It’s late summer and the garden is in production mode. This is the time of year that I start filling the canning pantry and freezer with garden products. Here’s a relish recipe that is perfect for hot dogs, hamburgers, sloppy joes, or even as a side pickle with a winter meal.
The trick to a good relish is to cut all of the vegetables into uniform cubes. Some folks like to peel their cucumbers, but I like the flavor and texture added by the cucumber skin. Besides, do you peel them when you make pickles? To get an even dice, I cut the stem and blossom end off of the cucumbers, and then I use my French fry cutter to evenly cut the cucumbers into long, thin pieces. My fry cutter has two sizes, and I use the smaller one which is about ¼”. Then I lay those strips out on a cutting board and use a knife to cut them into ¼” cubes.
I gather the diced cucumbers in a big stainless steel bowl with quart markings on the side. I get about three quarts of diced cucumbers. Next, I peel and dice three quarts of white onions. Mix the onions and cucumbers together with ¾ cup of coarse sea salt (I used Korean sea salt). Place the vegetables into a large colander and set in a big plastic tub to drain for two hours.
After two hours, rinse the vegetables with cool water to rinse off the salt, and allow to drain while you make the pickling liquid.
For the pickling liquid, I use four cups of white vinegar and two cups of homemade apple cider vinegar.
Making vinegar at home is easy and delicious. I started with some hard cider I made from a variety of English cider apples and some honey. The cider was aged on oak. Very dry, oaky and about 5% alcohol by volume, this cider makes a great base for homemade vinegar. I put the hard cider in a large jar, added some purchased apple cider with the natural “mother” (see the label, this type of vinegar is becoming very widely available), and stirred up with a whisk to get air into the cider. The air and the bacteria present in the purchased vinegar start the slow process of converting the cider to vinegar. I put cheese cloth over the jar to let in air and keep out bugs. In time, a mucous-y disk of mother forms and the vinegar clears. The finished vinegar is decanted off into a jug, and new liquid is added to the active mother to create the next batch of vinegar. My next batch in the making is from mead, or honey wine. This is great cooking vinegar or wonderful for salad dressings, expressing the essence of honey.
Back to the pickling liquid, place the measured vinegar in a large pot. Add two cups of organic cane sugar. I prefer the taste of this sugar. Now add the spiced: 2T turmeric, 1-1/2T mustard seed, 1-1/2t ground mustard, 1/2t cinnamon, 1/2t ground cloves. Stir to dissolve the sugar and bring to a boil. Boil for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to a simmer.
Add the drained cucumbers and onions to the pot and cook until the vegetables are soft and take on the turmeric color.
Pack into sterilized pint jars, topping with a small amount of the liquid. This batch will make 10 pints. Bring the lids and rings for the jars to barely a boil. Wipe the tops of the jars and attach the lids.
If you are new to canning, I recommend this site: http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html
Process for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath. After the lids pop, remove the rings and store the jars in a cool, dry place. I have a set of shelves in the basement just for canned goods. It’s a very satisfying sight to see all of your gardening and cooking lined up and ready to eat.