Traditional Recipe: Green Tomato Pickles

When I was writing about Johnathan Kaser , one of my father’s uncles, I saw a newspaper article about his wife Amanda winning prizes at the county fair. The one that caught my eye was “tomato pickles.” She also made the best butter, but I’m not going so far as to buy a butter churn, sorry. I have only made anything close to this once before, when I tried my Grandma Vera’s Red Pepper Jam.

Tomato pickles usually means green tomato pickles, so I’m going out on a limb and doing a recipe for green tomato pickles that may or may not win a blue ribbon at the Coshocton County Fair. (And you know I like green tomatoes– I even made them into pie.)

Green Tomato Relish

Green Tomato Relish ingredients. The Farmer’s Market green tomatoes were small, but the red peppers were large.

The trusty Sonnenberg 150th Anniversary Cookbook did not have a recipe for tomato pickles. (But I did spot one for an easy rhubarb jam, which will probably show up here later.–See how easily diverted I am by a cookbook?) The Buffalo Evening News Cook Book had a few recipes, but the directions were sparse. However, when I turned to the Internet  recipes abounded. Too many. It was quite confusing.

There are two main variations in the recipes. One in the technique used–some use short cuts; and the other in the type of spices–some on the spicy side (dill, garlic, mustard seed) and some on the sweet (cinnamon, cloves, allspice.)  The older recipes call for soaking the vegetables in lime (sometimes called slaked lime or household lime).  Since that is not a technique that I’m familiar with, I went with the more modern version–using salt and a  vinegar and sugar syrup.

Salted Green Tomatoes for Relish

Green Tomatoes and Red Peppers, salted.

Note: most versions of green tomato relish use onion, sliced or diced. Since I cannot eat onions, I left them out. You can decide how important they are to your pickled green tomatoes.

Finally, after reading a dozen or more recipes, I combined two.  I liked the longer salting period in one and I wasn’t crazy about the cinnamon, cloves, allspice combo.  I wanted to use my own spices rather than result to canned pickling spices.  And I decided not to use dill, because although I love dill pickles, others in the household do not.

I also do not have a canner, so followed a refrigerator method. My pickles should last about two months.  The worst thing about making these (aside from the vinegar smell pervading the house) is that you can’t really get an idea what they taste like for a least a week. Torture! [UPDATE: They are great. As I mention in the note that comes with the recipe, I’d like to try them with a little less sugar and a bit more spice–maybe some red pepper flakes–but meanwhile I’m slathering them on eggs, in chicken salad, on meat of all kinds, and even plain on bread and butter.]

Green Tomato Pickles

Ingredients

  • 6 cups green tomatoes
  • 6 tablespoons Kosher salt (or 3 Tblsp regular)
  • 1 Red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 2 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 3 teaspoons celery seed
  • 3 teaspoons peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic or 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seed

Directions

1. Wash tomatoes and cut out stem and any bad spots. Cut small tomatoes in halves or quarters. Make thick slices of large tomatoes. Wash, stem and remove seeds from red pepper and dice. Put non-reactive strainer in sink and layer tomatoes and peppers, salting each layer (I used 3 layers and divided the salt in thirds.) Let this sit for 6 hours or overnight.
2. Wash in hot soapy water the jars needed, and set aside. (I used one quart jar and one half-pint jar).
3. Take a square of cheesecloth and place the spices in it and tie the crosswise corners making a pouch (or a tea strainer would do). Set aside.
4. When ready to finish the tomato pickle, put a non reactive pan (I used Corning ware) on the stove and put the vinegar and sugar in it, stirring to dissolve sugar. Drop in the spice bag. Bring to boil over high heat and cook until reduced by about 1/3--to a thin syrup.
5. Lightly rinse the tomatoes and peppers in the strainer and shake off excess water. Add to the syrup and cook until the syrup is thick. Total cooking time for the syrup will be about 1 1/2 hours.
6. Allow to cool, and spoon into jars. Poke down with spoon to pack tightly. Pour syrup over, using a table knife or chopstick to get air bubbles released. Tighten lids and refrigerate. If processing, leave 1/4" head space.
7. Do not open for about a week. Tomatoes will keep in refrigerator for two months.

Note

You do not need to peel the tomatoes for green tomato pickles. Some recipes call for dicing them. That depends on how you think you will use them.

The original instructions I took this from called for cooking the tomatoes in the syrup for the full 1 1/2 hours. I preferred to keep them a bit crispier, so didn't add them until later in the process.

If you use onions, they are layered with the tomatoes and peppers.

Another method is to divide the spices between the jars when you add the tomatoes.

If you want to process the tomato pickle relish for longer storage, instead of refrigerating, put in hot water canner and follow the instructions given by the manufacturer.

UPDATE: Now that I have waited a week and tasted them, I'm ready to enter these in the County Fair. They are a little sweet for my taste, but my husband likes them as they are. I'd add more spice, and cut back a bit on the sugar. But still--they are delicious on eggs, or meat, or just on bread and butter.

