Fall feels like the time to make mincemeat and chutney. Spicy scents of cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, sweet and sour flavors of sugar and vinegar, savory overtones of onion, garlic and cayenne are all welcome on these cooler, darker days. And the season’s apples, pears and even the last green tomatoes lend themselves to long, slow simmering.
My mother made green tomato mincemeat every fall, canning it in quart jars and using it through the winter for pies and cookies. I have a slip of paper on which I copied her recipe years ago, and those falls when I have green tomatoes I pull it out and make a batch or two. This fall I had enough green tomatoes for a double batch.
Amy’s Green Tomato Mincemeat
1½ pints chopped tart apples
1 pint chopped green tomatoes
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp each: allspice, cloves, and salt
3 cups sugar
1 pound raisins
¼ cup vinegar
1 cup suet
Peel and chop apples, chop tomatoes, grind suet, mix all together, bring to rapid boil and simmer until thick. Pour into sterile jars and seal.
The green tomatoes are the last of the Brandywines and Cherokee Purples picked from the very top of the indeterminate vines. The apples are Melrose, our latest season apple, a great keeper and possibly our favorite. Raisins and unrefined cane sugar, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and vinegar follow the list of ingredients. The variation this year is leaf lard instead of suet.
I had some leaf lard from a recent pig purchase so I decided to substitute it, pork for beef. The melting point of lard is just a little lower than the melting point for suet (95 to 113 degrees F compared to 115 to 122 degrees F http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipe/fats.html) so I think the substitution will work fine. I could also simply leave out the fat. My friend Debbie has left it out of her green tomato mincemeat sometimes and she says the mincemeat is fine. Still, one of the best things about a mincemeat pie is how the small amount of suet in the mincemeat absorbs into the butter-based pastry to create a wonderfully flakey crust. I’m trusting that the leaf lard will have the same effect.
I used the Cuisinart to chop the apples and tomatoes and grind the leaf lard and mixed them and all the other ingredients into a kettle and set it on the stovetop to simmer.
Very quickly, the fragrance of cloves, cinnamon and allspice rose from the pan and I was back in my mother’s kitchen and all the other kitchens where I’ve made green tomato mincemeat. The mincemeat simmers for about three hours, reducing and thickening with occasional stirring until the moisture from the apples and tomatoes evaporates and the rich, dark mixture is ready to can. I used pint jars this time because that’s what I had, processing them for twelve minutes in a boiling water bath. The jars all sealed and by the next morning, the mincemeat looked lovely, the dark tomato, apple, raisin mixture lightly marbled with fat.
My mother never made chutney and I didn’t start to make it until a few years ago when I discovered how delicious it is with so many winter foods. It took a while to find a recipe that I liked enough to make again, but finally last year a Google search led to this simple pear ginger chutney recipe, now my favorite: http://homecooking.about.com/od/condimentrecipes/r/blcon41.htm I made it again this year.
Pear Ginger Chutney
3 pounds fresh pears (about 7 cups), unpeeled, cored, and diced
1 pound brown sugar
2 cups cider vinegar
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup diced, preserved ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
2 teaspoons mustard seed
Combine brown sugar and vinegar in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the pears, onion, raisins, ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and mustard seed. Cook slowly, stirring from time to time, until the mixture is thick.
The pears are Conference pears, an heirloom English variety that produces well in our small orchard. I’ve also used Orcas pears and even Comice pears in this recipe. Instead of preserved ginger, which I didn’t have, I used candied ginger and increased the amount to about a cup.
I peel the pears and chop by hand before adding them, onions, ginger, garlic and spices to the sugar/vinegar mixture. The chutney takes two to three hours of slow simmering to reach the thickness and rich dark color I like.
Then I can it, usually in pints but sometimes in half-pint jars. It makes a lovely gift.
Chutney pairs well with any food that needs a little zing of sweet/sour/spicy/hot flavor. One of my favorite ways to eat it is with a baked potato topped generously with grated cheddar cheese, a great lunch or easy dinner. Chutney is also delicious with savory tarts. Last night I served it with cauliflower cheddar pie. It’s wonderful with roasted meats like pork or chicken. And, of course, it’s classic with curries.
As for mincemeat pie and cookies: I just made both, eager to try this year’s mincemeat. The pie is lovely with a flakey crust and rich, spicy filling. And the cookies, called Mincemeat Goodies in my mother’s recipe box, are soft and spicy and perfect for bringing back memories of people and places from autumns past.
Amy’s Mincemeat Goodies
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, well beaten
1 cup mincemeat
about 3 cups cake flour
1 tsp soda
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cloves
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp salt
(½ cup chopped nuts, optional)
Mixture should be almost stiff enough to stand. Bake 350 for 13 minutes.