Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sweet Pickle Relish

The cucumbers were piling up in my refrigerator,  so I figured it was time to get the canner down from the attic and put it to use. 
I haven’t canned in years.  I used to put up 30-40 quarts of tomatoes each year as well as pickled beans, beets, relish and a number of fruit preserves.  It’s a lot of work, especially when you live somewhere that the summer temperature rarely goes below 100˚.  All that boiling water just makes the heat 10 times more unbearable.  In those days, you couldn’t buy organic canned tomatoes, even in natural foods stores, so I learned how to can them myself.  Then, suddenly, they were available and I was working full time, so I bought them.  Now that I have the time and I’ve discovered that the plastic lining in those cans, even the ones with organic food in them, contain BPA, it’s time to start canning again.  
The most important thing to keep in mind when you’re canning is cleanliness.  Start with a clean kitchen and clean utensils.  You need to boil the jars (and lids) for 15 minutes before you fill them and make sure the spoons, funnels, utensils and pots that you use are cleaned right before you use them.  I like to err on the safe side.  If you’re new to canning, buy a book or do some research on the net to familiarize yourself with the proper procedures.
First, I cut up the cucumbers.  I sliced them in quarters and removed the seeds.  Then, I sliced them into very thin matchsticks and then chopped those into very small pieces.

Next, I peeled the carrots and sliced them into very thin matchsticks and chopped them into very small pieces.  Red bell peppers are traditionally used to give relish a little color, but I’m allergic to bell peppers, so I used carrots for the color.  Feel free to sub red bell peppers if you want, but remember to remove the seeds.

Lastly,  I cut the onions as small as possible.

It should look like this when you’re done.

Next, you add the salt and cover the vegetables with water and let it all sit in your fridge for about 4 hours.  I’d like to say something about the quality of the salt and the water you use, when you’re canning.  You need to use plain sea salt here, not the iodized stuff that may also contain stearate as well as dextrose.  Read your salt container, you may need to buy some better salt.  I also recommend that you use filtered water.  You just don’t want all that choline and fluoride in your food, and it can have a detrimental effect, especially on pickled foods, not to mention your internal organs.
Here’s the complete recipe.
Sweet Pickle Relish
Approx. 5 pints - Use organic ingredients whenever possible

4 1/2 cups finely chopped cucumber
1 cup finely chopped carrot (or red bell pepper)
3 cups finely chopped yellow onion
1/4 cup pure salt (no additives)
1 1/2 cup light flavored honey
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seed
1 tablespoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
Finely chop all of the vegetables and mix them together in a large bowl.  
Sprinkle the salt over the vegetables and mix.  Cover the vegetables with filtered water and let stand for 4 hours in your refrigerator.
During the last hour sterilize your clean jars, rings and lids by boiling them in water for 15 minutes.  Leave them in the water until you’re ready to fill them.
Drain the vegetables thoroughly in a colander, pressing out the excess liquid.
Combine honey, vinegar, and spices in a large pot and bring to a boil.
Stir in the drained vegetables and simmer for 10 minutes.
Pack into hot sterilized jars to within 1/2 inch from the top. (Using a canning funnel will keep the jars clean)
Run a butter knife around the inside of the jars to release any air bubbles. Make sure the top edge of the jar is free from pieces of relish.
Put the lids on the jars and screw the rings on firmly.
Process in boiling water for 10 minutes.
Remove them from the water to cool on a rack.  After they’ve cooled, check each jar to be sure it’s sealed properly.  The lid should not make any noise or move up and down when you push on the center.  You can remove the rings and use them on something else.

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