52 Ancestors: #30-Helen Stucky Bair Kohler Faces A Challenge

For the time being, I have set aside my own family research (except for occasional timely notes).Instead  I am searching for ancestors of my husband, Kenneth Ross Badertscher. Today–his maternal grandmother.

Helen Stucky (Bair, Kohler) 1890-1974

I am quite sure that Helen Stucky faced many challenges in her life, but one is so huge that I have trouble getting my mind around it.  I first met “Grandma Kohler” when my husband and I married.  She loved filling her farm house with family at Thanksgiving, and never tired of having grandchildren climb over her.

Helen Stucky

Great-Grandma Helen Kohler with Mike, Kenneth Paul, and Brent, in Ohio, 1966.

This picture was taken at Ken’s parents home (Agnes Bair Badertscher and Paul Badertscher) near Dalton, Ohio.  Agnes Bair was Helen’s first child from her first marriage.

Helen Stucky Bair Kohler was tall and had the big hands of a woman made for farm work. She’d fit right into Grant Wood’s American Gothic. But she did not look stern. She was sweet, modest, and welcoming to all, and a terrific cook. Knowing her in her old age, it was hard for me to imagine some of the hardships she had lived through. I’ll never know if these tragedies created her placid personality, or if her placid personality helped her survive adversity.

A Big Family

The oldest daughter born to Frederick and Ida Stucky, Helen grew up on the family farm in York Township, Tuscarawas County, Ohio, near New Philadelphia.  Her father and mother were of Swiss heritage, and kept a dairy farm on Stone Creek Road. By 1910, when Helen was 19, she had seven siblings still at home ranging in age from 3 to 17.  Her sister Bessie, now 16, is not listed with Fred and Ida on that year’s census–probably working out of the home, as was Helen, although I have not found Bessie in a 1910 census report. (A 6-year-old brother had died in 1895, when Helen was just five years old. In 1915 one more sister came along to make it a family of ten living children.)

Around 1917, when Gladys (b. 1915) was a toddler, the family had this portrait made.

Helen Stucky family

Della, Bessie, Helen, Carl, Gertrude, Carrie, Bertha. Bottom row: John, Fred, Ida, Gladys, Frank Stucky
Circa 1917

Young Love

Helen Stucy

Helen Stucky/Adam Bair Marriage Certificate

In March 1912 when she was 21 years old, Helen married Adam Daniel Bair (22), who was known as Adam.  Like her father, he was a dairy farmer, although the Bair family came from Germany rather than Switzerland.  The couple must have had high hopes for their newly acquired farm, when they posed for this picture with some of Helen’s sisters and her first child, Agnes, who was born in 1913. It is a Dodge Touring Car from 1915.

Helen Stucky Bair

In the back seat Stucky Sisters, Bessie, Gertrude and Della. In front Helen and Adam Bair Sr. and Agnes Bair. Circa 1915.

The Challenge

In 1917, Adam Bair faithfully filled out his World War I registration card, showing he had a wife and one child. He was described as tall, stout, with dark brown hair and blue eyes.  But then, just a year and a half after filling out his registration card, the worldwide calamity that followed World War I hit Ohio, and Adam Bair, tall and stout as he was, fell victim to the flu that killed thousands. Adam died in January, 1919.

Helen was two months pregnant when her husband died. She may not even have realized that she was carrying another child.  At the age of 28, she was a widow and a single mother. I can imagine that having worked at the County Alms House that housed the old, the infirm, and those without any financial support, including mothers with small children, she was determined not to be sent to a place like that.

As much as she would not have wanted to be a burden on her parents, who still had five children at home, she really had no choice.  The oldest of the Stucky siblings still at home, Carl (24), was a steel worker, so he was contributing to the family income. The youngest child at home was Gladys (5), who must have been one of those midlife surprises–nearly the same age as Helen’s Agnes. A baby boy was born in August of the year his father died (1919),and Helen named him Adam Daniel after his father. Then Helen went looking for work. Like her sisters, she found domestic work, to help contribute to the budget, but instead of “working out” she lived at home with her parents and her children.

A Second Family

In 1921 the widow found some security when she married Ralph Kohler, seven years her junior, but like her from a large family of Swiss dairy farmers. In 1922, their first daughter, Inez, was born.  Three years later Richard was born and two years after Richard, the youngest, Hannah, arrived.  Her two Bair children and three Kohler children grew up on the Kohler Farm in Sugar Creek Township, Wayne County, Ohio.  The farm’s address was a rural route out of Dalton, Ohio.

The Kohler farm was a bicycle ride away from Ken Badertscher’s home in Dalton, where his mother Agnes had moved with her husband Paul Badertscher. As a young boy, Ken spent summer days working on the dairy farm. In 1959, Ralph (61) died. Helen’s oldest son, Adam, stayed on and ran the farm, even after he married.  And Helen lived in the same farm house for the rest of her long life.

Helen Esther Stucky (Bair) Kohler died in 1974 when she was 84 years old and was buried in Orrville, Ohio.

