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The secret's in the suet

September 08, 2004|by ANDREA ROWLAND

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Ed Bailey stewed his green tomatoes into a blue-ribbon pie at the 2004 Morgan County Fair in Berkeley Springs.

The strange but satisfying, old-fashioned Green Tomato Mince Pie recently won best of show for baked goods. The pie sold for $12.50 at the fair's silent auction.

"This recipe goes way, way back. It's been passed around quite a bit," said Bailey, 75, of the Berkeley Springs area. "It's just like a mincemeat pie without the brandy or the bourbon or the meat."


A bumper crop of tomatoes in 1991 prompted Bailey to request the recipe from another Morgan County resident. The mince recipe makes 8 pints - enough for eight pies. It calls for 2 quarts of tomatoes that have yet to ripen and suet, aka animal fat - an ingredient that Ed and Barb Bailey also feed to the birds around their home in winter but wouldn't recommend as a snack for humans.

"I wouldn't want to eat it alone, unless I was lost in the woods and starving," Barb Bailey joked.

But the suet gives good flavor and consistency to the pie's filling when combined with cooking apples, green tomatoes, candied fruit, vinegar and a variety of spices, the Baileys said.

The couple moved from New Jersey to the mountains outside Berkeley Springs in the late 1980s after retiring from Mobil Oil. They took turns in the kitchen while working, but Ed Bailey has taken on the role of primary cook in retirement, his wife said. Ed Bailey traces his culinary interests to a mother who was an "excellent cook" and a home economics class he took while attending high school near Cooperstown, N.Y. The "shapely teacher," rather than the subject matter, was his motivation for enrolling, Bailey recalled with a chuckle.

But her lessons stuck.

In addition to Green Tomato Mince Pie, Bailey's specialties are red velvet cake, grilled beef tenderloin and venison chili. The home-canned tomatoes that Bailey uses in his chili also earned him a blue ribbon at the 2003 Morgan County Fair. Barb Bailey brought home the blue for her homemade poundcake in 2003, and this year earned a first-place ribbon for her wildflower arrangement and second-place ribbons for her poundcake and homemade rolls.

None of those prizewinners take as much time to prepare as the filling for the Green Tomato Mince Pie, the Baileys said.

"It's an all-day job," Ed Bailey said.

The tomatoes don't have to be seeded, but they must be peeled and chopped. All of the filling's ingredients must stew together for more than two hours to reach the right consistency. And then the entire batch, minus however much filling will be used immediately for pies, must be ladled into pint-sized jars and canned.

Bailey swears by a shortcut for the pie's crust, though. He always uses Jiffy pie crust mix, an inexpensive boxed mix that he says makes a flaky crust. Bailey brushes the pie's bottom crust with egg white to keep the crust from getting soggy while baking, he said.

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