Zucchini Relish

relishMy family moved from Tucson, Arizona to Forest Grove, Oregon in the early 1970s, which meant we had access to fresh produce for the first time in years. Mom put in a small garden which included a zucchini plant or two. She began her foray into preserving all that abundance by making strawberry jam from berries she bought at a farm stand, and canning the crabapples from the tree in our yard to serve up at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

When her zucchini started yielding more squash than she could feed us she started gathering recipes from women at church, like one for zucchini relish. We also learned the deliciousness of zucchini bread and zucchini chocolate cake that summer. I don’t actually remember eating zucchini grilled, sautéed, or raw, like I mostly do now, but maybe that’s because these other ways of using it were more memorable.

Back then the only thing we put relish on was hot dogs and hamburgers, and since Mark and I don’t eat a lot of either of those, I’ve not made relish in years. But two years ago I learned that relish has ALL KINDS OF USES! It’s great on black beans (or beans of any kind), it adds complex flavor to deviled eggs, omelets, tuna and chicken salads. It can be served along side beef or pork, and churns into a delectable sandwich blend Mom used to make with left-over roast and relish. Besides all those ways of using it, I can (and do) eat a small spoonful of my milder relish all by itself when I’m scooping out a spoonful for something else anyway. Not that I’m recommending eating it by the spoonful particularly, but it is good to taste it on its own every now and then!

The original recipe came from Carol Clock, a member of the Forest Grove Baptist church we attended. I think of these recipes as women sharing God’s love to each other through good, delicious, and nutritious food.

I’ve adapted Carol’s recipe because I prefer my relish to be less sweet and more hot. As is true of nearly all recipes, this one welcomes adventurous substitutions, deletions, and additions. Zucchini is a particularly forgiving and embracing vegetable, and one that enjoys challenging the creative chef to figure out all the ways in which it’s abundance can be realized.

Directions (makes about 6 pints)

10 cups chopped zucchini (about three good size zucchini)
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
4 cups chopped onions
1-2 jalepenos (for a mild kick) or 1-2 cayenne peppers (for a more substantial one), minced
5 Tbsp. salt
Mix together and let it sit for at least 3 hours. Overnight is not too long.

Drain (save the brine and use it to help dress a cabbage salad). Rinse well in cold water. Drain well, applying some pressure to the mix with the back of a wooden spoon, to remove excess liquid.

Add and mix in:
1 Tbsp. nutmeg
1 Tbsp. dry mustard
2 tsp. celery seed
1 Tbsp. dill seed (optional)
1 Tbsp. tumeric
2 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 t. freshly ground pepper
2 1/2 cups sugar
Cook on medium low for about 45 minutes.

*Alternative: Carol’s recipe says to add 2 Tbsp. corn starch and cook on medium low for about 25 minutes. I prefer draining it well, pressing out the excess liquid, and letting it reduce by cooking it longer.

Meanwhile start a large soup kettle of water (or canner, or any large pan that can hold and cover 6 pint jars with an inch of water). Add empty jars, lids and rings to water to sterilize and keep hot.

Remove jars from kettle, and fill with relish, leaving 1 inch head space. Wipe rims clean and screw on lids with bands.

Return to water, and return the water to a boil. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Remove jars from water bath and allow to sit undisturbed for 12 hours.zrelish


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