Helen Kohler

Helen and Ralph Kohler gravestone, Orrville, Ohio

The suggested theme for this week’s 52 Ancestors challenge was the word “Challenging.” Although the suggestion was to write about an ancestor that is particularly difficult to research, I picked one of my husband’s family who faced a terrible challenge of her own. The research was actually easy.

How Ken is Related

  • Kenneth Ross Badertscher is the son of
  • Agnes Bair Badertscher, who is the daughter of
  • Helen Stucky (Bair) (Kohler) and
  • Adam Bair

Research Notes

This post was inspired by photographs of the Stucky-Bair-Kohler family posted on Ancestry.com, and passed on by a cousin and some belonging to Kay Badertscher.

The ornate marriage license of Helen Stucky and Adam Bair hangs to the wall in our home.

Research at Ancestry.com, including

U.S. Federal Census Records: 1900 census, York Township, Tuscarawas County, Ohio; 1910 Censuses, Goshen Township and York Township, Tuscarawas County, Ohio; 1920 Census: York Township, Tuscarawas County, Ohio; 1930 Census, Sugarcreek Township, Wayne County, Ohio; 1940 Census, Sugarcreek Township, Wayne County, Ohio.

Ohio, Births and Christenings Index, 1800-1962, Tuscarawas County, Adam Daniel Bair

Ohio, Births and Christenings Index, 1800-1962, Tuscarawas County, Helen E. Stucky

World War I Draft Registration, June 1917 for Adam Daniel Bair.

World War I Draft Registration, August 1918 for Ralph Kohler, U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, Registration State: Ohio; Registration County: Wayne; Roll: 1851302; Draft Board: 2, Ancestry.com

Ohio, Deaths, 1908-1932, 1938-2007, Certificate: 30310; Volume: 15762, Ancestry.com and Ohio Department of Health Adam Daniel Bair

Certificate: 088234; Volume: 21905, Helen Esther Stucky

Amish Buttermilk Cookies

After making some buckwheat pancakes, I had about one cup of buttermilk left over.  In the grandmotherly spirit of waste not, want not, I wondered if there was not a good recipe buttermilk cookies.  Although I could make my Grandmother’s Sugar Cookies with buttermilk instead of sour cream, I was curious about other traditional recipes.

Amish Buttermilk Cookie

Amish Buttermilk Cookies out of oven

And look what I found!  The perfect buttermilk cookie recipe. It is labeled an Amish cookie, and comes directly from Holmes County, Ohio where so many of my relatives grew up.  I’m about to turn to Ken’s family in my ancestor search, and although they were one county over, in Wayne County, Ohio, they were definitely solidly in Amish Country.  So although I have no direct evidence, I strongly suspect that his grandmothers might have made buttermilk cookies, too.

Googling led me to an inn in Holmes County Amish country, and recipes in their blog. I contacted the owner of The Barn Inn, situated in the heart of Ohio Amish country between the county seat of Millersburg and the “capitol of Amish land”, Berlin (pronounced with the accent on the first syllable).   She gave me permission to use her recipe verbatim.

The Barn Inn

The Barn Inn, Holmes County, Ohio

My ten-year-old granddaughter and I tested the recipe and loved the results: a soft, pillowy, comforting cookie.  Although it is traditionally finished with icing, I tested it without, first.  My 8-year-old grandson declared that it did not need frosting. What better cookie expert do you need than a 8-year-old boy?

Amish Buttermilk Cookies

Amish Buttermilk Cookies, with plain frosting and with nuts.

However, my husband, Ken, thought the buttermilk cookies were too bland. He wanted a little crunch. It was too late to add something on the inside of the cookie, so I put a lemony glaze on top and scattered nuts on–proving this is an adaptable cookie, with possibilities to suit everyone.

Amish Buttermilk Cookie

Serves 48
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 12 minutes
Total time 27 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
Website The Barn Inn
Amish Buttermilk Cookies are a soft cookie that are traditionally frosted with a brown sugar icing.

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 3/4 cups flour--white or half white and half wheat.
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

Directions

1. In large bowl, beat softened butter and sugar together until fluffy.
2. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
3. In second bowl, whisk together flour, soda and baking powder.
4. Mix the buttermilk alternately with the dry ingredients into the butter mixture.
5. Drop by large teaspoonfuls, about 2" apart on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees 10-12 minutes until brown on edges.

Note

When my grand daughter and I made the Amish Buttermilk Cookies, we used half wheat and half white flour, which did not affect the quality, but added a little nutrition.

I did not ice them at first, but my husband wanted some crunch, so I glazed some and scattered chopped pecans on top. (A few I frosted, because I like frosting more than he does.) I used a simple lemon juice, water and confectioners sugar glaze.

The frosting suggested by The Barn Inn is 2 1/2 Tablespoons butter, 5 Tablespoons brown sugar, 12 Tablespoons (3/4 cup) milk mixed with sifted confectioners sugar to the right consistency.

While you’re munching on an Amish Buttermilk Cookies, check out accommodations at The Barn Inn between Berlin and Millersburg, Ohio. What an appealing place. Now, should I go in the fall to see the leaves? Around Christmas for the Christmas Cookie tour of Inns? In the summer for the green, green hills?