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 from the DH 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.
Home made 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® original relish, 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 nothing like Ritter relish”!
- 4 lbs of fresh green tomatoes (post-frost will NOT do)
- 2.25 lbs onions
- 1.25 lbs sweet peppers (red and green) with seeds
- 2/3 cup coarse sea salt (for draining)
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 tbsp. prepared mustard (ordinary yellow mustard is fine)
- 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 the veggies to relish consistency (1/4 inch dice, a food processor works fine), put in a big “non-reactive” (non-aluminium) bowl, add salt, blend, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Drain, wash moderately, with cold H2O (in other words, 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 ten minutes, until the peppers have changed color.
Divide among clean 1/2 pint canning jars, leave a 1/4 inch of head space. Seal, boil 15 minutes in a water bath. Cool and store for at least two weeks to allow flavors to develop.
As an Amish style condiment, so the next time, I will be sure to pick up a few jars at the General Store and try preparing the recipe with the real thing – just to taste the difference green tomato relish makes in the overall flavor of Beef Barbecue.
There are quite a few variations of tomato based relish. There is one in North Carolina, one made in Tennessee and no doubt, many homemade variations including the wonderful recipe posted above.
Unfortunately, we will never know the exact recipe or even all the ingredients that made Ritter® THE brand of relish other than the fact that this relish has its origins in the Southeastern corner of Pennsylvania. In the same corner of the state 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.
When was the last time you made your own Pennsylvania Dutch condiments? Tomato, chow-chow or picallili?
This relish is the next best thing to Ritter’s Green Tomato Relish but I am guessing we could also order all the required veggies fresh from the farm!
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!
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