Green Tomatoes, Mincemeat and Ingenuity: Why I'm Grateful for the Women Who Have Gone Before Me
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Green Tomatoes, Mincemeat and Ingenuity: Why I’m Grateful for the Women Who Have Gone Before Me

green tomatoes on ledge 2

This week I breathed a sigh of thankfulness that I have read the Little House on the Prairie series. That Caroline Ingalls was a wonder, as were so many of the inspiringly creative and brilliant pioneering women who came before us!

Due to poor supports (a lack of foresight on my part), a heavy load of tomatoes and then a rainy downpour, 5 of my tomato plants collapsed the other week. I went outside to my garden after the storm to find them all alive, but in a big, wet heap.

Wet Plants + No Room For Air Circulation = Disease

It’s an unfortunate equation, but it’s true, as most gardeners can attest to. In my case, my lovely tomato plants succumbed to deadly blight. Even though I picked them all green, brought them inside and wiped them off as well as I could, the blight continued to spread and the tomatoes continued to die. It was painful. A summer’s worth of effort and love, and I sat there helpless, watching it go in the compost heap.

And then I remembered… Ma Ingalls and her ingenius “apple” pie. During yet another year in another new homestead, the family had little to show as far as garden harvest, and the green pumpkins showed little sign of ripening. Not one to waste or let a difficulty beat her, Ma decided to turn those green pumpkins into food for her family. She came up with the idea of slicing them, covering them with pie spices, and baking them into an “apple” pie her family raved about.

If she could make apple pie out of unripe pumpkins, then surely I could find a way to save my green tomato harvest. So I began looking through my books… The Little House Cookbook (yes, such a thing exists, and I love it!), Putting Food By, and Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning.

green tomato mincemeat jars

Between them all, I came up with a recipe for Green Tomato Mincemeat (minus the meat), using my tomatoes, a bag of free crab apples my Dad brought from his backyard, beef tallow, vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, spices, etc. I made up a large batch and canned it according to the non-canning guidelines of Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning.

The vinegar and sugar should preserve it just fine. I made 8 pints, which will make us quite a few mincemeat pies or many batches of tarts.

Truthfully, I’ve never made mincemeat before, and I’m actually not sure that I’ve ever eaten it, either. My little taste tests while it was simmering told me that it was delicious, though. I was just so grateful to have found a way to save at least some of my tomatoes!

I’m learning to put aside my pickiness and take advantage of the food made available to me, even when it seems easier or more appealing to just allow it to go to waste. Last year it was ruined sweet pickles becoming relish; this year I found a way for us to eat green tomatoes. Who knows what’s next!

I’m certain that many of you have gotten creative and found ways to preserve food that would have otherwise gone to waste.

I would LOVE to hear your stories, ideas or recipes for saving food to feed to your families!

**Planning to do some preserving? Need some ideas for how to put away some summer bounty? Take a look through the Real Food Preserve-Till-You-Drop roundup of recipes, links and tutorials for all methods of preserving!**

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  1. I don’t care for real mincemeat but my mother always made green tomato mincemeat, it’s great! not sure ours had the beef tallow in it though. Love your site!

  2. I make a green tomato soy, which is basically a relish that is amazing!! I don’t want all of my tomatoes to ripen because I want to make sure I have enough to make this delicious relish. I have also made a green tomato mincemeat, minus the tallow that you put into yours. I haven’t tried it yet, but it sure did smell yummy.

  3. Love this post! I also finished reading the Little House series for the first time and am a proud owner of the Little House cookbook. What a great idea for preserving and I can’t wait to hear about your first delicious concoction using it. 🙂

  4. LOL I was just thinking about the green pumpkins and Ma Ingall’s experience YESTERDAY since I have some in my garden…although they may ripen yet as we haven’t yet had a frost (just warnings). Other years they have successfully been ripened indoors too.

    In the More with less cookbook it talked about a family eating the leaves on the cauliflower plant since they didn’t form cauliflowers.

    Every year I must ripen most of my green tomatoes inside. I layer them with newspaper in a box in the basement, rotate and check them every few days, and they ripen well. If I get too many at once, I puree them in the blender and freeze the puree (not skinning them, just wash and core). Its great in soups and stews.

  5. I totally thought of Ma Ingalls when Doodlebug picked all the green tomatoes off my plant (and took bites out of most of them). I cut around the bitten parts and made quiche!

  6. I’m from the south and I intentionally pick green ones for fried green tomatoes, but we also eat green tomato relish (I haven’t tried to make this on my own)it’s tangy, sweet and spicy.

  7. I discovered green tomato mincemeat last year when a wet season left us with more green tomatoes than red, and am planning to make another batch this year with all the greens still left on our plants (It’s a great addition to baked goods of all kinds, but I also love it just as it is mixed in with plain yogurt.) I also made salsa verde last year instead of the more tradiitonal red salsa. This year I am going to try a few yellow cucumber recipes to make use of our over-ripe cukes.

  8. We always have unripened tomatoes when the threat of frost hits us in the Northwest. Although we look at it as a treat and would never use up a whole crop of tomatoes for it, we LOVE fried green tomatoes at our house. We cover them in a Parmesan coating and dip them in marinara. Ohhhh, its delish!

  9. Thanks for the ideas. In the Interior, I usually have green ones left at the season’s end and find that while they can ripen indoors, they don’t taste as good.

    A side note: My in-laws were just telling me yesterday that they just took out all of their blighted tomatoes and plants from their compost. (Also Lower Mainlanders – probably succumbed to the same weather as your plants.) They had just read in the Sun that apparently compost doesn’t properly remove the blight. I have no idea how accurate this information is, but thought you may want to look into it, knowing how valuable good compost can be.

    1. that is true… compost won’t remove blight. and it can actually live is soil for years and rear it’s ugly head when the correct environment is present.

  10. I love fried green tomatoes too. Also good are dilly green tomatoes from the Ball Book of Canning. Yum! One of my husband’s favorite canned items.

    I’m curious about the green tomato mincemeat. Anyone have a recipe??

  11. My mom made green tomato relish, which was a sweet relish that was so good on hot dogs and in deviled eggs and tuna salad. Way to try something new and not waste.

  12. I live in Louisiana, and for our fall tomato harvest, the farmer I buy from tells me that people will buy bushels of green tomatoes to make chow-chow (spicy tomato relish).

    I too have heard you aren’t supposed to compost tomato plants w/blight as you’ll transfer the disease to the compost and then into the soil.

  13. Oh, I’m having some green tomatoes now too, they are still on the vine (hoping they’ll ripen) but the weather i s not helping.. could you share your recipe with us? I actually love tomatillo salsa (tomatillo is a green smaller tomato, even when ripe, covered with a husk that is more acidic than regular tomato). Is this mincemeat similar in taste? Why does it look redish even with green tomatoes? Did you add some ripen tomatoes as well? Thanks for your help.

    1. @Ivonne, I hadn’t planned on posting the recipe, but these recipes are fairly similar:,1623,156189-253197,00.html,1627,157189-255196,00.html (but I didn’t use oranges, and only used lemon juice, and I did use beef tallow

      I actually have no idea what tomatillo salsa tastes like. They’re very hard to find up here in Canada!

      It looks red because I was using tart red crab apples, which were so small that I didn’t bother peeling them. I think also the apple cider vinegar and the sucanat (raw sugar) add to the darker, reddish color.

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