Ritter’s Green Tomato Relish – “What this recipe needs is green tomato relish!” According to the DH, green tomato relish is the missing ingredient when making his mom’s “Beef Barbecue” recipe.
Not just any relish mind you but Ritter’s Green Tomato Relish!
Every so often, I get a request for this taste bud flashback to his favorite childhood meal.
As you can see in the photo below, it is listed specifically by name in my mother in law’s original recipe.
We’re not talking Piccalilli or chutney but a tomato based relish. It means the main ingredient in this concoction is not cucumbers – which as all cooks will agree makes a big difference in the taste.
I grew up with continental and intercontinental cuisines so it is rather difficult for this cook to get excited about a recipe that includes ground beef, sugar and a very Pennsylvania Dutch style condiment.
While it has been a long time since I last prepared what could more aptly be called a homemade Sloppy Joe mixture, this particular recipe was elevated to a different status with the title of Beef Barbecue.
In southeastern Pennsylvania, in other words, the Philadelphia area, ask for Beef Barbecue and you will get sloppy joes not pulled beef brisket in a barbecue sauce.
I have two versions of this recipe en direct from the Delaware valley.
One version was written for inclusion in a fund-raising community cookbook compiled by the Women’s Auxiliary. The recipe is quite vague. I’m thinking my mother-in-law Margaret was not going to divulge her secret ingredient!
The other is the handwritten version found tucked away in her personal cookbook. It is considerably more detailed in listing specific ingredients and instructions for preparation.
Unfortunately, Ritter’s® relish is history (much to the chagrin of its devotees) but just this past weekend, I came up with a “tastes almost like it” culinary rendition of my husband’s favorite meal from back in the 50’s and 60’s. It’s just one of the many Pennsylvania Dutch recipes I’ve learned to prepare.
There is a moral to this story. Don’t go looking for a unique ingredient such as Ritter’s® green tomato relish at the last minute.
After scanning the condiment aisles of all our Woodbridge, Virginia neighborhood supermarkets à la recherche of the elusive green tomato relish – any tomato relish for that matter – it quickly became obvious that the beef barbecue was going to be prepared without that specific ingredient.
So…why not turn this into a challenge to figure out how to recreate the taste?
Here is the original recipe, complete with ingredients and instructions.
Homemade condiments – that’s what happens when you can’t find the green tomatoes!
Needless to say, we were not going to find any green tomatoes (I considered using salsa verde however tomatillos would veer towards a south of the border flavor) but barring cucumbers, the two other principal ingredients found in most relishes are green peppers and onions.
To save time, I purchased:
From now on, I will be keeping an eye out for green tomatoes at our local farmer’s markets and other fruit and vegetable road stands in the “valley”.
While nothing will replace Ritter’s, Efsitz gave us express permission to share a recipe for a homemade version of the original recipe.
Indeed, for quite a few of us, “There Is No Relish Like Ritter Relish”!
- 4 lb fresh green tomatoes (post-frost will NOT do)
- 2 1/4 lb onions
- 1 1/4 lb sweet peppers (red & green) w/ seeds
- 2/3 cup coarse sea salt (for draining)
- 1 1/2 cup white 5% vinegar
- 2 cup cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 tbsp prepared mustard (ordinary yellow mustard is fine)
- 1 3/4 tsp dry mustard (I use Coleman’s)
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp celery seeds
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground allspice
- 3/4 tsp ground cloves
- 2 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
Chop veggies to relish consistency (1/4 inch dice, a food processor works fine), put in a big “nonreactive” (non-aluminum) bowl, add salt, blend, cover & refrigerate 24 hours.
Drain, wash moderately w/ cold H2O (i.e. get a lot of the salt off but you don’t have to go crazy), squeeze out excess water. Blend remaining ingredients in a pot, cook until sugars have dissolved.
Add squeezed veggies and bring to a boil, then simmer at a good clip, stirring, for about 10 minutes until the peppers have changed color.
Divide among clean 1/2 pint canning jars, leave 1/4 inch of head space. Seal, boil 15 minutes in water bath. Cool & store at least two weeks to allow flavors to develop.
It does not have the Ritter name on the label, but green tomato relish is still available as an Amish style condiment so next time, I will be sure to pick up a few jars at the General Store and try the recipe with the real thing – just to taste the difference green tomato relish makes to the overall flavor of Beef Barbecue.
Turns out there are quite a few variations on the tomato based relish. There is a southern style, one made in Tennessee and no doubt, many homemade varieties including the wonderful recipe posted above.
Unfortunately, we will never know the exact recipe or even all the ingredients that made Ritter’s THE brand…other than this particular brand had its origins in Pennsylvania. In the same location the family called home. What a surprise.
We’ll have to stock up on green tomato relish the next time we travel north to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
1 Cook, 2 Countries & A Taste For World Cuisines: A La Mode De Chez Nous - Cuisine d'Hier Et d'Aujourd'hui! For the love of home style cooking and great food. Memories are made of this!