Saturday, May 28, 2011

0 Recipe #269: Sweet or Savory Pickle Relish

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As promised, here's another recipe that's great for barbecues and picnics. Of course, it's traditionally (and most commonly) used as a condiment for hot dogs and hamburgers, but also tastes really good on many other types of grilled foods. Try it on chicken kebabs, or anything else that suits your fancy.
Since some people prefer sweet relish and some prefer the savory version, I've included ingredients to make both. To make the savory kind, all you have to do is omit the honey. Pretty easy and straightforward, eh?!

(When it came to hot dogs, I grew up accustomed to eating mostly savory accompaniments like mustard, sauerkraut, and garlic dill pickles, but then much later developed a taste for sweet relish. My dad also likes sweet relish, so it was probably my dormant sweet-tooth gene coming to the fore. LOL. Like father, like daughter. ;) Erik and many other family members don't care for the sweet kind, so it's good to have both varieties on hand.)

At any rate, no matter which kind of relish you prefer -- the sweet or the savory kind, consider that a lot of the bottled kinds contain lots of preservatives and chemicals, as well as a great deal of sodium and refined sugar (often HFCS), of course none of which are healthy. So, instead of putting all of that garbage into your system, make this healthy version instead. Your body will surely thank you -- for feeding it well, and for the care and respect you've shown it. :) Remember that however you treat your body, it will pay you back in kind. ;)

Even though the prospect of making your own pickle relish might, at first, seem time-consuming or daunting, it's actually a very straightforward and easy process, as you'll see very shortly when you check out the below recipe. :)

I've also taken a few shortcuts that depart from traditional pickling methods, which saves not only time but also your health. :)

Sweet or Savory Pickle Relish

2 c. water
1 c. white distilled vinegar
3 Tbsp. honey (leave out if making the savory version)
2 Tbsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. celery seeds
3 c. cucumbers, unpeeled and finely diced (about 1 extra-large cucumber)
1 c. white onion, peeled and finely diced (about 1/2 large onion)
1/4 c. fresh dill (fronds only), very finely minced
1/4 c. roasted red bell pepper, finely diced (if roasting yourself, use about 1/2 large red pepper*)
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. kosher salt

Directions: In a large nonreactive pot, bring water, vinegar, honey, mustard seeds, and celery seeds to a rolling boil (on high heat). Reduce heat to low and simmer, cooking until liquid's volume has been reduced by half and reaches a syrupy consistency. Bring back to a boil, add cucumbers and onion, and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Add dill, allowing it to cook in the residual heat. (This is done to preserve the dill flavor; cooking it with the cucumbers and onions weakens the strength of the herb considerably.)

Allow to cool completely, for at least 1 hour (or longer). After relish has cooled, mix in roasted red peppers, turmeric, and salt. Using a slotted spoon, place relish into a Mason jar or a canning jar. Add enough brine to the jar to make the relish moist, but not enough to make it soupy. Brine should be no more than 1" below the top of the jar (to allow enough space for fermentation to take place.) Tightly seal jar and place into the refrigerator and allow it to mature for at least a week before consuming. (Pickle relish will last a few months in the refrigerator. However, I'd recommend consuming it within a few weeks to maximize its pro-biotic health benefits.)

Yield: 1 qt.

Alternate Preparation Ideas: If you like your relish to have some heat, add a few flakes of crushed red chili peppers. Or, for added interest, toss some zucchini &/or yellow squash into the mix.

Chef's Notes: *To roast your own red bell peppers, please see these instructions.

Instead of going through the usual laborious process of soaking the vegetables in an unholy amount of pickling salt for 4+ hours, I've taken some short-cuts, which will also ensure that your heart doesn't cry in protest from all that salt. ;) Instead, the salt is used as a flavoring agent; the vinegar and salt will indeed pickle the cucumbers all the same, except the net effect will be far less sodium for you. It's an all-around win-win situation. :)

Also, there's no soaking the relish in a hot water bath, or placing the hot relish into hot glass jars. There's really no reason for all of that fuss. That's why it's easier to let the relish cool, and then just add it to a room-temperature glass jar. Takes a lot less time too. :)

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