Saturday, May 18, 2013

Sweet & Spicy Green Relish

A man is insensible to the relish of prosperity 'til he has tasted adversity. – Sa’Di 

Ooooh, I relish a bit of relish sometimes.

My favourite combo for both burgers and hot dogs is onions, mayo and relish. Maybe cheese too, if I'm feeling adventurous... So having relish is a necessity for me.

I can’t remember when I was introduced to that combo, but it may have been when I was working at the local Fire Department Canteen. I loved tose days. Life seemed so much simpler. I suppose it did when you’re in your early teens.

Oh well, it’s best to live in the here and now, isn’t it. But ,oh my, I do relish (pardon the pun) those moments when the “feeling” of those past times washes over me. Sometimes it’s almost palpable, especially since I now live where I grew up. It makes me feel somehow comforted and safe. If only it was more often...

You have to strain – and then squeeze – as
much liquid out of the veggies as possible.
The word "relish" first appeared in printed English usage in 1798 and comes from the word "reles" which in Old French means "something remaining". The “remaining” vegetables at the end of their growing season were preserved for storage in the winter months by curing and pickling. Hence the name “relish.”

In English, relish is now a highly flavoured condiment which uses vinegar and sugar as preservative. Chutney, piccallilli and chow-chow all fall under the umbrella of “relishes.”

So here’s my relish, another of your staples to have on the picnic table. I have published ketchup, several mustards, barbecue sauces and homemade buns on this blog.

Relish is a bit of a wild card as different recipes have different tastes, just like mustard and ketchup. For me it has to be tart yet sweet, firm and green. If it fails on any of those counts it won’t stay in my fridge.

Homemade relish is notoriously pale. That is because most recipes require the cucumber to be peeled. The reason is that the peel is tough compared to the flesh. This recipe uses an English cucumber because I find them firmer than the usual local garden cucumbers which helps keep their shape after cooking.

If you wish, feel free to just wash the cucumber thoroughly and then chop with skin on. I didn't want to take the chance of tough skin so I peeled mine, and substituted 2 drops of green food colouring. It is very close to the colour of store bought relish. You can probably even fool the kids.

An important step to not leave out is the squeezing of the vegetables after they have been leached of their liquid with the salt. Be merciless. You’re taking as much water out as you can so the vinegar, sugar and spices will be absorbed back in while cooking.

Another important is simmering them long enough. 18-20 minutes will make it firmer when it sets up. There’s nothing worse than runny relish.

See how pale this is? Feel free to add food colouring.
Sweet & Spicy Green Relish
Time: about 2.5 hours, including draining the veggies
1 English cucumber, peeled and seeded
3/4 medium onion
1 rib of celery
1/2 large green pepper
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and white ribs removed
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup white vinegar
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp pickling spice, ground
pinch cayenne
2 drops green food colouring (optional)

Use an English cucumber. They have fewer seeds and more flesh.

Cut all the vegetables into medium sized chunks. Place the celery and onion in a food processor and pulse until the desired size. Err on the small side since this is for relish, but use your common sense. You don’t want it puréed. Repeat with the peppers and then the cucumber.

Combine all the chopped vegetables in a non-reactive (glass or ceramic) bowl. Add the salt, toss well, and let sit for 2 hours. You can put a bowl or plate on top to help press out the liquid.

Place the mixture in a sieve to drain. Squeeze the mixture to extract as much liquid as possible. I removed over 1 cup from my vegetables. (See photo above.)

Bring the vinegar, sugar and pickling spice to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the vegetables and simmer for 18-20 minutes. Add the green food colouring if your vegetables are too pale for your liking. Two drops of green made the mixture very close in colour to store purchased relish.

Pour into a jar and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Let cool on the counter until the canning top pops down to prove your airtight seal.

Makes a scant 1 pint. The recipe can be scaled up to larger quantities.


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  1. Thanks for popping over and joining in the "jam" session. I have signed up to follow you - love your blog name - I hope you will follow Carole's Chatter too. Cheers

    1. Thank YOU. I love sharing my culinary in-expertise.