Green Tomato and Lime Chutney – because we have frost at last

Choosing the date for “first frost”  is always tricky – do I count a tiny brush of wilt on the lowest dahlia in the lowest spot? Or do I wait for the day when the basil turns black, summer squash – what’s left of it – goes transparent and the zinnias are no more?

snapdragon bouquet

Goodbye to all that.

Either way, this year “first frost”  is now in the record books.

Previous title holder for the light version was October 6th; this year it was the 9th or 10th (I was out of town). The complete squash-killer, never later than the 14th, didn’t arrive until two days ago and even now the upper garden still has untouched dahlias and cannas, among other improbables.

On the good side, ripe peppers galore, for two solid months.

roasting Krimson Lee peppers

Roasting peppers to peel and freeze

On the bad side, no green tomatoes. The plants gave out before they gave up. To say this too is a first is the understatement of the Western World, and while it’s pretty low on the catastrophe scale it does mean we’ll be hoarding the last of the last batch of Green Tomato and Lime Chutney.

Have to be sure there’s enough for Thanksgiving, so although it’s usually standard with everything autumn from smothered pork chops to roast winter squash, it’s going to be on the rare side this year until the harvest festival is safely behind us.


green tomato chutney with lime

Green Tomato and Lime Chutney, a nearly all purpose condiment

A look at the ingredient list suggests this should be “Green Tomato and Apple Chutney with raisins and candied ginger,” but lime is such a powerful flavor it earns its star billing.

For about 3 pints – and a taste*:

2 ½ c. white vinegar

2c. sugar

1 large, smooth skinned lime, plus 1 lime for final adjustments

3 ½  lbs. green tomatoes, coarsely chopped if large, cut into wedges if small

1 ¾ lbs. apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped

½ lb shallots, minced

10 oz. white raisins

¼ lb. candied ginger, cut in small dice

3 tbl. yellow mustard seeds

2 tsp. salt

1. Put the vinegar and sugar in a large non-reactive kettle; halve the lime and squeeze in the juice.

2. Remove the stringiest central membrane from the lime shell, then cut the rest – pulp, pith and all – into matchsticks. Dump them in a large pot of boiling water, turn off the heat and let them sit 2 minutes. Drain.

3. Put the lime sticks in a very small deep pan, cover with an inch or so of water and simmer over low heat until they’re soft enough to be cut with the edge of a fork – this may take 15 or 20 minutes; lime rind is tough. Drain and rinse.

4. Add the lime to the kettle along with everything else and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until tomatoes and apples fall apart and the chutney is thick.

5. Cool a spoonful, taste and add sugar or lime juice as necessary to make a nice balance of sweet and sour.

6. Store in the refrigerator pretty much indefinitely or can in a boiling water bath.

* This is a minimum, the amount I’ve gotten with large tomatoes that although green are mature enough to give off some liquid and an assortment of apples from the sweet end of the spectrum. Quantity will vary with the juiciness of the fruit and the pectin in the apples, so if your produce is low in juice and high in jelling material you could get well over 4 pints – or more.

Photo note: The batch in the picture was an experiment that omitted the mustard seeds. Bad idea. It’s much tastier with and it looks very nearly the same, just with more yellow dots. I should also note that the canning jar was strictly for presentation and was not used for canning. Old fashioned bail-topped jars sealed with rubber rings are less reliable than modern jars (although now that modern metal lids have been found to contain traces of BPA I suppose the bail-tops may be in for a revival).

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  • Sounds GREAT!!!!!!!!!!

  • Pam O Said,

    Ohhhh, something really interesting to do with the huge pile of green Juliet tomatoes that I cut off my plants about 4 days ago, just before our first below-32 degree night. (These plants did really great this summer, and had a real flush of fruit set after the major crop was almost all picked; planted on the outside, south end of my new hoophouse wherein all the rest of my tomatoes had long since succumbed to old age and powdery mildew.)
    Johnny’s sells this seed and remarks that Juliets are quite resistant to blight. I just wish the fruit were bigger… but they roast up really tasty on the grill for a little extra something sweet on the dinner plate.

