Sometimes I open my pantry and gaze at my beautiful jars of food. The ruby red grapefruit, snugly nestled in the jar, the wheels of deep green jalapenos, sweet circles of citrus, and cubes of pumpkin are just some of the pretty put-ups lining my pantry shelves. None of them, however, transcends the exquisite beauty of home canned sweet pickle relish.
Flecked with red peppers and dotted with mustard seeds, this sweet pickle relish is a complex sweet and savory condiment which graces the tops of hot dogs, and brings egg salad to life. I use this relish to give my ground barbecue a zing. What ever this relish touches, turns special.
One day near summer’s end, I noticed with sheer panic only one jar of sweet pickle relish stood on my shelf. I had to take action, but the price on cucumbers had to be right. I waited, until finally I acquired a bushel of cucumbers for $5. I didn’t need a whole bushel, but I had to buy the box to get the deal. I lugged the box home, along with two cases of corn, 42 pounds of bananas, and 52 pounds of apples. I knew what I was getting myself into, but since all of it was only $35, I could not help myself. My wrist still hurts from food prep as I type this post!
I wanted to make a big batch of relish because even with a food processor, it’s a lot of prep. I don’t remember how much relish I made last year, but with one jar left, I couldn’t chance coming up short before next summer. This had been a close call. For all I know, this could last me two years. My goal was 10 or 11 jars, but I ended up with only nine because I didn’t add as much liquid to each jar. I think next time I will add more liquid.
I’m going to address the amount of sugar, which I know will horrify many of you. I get questions from people about the sugar in jam, as well, and I want you to put this into context. How much jam or relish do you use at one time? Both jam and relish pack a punch, and you don’t need massive amounts on toast or a hot dog. Also, with this relish, all the vinegar/sugar solution won’t be used.
Why would I go through all this trouble to make relish, when it’s inexpensive? The depth of flavor, the texture, and fresh taste in general sets this relish apart. Basically, it’s my pantry diva.
Preserved Home’s Sweet Pickle Relish
16 cups deseeded, finely chopped cucumbers
6 1/2 cups onions, finely chopped
4 cups green bell pepper, finely chopped
4 cups red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup kosher salt
12 cups sugar
7 cups cider vinegar
4 TBSPs celery seed
4 TBSPs mustard seeds
Deseed cucumbers, and chop finely.
Chop the peppers and onion, and place in a pot with cucumbers.
Cover vegetable mixture with water, and add salt. Let stand 2 1/2 hours.
Meanwhile, mix vinegar, sugar, mustard and celery seeds. When vegetables have finished soaking, bring vinegar mixture to a boil. Drain vegetable mixture, and expel as much liquid as possible. Add to liquid mixture and return to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes.
Fill canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Secure with lids and rings. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. (Start timing when reaches a rolling boil.) Remove from water, and let cool for 24 hours before disturbing.
Makes 10-11 pints.