Few things are more summer than cucumbers and tomatoes. I’m having an issue with tomatoes this year, but that is for a separate post. Pickling cucumbers are fun to grow but, as the name suggests, they don’t have a lot of uses beyond pickling. I love relish, sweet and tangy with bell peppers and onions… it’s all I need for the perfect hot dog.
Here’s what you need for this:
2 bell peppers, one red and one yellow (I had a couple of Italian sweet peppers that I took advantage of for this but that is optional)
2 yellow onions
3-4 stalks of celery
1/2 cup rock salt
3 cups of white sugar
2 cups of apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup of yellow mustard (I go half yellow, half Dijon)
1 tbs mustard seeds
1 tsp celery seed, whole
1 tsp turmeric
Start with the vegetables. Chop the cucumbers course and with your food processor, chop thoroughly but not to the point where you have a paste. You are looking for granular like you would expect in a relish. Do the same for the bell peppers, onions, and celery. A note on the celery, I like it but not everyone does. Each year I grow some in the garden and it is lush and green with medium-sized stalks that are peppery and textured without feeling like you are biting into a water stick. It adds a lot of flavor to this relish but leave them out if you are so inclined… you will still have the celery seed to give you the right flavor undertones.
In a large mixing bowl, mix thoroughly with the salt. Use your hands and just get in there, it won’t bite. Cover the bowl and let it sit for at least 4 hours. The water will release from the vegetables and this is exactly what you are looking for.
In a medium saucepan, heat the vinegar and sugar until dissolved. Add the mustard, mustard seeds, celery seeds, and turmeric. The mustard will be a little stubborn about breaking down, which is kind of interesting considering that vinegar is a primary ingredient in mustard. I use an immersion blender to create a uniform pickling liquid.
Dump the vegetables into a colander and drain. You will need to press down on the mixture to press the remaining liquid out. When you are satisfied that you have most of it removed, pour the mix into the pickling liquid and slowly bring it up to heat and let is simmer for 10-15 minutes. At this point you have relish.
Storing is the next challenge to deal with, if you don’t wish to have approximately 1 1/2 gallons of relish in your refrigerator. I like to can for preservation and, I have learned over the years that it can be easy and completely worry free.
Canning is easy when you adhere to a few basic rules, the first is that sterilization is everything. The second is that you can’t rush it. I started out using a water bath method and found it reliable but not a turnkey as I would like. About 10 years ago I bought a Presto pressure cooker and never looked back. I highly recommend this canning method.
The first step is getting everything ready for a efficient workflow. I estimate the number of jars I will need and use the pressure cooker to sterilize them. A 1/2″ of water in the cooker, place the jars with lids removed, and then throw the lids in to sterilize at the same time. Lock the top on, turn on the heat and look for steam to be escaping the pressure stem, at which point I put the weight on to seal the valve. 11 psi for 11-12 minutes and you have sterilized jars and lids.
Fill the jars with the relish, leaving approximately 1/4″ of space clear, this is called the headspace. Screw on the lids and place back in the pressure cooker. With all the jars in the cooker, lock on the top and heat using the same procedure you did for sterilizing the jars. Again, 11 psi for 11-12 minutes. Let the jars cool inside the cooker… go read a book, cut your lawn, wash the dog, drink a glass of wine… whatever. You may hear the jar tops “pop” as the seal is established and when they are cool you should not be able to press down on any of the tops. The jars are now ready for storage.