“Green tomato pie was something I always heard about when I was growing up, but we never made it,” says chef de cuisine Travis Milton. “Then one day, I cracked open Housekeeping in Old Virginia, and there was a detail-free recipe.” Further research into the particulars of the nearly extinct dessert revealed that nineteenth-century Southerners had prepared it as a summertime substitute for apple pie. Milton, whose repertoire is heavy with heirloom recipes inspired by his collection of vintage cookbooks, decided to give it a try. He devised his own recipe after weeks of trial and error. With an old-fashioned buttermilk crust baked in a layer of smoky bacon fat, and a sweet, jammy filling, it’s a throwback pie with character—and more than satisfying enough to hold you over till apple season.
Food & Drink
Green Tomato Pie
Chef Travis Milton shares a recipe for an old-fashioned dessert
photo: Peter Frank Edwards
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 2/3 cup butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
8 oz. chilled buttermilk
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
Filling and Assembly
2 slices smoked bacon
6 green tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
5 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tbsp. melted butter
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
1/2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp. sorghum or molasses
13-oz ball of pie dough (from preceding recipe)
For the dough:
Pour flour into a large bowl. Add sugar, salt, and butter to the flour, mix well, and transfer the mixture to a food processor. Pulse the ingredients together 3 to 4 times at about 4 seconds per pulse, until the mixture is the texture of coarse meal.
Return it to the mixing bowl, add buttermilk and vinegar, and work them into the dry ingredients with your hands. As a dough begins to form, fold it over itself. The process will create layers, ensuring a flaky crust.
Once the dough has come together, transfer it to a floured surface and, with a rolling pin, roll about half the dough into a circle 12 to 13 inches in diameter and a little more than ¹∕8-inch thick. Lightly flour the side of the dough facing up and place the rolling pin centered on the edge closest to you. Place your thumbs under the edge of the pie dough and roll it up onto the pin. Reserve the remainder of the dough for the lattice on top of the pie. Refrigerate both until ready to use.
Filling and assembly:
Place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add bacon to the skillet and cook until fat is rendered. Remove skillet from heat; remove bacon. Place skillet in a cool place and let it sit until fat has solidified.
Meanwhile, slice the green tomatoes into eighths. Place tomato wedges into a large mixing bowl with cinnamon, salt, sugar, and flour. Toss to coat. Then add butter, lemon juice and peel, vinegar, and sorghum or molasses, and toss again to make sure all ingredients are combined thoroughly and the flour isn’t clumping.
Once the skillet is cool, spread the bacon fat over the bottom and sides of the pan and top with the prepared piecrust. Crimp the edges and dot the center with a knife. Layer the tomato wedges inside the crust and pour the remaining liquid over them.
Then roll out the remaining dough and cut it into strips. Fashion the strips over the top of the pie in a lattice, and brush with egg wash. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and tomatoes are cooked.
Recipe from Travis Milton of Comfort in Richmond, Virginia.
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