The Mysterious Green-Tomato Sandwich Spread

A few weeks ago I was at the Staunton Farmer’s Market and saw green tomato relish offered by one of the vendors. I was instantly taken back to my childhood sandwich spread, which Mom would make and can this time of year. Every year. (Photo by Susy Morris at

“Does that have mayo in it?” I asked the vendor.

“No. You’re thinking about sandwich spread, not relish,” he answered. 

Something clicked in the murky recesses of my mind. I remember the sweet, creamy green mixture spread on bread, crackers, and sometimes just spooned out of the jar  for a hefty, creamy bite. I also
remembered getting the recipe from my mom and thinking: “Okay. I’m not ever
going to make that.” I was in my 20s and it looked too complicated—when would I ever have the time?  From my point of view now, I’d say it does have a lot of steps. But it’s not really complicated—and it’s really worth the effort.

So I dug around in all my notebooks and piles of papers for the recipe and I couldn’t find it. I had to take a deep breath and call my Mom—who in her Kitchen Queenliness—reported to me years ago that my father’s family put her through a kind of hell to get this much-lauded recipe. “It was an old Cox family recipe,” she said. ‘And they never really liked me. “

Which is odd—because the farmer’s market guy said: “We all make the sandwich spread, too.” So, while the recipe may be a little different from family to family, I’m betting it’s basically the same.

But, after all these years, Mom couldn’t find the recipe. This vexed her to no end. “I guess you’ll have to call your father.” She sighed into the phone.

Call him I did. I asked him about the grief his family put my mother through to get this recipe.

“I have no idea what she’s talking about, “ he clipped.

Okay. Just give me the recipe, people.

Here it is—and full disclosure—I’ve not made it yet. But I plan to over the next few weeks. It’s a great way to use those green tomatoes from the garden—other than frying them (though that is a treat, too). You can also make a green tomato mincemeat pie. (Check out a recipe from my book Mrs. Rowe’s Little Book of Southern Pie here.)

Makes 8 pints

12 green tomatoes

12 green peppers

12 red peppers

4 onions

2 hot peppers (Dad prefers banana pepper)

Grind all of those ingredients together. Cover with water
and boil. Let it stand for 2 minutes and drain.


1 cup apple cider vinegar

2 cups mustard

4 tablespoons salt

3 cups of sugar

1 1/2 cup, water

1 ½ cup flour

Cook together and boil for 10 minutes.

Take off the fire and add one quart of mayonnaise. Stir

Can and seal hot.

10 thoughts on “The Mysterious Green-Tomato Sandwich Spread

  1. Jennifer says:

    So you grind all of the veggies and then boil, submerged in water? I want to try it. Do you think I can halve the recipe?

  2. Mollie Cox Bryan says:

    Raisins and nuts? Hmmmm. I can see that. Maybe I’ll add some to this year’s batch. Thanks for commenting. I think it’s the first time a photographer commented. I love your blog—as well as you pictures.;-)

  3. Mollie Cox Bryan says:

    I’m not a big mayo fan, but I can’t imagine this without that texture and flavor. My family always used Miracle Whip. My husband likes Duke’s. So, I will probably make it with Duke’s.

  4. Sandy says:

    Perfect timing for me in Seattle..I’m worried our summer is coming to an end and I have a garden full of green tomatoes ! By the way thanks for stopping by my blog and I love your book Mrs Rowe’s Little Book of Southern Pies. I plan on baking every pie in it -and the coconut cream was so good my husband refused to take it to work , he didn’t want to share it !

  5. Mollie Cox Bryan says:

    Thanks so much, Sandy. I tweeted your post today–I hope it sent a lot of readers to your lovely blog. Thanks so much for your kind words about my book. I really appreciate it. Have fun making those pies. Cheers to you and your husband!

  6. Lisa says:

    My grandmother made this my entire life. She gave me the recipe but was specific in the canning instruction. Does this have to be pressure canned because of the mayo? By the way this stuff is so good I used to eat it right out of the jars as a kid hahaha.

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