I’m continually amazed at the resourcefulness of my Amish cousins, and their ability to utilize foods that would normally just go in the bin; like green tomatoes. Other than fried, I’ve never seen people use green tomatoes in anything that’s very tasty. So when I stumbled on a recipe for Green Tomato Bread in one of my Amish cookbooks a few years ago I was curious, but highly skeptical about the end product. At the time, I happened to have some green tomatoes sitting unused and unloved on my counter, so I decided to give the recipe a whirl. Besides, what did I have to lose except a few tomatoes that were most likely destined for the compost pile anyway?
I carefully followed the recipe (which was incredibly difficult for me), slipped the half filled loaf pans into the oven, counted down the minutes, and waited. Tick…tick…tick…tick…tick……..45 minutes felt like two hours, but I resisted the urge to crack open the door to the oven and take a peek. Right on cue, the timer began beeping and I rushed to the stove and pulled two perfectly golden, fragrant loaves of raisin and nut studded sweet bread out of the oven. My kitchen instantly filled with the homey and enticing fragrance of fresh, hot, sweet bread, and I placed my face close to the pans and slowly breathed in the delicious aroma. I was becoming hopeful.
After a few minutes of resting in the pans, I turned the warm loaves out onto a wire rack to finish cooling, and to my delight there were a few bits that stuck to the bottom of the pan. I considered it my duty to test this new recipe on myself before subjecting my family to it – just in case it had somehow been poisoned!
The small bites that greeted my taste buds were wonderful! The bread was sweet, but not too sweet. It was moist, but not soggy. The nuts and raisins were a perfect compliment to the green tomatoes. And from that moment on, I was hooked. Oh how I wanted to dive into the steaming loaves, but somehow I managed to maintain some self-restraint. I busied myself with washing and drying the pans, putting them away, wiping off the counter and sweeping the floor. Every few seconds my eyes would flit over to the two loaves on the cooling rack, and I’d think, I wonder if it’s cool enough yet?……….How about now?………..Maybe it’s good now?………….Has it been a half an hour yet?…………
Finally, all my chores were completed and I felt it was safe to cut into the bread for the “official” taste test. Carefully, I cut myself a slice off the end, smeared some room temperature butter on the surface of the warm bread, watching it melt as the knife pushed the sweet creamy butter around, and then I took a bite………….and bells went off in my head (okay, not really, but it was pretty good!). The crust was slightly crunchy but not overcooked, the flavor was mild – not too sweet, but still pleasing. There are no spices in the recipe, so it has a very clean and distinctive flavor. The tomatoes had softened and practically dissolved into the bread, leaving behind sweetened pockets of super moist bread. And the raisins and nuts gave a chewy crunch. Truly, this was the second best application for green tomatoes I’d ever tasted (fried is of course my favorite way).
So if you’re like me and have a garden that’s done for the season, but you’re stuck with a whole lotta green tomatoes left on the vine, don’t throw them into the compost pile. Give this recipe a chance to stretch its wings in your kitchen. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Green Tomato Bread
(adapted from Amish Heritage Cookbook by Beverly Lewis)
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup oil (or applesauce if you want to make it low-cal)
2 tablespoons vanilla
2 cups of sugar (or 1 cup of honey)
2 cups of green tomatoes, cut into a 1″ dice
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup golden raisins or dried cranberries (or any dried, sweetened fruit of your choice)
2. In a large mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment combine eggs, oil, vanilla, sugar and green tomatoes on medium speed. Add in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nuts and raisins and continue blending until dry ingredients are just combined.
3. Pour mixture into prepared pans and bake in the preheated oven for 45 – 60 minutes, or until they pass the toothpick test.
4. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Turn loaves out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
You can serve this bread warm with a slather of butter, jam, or apple butter. Or it can be glazed if you have a super sweet tooth, and the recipe is fairly mild so you can add in the zest of an orange or lemon to brighten the flavor. This bread also freezes well and makes excellent and unexpected gifts.