on being the best, doing the best, bringing the best. I love this post; learned a lot; stared at the photographs for minutes at a time in stunned reverie. Thankful for you, sorghum, ripe and unripe edible treasures, and summertime.

emily said...

Nancie,
You are just the sweetest. As always, I learn so much from your writing, recipes, and wisdom. So grateful for that and all your generosity.