Canning relish is relatively easy, but I found the steps to be slightly confusing. I had to look at three or four recipes to get a grasp on what the pattern for this project is supposed to be.
I should have taken more pictures-but I started at 1 am and it was a fairly dreary morning when I did the actual canning.
I made a riff off of Grow and Resist’s Dill Relish for Can Jam 2010. I used a mixture of summer squash, onions, bell peppers, and pickling cucumbers-basically, whatever Price Rite had for cheap this week. Remember, anything that you can pickle can go into a relish.
*I did not use four pounds of cucumbers, but I had somewhere in the three to four pound range of produce, total.
1. The ingredient list.
Relish is essentially a form of chopped up pickles, so if you’re familiar with pickling this should be fairly straight forward. There are some differences-this recipe used a lot more salt than something like my basic dilly brine. There’s a reason for this, which we’ll get to later.
Your vinegar choice is fairly broad as long as it’s at the 5% acidity point. The original calls for white wine vinegar, but I had half a bottle each of white vinegar and red wine vinegar. I didn’t want to go to the store for a $1 bottle of vinegar (…because I would have come home with a bottle, and something else to can. And probably something to eat. And maybe a diet pepsi. You get the point). Changing out the vinegar will change the flavor profile, and maybe the color of the finished project slightly, but other than that there’s no reason you have to use white wine vinegar.
You don’t necessarily have to use the produce called for in the recipe, but MAKE SURE you have roughly the same amount of produce that’s called for in the recipe. If your recipe calls for 8 cups of chopped vegetables, don’t try to use 12. Each recipe is written for a set acidity level for safety. Slightly more acidic isn’t really a problem, or shouldn’t be, but you definitely don’t want to go less acidic.
2. Chop and soak
Here’s where all that salt comes in, and what confused me the most.
You want to dice all the produce going into the relish. I got roughly 8 cups of diced vegetables. Add the turmeric and all the salt, and enough water to cover the vegetables. Soak at least several hours. When I have recipes that call for a long sit time, I find it easier to chop, soak, and set overnight-even if it means chopping onions at 1 am when I get home from work.
Why so much salt? Because, science. It may seem counter intuitive but you’re actually pulling water out of the vegetables by soaking them in salt water. The cells will release water from an area of low salt to an area of high salt, so you’re essentially dehydrating the produce. It’ll make for a thicker relish.
Dump out the produce, drain, and rinse really well. When it’s drained again, start grabbing fistfuls of produce and squeeze. You’re going to get a scarily large amount of water out of each handful. That’s what you want. And it should be a fair amount of water-my total amount of produce when from 8 cups to somewhere in the 5 to 5 1/2 cups range.
4. Boil Your Brine
Bring the rest of the brine to a boil-as in, everything on the list but the water, salt, and turmeric. When it’s at a boil, add your squeezed cucumbers and let boil for 5 to 10 minutes (each recipe had a different time, but that was the range for all of them).
I have no idea if you can raw pack relish. Pretty much every recipe was calling for hot pack, so I went that way.
The rest of the process is pretty much the same for pickles. Process as your recipe calls for.
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