  • Susan Scheid Said,

    We have been wondering what to do with all our green tomatoes. And lo, Leslie Land comes to the rescue once again with what looks to be a fabulous recipe! However, we also have way too many green tomatoes, so, if you would like to unburden us of some of them, just say the word!

  • Pam O Said,

    Leslie – I made up a batch with my Juliet tomatoes, which ended up giving me about 6 pints. Did I not cook long enough to boil down the chutney to a thick consistency? I didn’t want to lose all the texture, since the photo shows definite chunky-ness. Any advice will be appreciated.

    Wow, Pam, that IS a lot! A good reminder that the water content of both tomatoes and apples varies a great deal. I’m adding a note to clarify/emphasize that as with all cooked-down preserves the yield is likely to vary depending on the fruit.

    But even though Juliet is thick-fleshed (especially when green), and cherry tomatoes in general may behave somewhat differently from the large fruits I’ve always used, 6 whole pints does seem well outside of normal variation.

    Confess I’m intrigued – and will try with Juliets next year, just to check it out. Meanwhile, assuming the cooled finished product was nice and thick with no weeping even though there were still chunks of fruit, I can only assume those apples were really loaded with pectin.

    (The chunks in the photo are lumps of the chutney itself, by the way. My tomatoes and apples have always fallen apart by the time I got to a thick enough product, with only the ginger, raisins and blanched lime holding their texture to the end.)

    None of this much of a help, I guess, but on the bright side it’s nice that the main problem was – I hope! – an insufficiency of pre-sterilized jars.

  • This lovely post really takes me back to when I was a child. We had a large country garden and the first frost was a major event–collecting the green tomatoes in advance was a fall routine. Now, I’m in the burbs, so I’ve got only space for herbs. Except for the basil, which gets flattened like tomatoes, the herbs seem to hold up till it gets really cold. Your recipe seems similar to my aunts, except hers had no apples; she always added mustard seeds, btw. I miss her pickles….

    Happy to hear the post brought fond memories, Nancy, and it’s interesting to know about the mustard seeds. Do you have any of your aunt’s recipes? Of course, good cook that you are, you could probably make the pickles without her directions, but I have a feeling it isn’t really the pickles you miss.

  • Leslie, it happened AGAIN!!!! I made your wonderful green tomato and lime chutney and ended up with 4 1/2 QUARTS! Don’t know how that happens, but I’m glad it does. It really lasts forever.

    Good heavens, Melinda, you must have the canning kettle equivalent of Baucis and Philemon’s milk jug! After peeling, coring and chopping, the raw ingredients make scarcely more than that before you ever turn on the heat and start the considerable reducing involved. Even your fellow chutney-maker Pam O., who also wrote in (see comment below) to say her yield was greater than mine, wound up with about half of what you’ve got.

    Have to confess I didn’t make any last year – even though I said I would – but I did just now trot down to the kitchen to eyeball some apples, shallots, and (frozen) tomatoes, and all I can say is I wonder whether you’re making something more like salsa than chutney. Whatever it is, I’m certainly glad it’s still hitting the spot.

    Thanks so much for writing with this interesting latest. Among other things, I’m mighty impressed that you still have green tomatoes to work with. Ours have been over since mid-September, thanks to this year’s way-early ripe crop.

    • I had bunches of green cherries & grapes (Juliets) I’d picked before our (latish) frost that I’d been trying to ripen in a bag w/ bananas. Some just didn’t ripen though, so I chopped all remaining green ones, got about 2 1/2 lbs, then added about a lb of tomatillos, chopped, 2 lbs apples, same amount of vinegar etc. you recommended, & let it cook down quite a bit till it was fairly thick & gooey. I can’t explain it–seems to be a loaves & fishes phenom (though not at my behest of course). I’ll take it though! It’s just so yummy.

  • Or yes, Baucis & Philemon! The commonality I see with Pam is that we both used Juliets. The gift that keeps on giving!

    Expect it COULD be the Juliets, Melinda; they have very little juice compared to big slicing tomatoes (the only kind I’ve ever used for this recipe). We use Juliets for drying, in fact, and as I picture chopping them up I can see where they might well “cook down” without going much of anywhere.


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