Green Tomato Pie

A Pennsylvania Dutch favorite. The tart, slightly sour, and crisp unripe tomato has a flavor profile quite a bit like rhubarb, so while we usually think of the fried version, it also lends itself to sweeter applications.

Here’s a pretty skeletal version from the September 10, 1875 edition of The (Rochester, New York) Union-Spy:

I hear E.P.T. would like to have a recipe for green tomato pie. Here is one given me on purpose for him, which is said to have been tested and found good: Boil tomatoes till tender, peel and mash as fine as possible, add sugar, vinegar and spices of various kinds to suit your taste. Try it.

Hrm. Feels like it’d be kind of difficult to follow those instructions and come out with something resembling the desired result. Maybe we’ll have better luck with the version from the October 1, 1875 edition of The Monmouth (Illinois) Review:

–Green Tomato Pie.–Take about half a dozen of tomatoes about the size of a walnut in the hull; wash them, if you want clean pies, slice them in a dish and pour half a teacupful of sharp vinegar over them and let them sit until you want to make your pies; put in one layer of tomatoes, then strew a little flour over them and a pinch of cinnamon and sugar, and I put a tablespoonful of molasses to each pie if I have it, and about half a teacupful of water to each pie. Try them. Some of our folks think there is no better pie than good tomato pie. — Cor. Cin. Times.

Not everyone is an enthusiastic fan. Consider the commentary in the September 10, 1948 edition of the Somerset (Pennsylvania) Daily American lamenting the newspaper’s role in the promulgation of “G.T.P.”:

Post mortem — And now for just a moment let us exhume the late sugar pie vs. green tomato pie campaign. Response from the public made it interesting while it lasted, but we regret to say that we believe we have uncovered some evidence supporting the theory of the natural perversity of human nature. Weep with us, public.

For weeks, we were busy planting the suggestion that it would be a boost to the Roof Garden county to restore old-fashioned sugar pie to restaurant menus. And the response was gratifying. Practically every eating place in town adopted sugar pie or some variation of it. “Impressions” was showered with pies.

Then into this Eden of confectionate pastry there crept an insidious influence — green tomato pie. “Impressions” warned the public against the weird concoction with its gruesome name and color. But there was sent us a green tomato pie — to show us it was not so bad — and also a green tomato pie recipe, which we printed with certain reservations. These people acted from generous motives, and we thank them.

But green tomato pie caught the public fancy. Did they eat it? No, they just propagated the idea. “Impressions” editor was continually asked about green tomato pie. On a county-wide basis people inquired about G.T.P.

And did they inquire about sugar pie, after those weeks of campaigning? Not for a minute. Did they appreciate the noble efforts of the restaurateurs? Not by a jig — we mean, piepanfull.

People know that sugar pie is a delicious dessert, and a credit to the county. And they know that G.T.P. is a bizarre nightmare dating from the Somerset county days of hexes and witchcraft. Then why should they take the contrary side? Depravity, folks, depravity, is all we can figure.

From a box sold in Adams, Minnesota, with ephemera from Ohio.

Green Tomato Pie

1 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. vinegar
1 Tbsp. water
1/4 to 1 tsp. allspice
1/4 to 1 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 to 1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
Green tomatoes [Yesterdish suggestion: 8 to 10]

Take half-grown tomatoes, wash and thinly slice into a pie shell, then pour sugar and flour mixed with spices over tomatoes. Add the water and vinegar, pour over and dot with butter (like for apple pie). Add top crust.

Bake 450 deg. for 15 minutes, then 300 deg. for 30 minutes.

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