In the Kitchen: Zucchini Garden Pepper Relish

This is my week to spend in the kitchen, apparently.  Today, I'll tell you how I make my Zucchini Garden Pepper Relish.  This is a recipe from Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard, who wrote a book I particularly like for canning, The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving.

And I just want to say here that canning is not difficult.  Even with scary words like "botulism" floating around, it doesn't have to be scary or dangerous either.  Once you know the ins and outs of it, the only other requirement is that you keep your hands and work surfaces scrupulously clean.  Easy enough.   My mother never canned a thing in my life, although I'm sure she helped my grandmother when she was growing up.  (Even our mothers rebelled against things they grew up with.  In my mother's case, it was quilting and canning.)  In any case, I had to learn on my own, and well into adulthood.

There is a lot of excellent information available as well as classes taught all over the country.  Undoubtedly you can find one near you if you are interested in learning.  I never took any classes, but I sought out the help of my local Food Preservation Extension Service in Oregon.  You can find information about your local area by check the website at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.  There is also an excellent blog written by Marisa McClellan called Food in Jars that I particularly like.  Personally, I learned to can in the dark ages before the internet.  I learned everything I know about canning from a book that was recommended to my by my local extension service called Putting Food By, which is now in its 5th Edition.  I can highly recommend it.

So, on with the relish.  Start with 3 pounds of zucchini, which works out to about 8 medium.  The real joy of zucchini relish is that you can use up those monsters that manage to hide under the leaves in your garden.  On the other hand, if your garden is a total flop, you'll have to be more creative in the way you come up with your zucchini.  For example, you can simply park your car in a parking lot somewhere, roll down the windows and leave for a while. Go get a cup of coffee or something.  When you return to the car, I'm sure some friendly gardeners will have been happy to unload some of their zucchini crop into your backseat for free!  (That will only make sense if you've grown zucchini in your garden and seen how prolific it is.)

Or, if you prefer a sure thing, you can go to your local grocery store.  This is small-batch canning, after all.  I got these monsters at the Portland Farmer's Market at a nice price of 3 for $2.  I bought six of them for $4.  Consider for a moment that zucchini relish is a perfect stand-in for pickle relish.  How much does a jar of pickle relish cost?  These two zucchini are just about to make 4 1/2 pints of relish.  I'll have enough for another 4 1/2 pints of relish, which I intend to make tomorrow.  And there will still be more zucchini after that, which I'll use in a different way.  All of that to say that zucchini relish is a very economical way to have pickle relish on hand at all times.  And it makes a nice gift too. 

Now that you have your zucchini, you're going to want to chop it finely.  Your food processor will be your best friend for this part of the operation.  I cut these guys into large chunks to put into the food processor.

For best results, don't overload your food processor.  I did the zucchini in three batches.

You want to finely chop it, but not liquify it.  In my food processor, zucchini took about 20 one-second pulses to get it to the right consistency.  It's okay if you have a few larger chunks in there.

Oh, and because I like to invite ALL of my small appliances to the party, I froze yesterday's strawberry ice cream while I was doing this.  

And allow me to say one vitally important thing about this homemade strawberry ice cream:  Yum.

But I digress.  Now you'll need four medium onions, and you'll chop them up the way you chopped up the zucchini.

I quartered mine.  Again, avoid overloading your food processor for best results.

These took about 8 one-second pulses to get them to the right consistency.

Finally, you'll need one red pepper and one green pepper.

Remove the stems and seeds and cut them into chunks as before.

Then pulse them and dump all the vegetables into a large non-reactive bowl together.

Now stir in 4 tablespoons of pickling salt.  Pickling salt is similar to table salt, but lacks the iodine and anti-caking additives that turn pickles dark and the pickling liquid cloudy.  Pickles made with table salt would still be good to eat, but they wouldn't look as appetizing.

Give it a good stir and then allow it to sit for one hour, stirring occasionally.

(Insert your own audio of Final Jeopardy music here.)  

I use this time to clean up the mess I've already made and get the rest of my ingredients ready.  Also, since I had extra zucchini left over, I shredded that and loaded two-cup portions into quart-size zip lock bags for freezing.  Eventually, I'll turn these into zucchini bread.  That way I'll have what I need to make something sweet and soothing for the next time one of my cats disappears.  (Sigh.)

After an hour has passed.  The vegetables will have given up some of their liquid.

Now, you'll want to pour them out into a strainer lined with cheesecloth.

Drain them, then rinse them.

Then drain them again.  Bundle the cheesecloth together and squeeze out the excess moisture.

Then put them into a large pan and mix in 2 1/2 cups of sugar. (Some of you might be squeamish about that much sugar.  I've never been burdened with an aversion to sugar.  As I've said many times before, sugar and me . . . we're tight . . . bosom buddies, you might say.)

Also, you're going to add 1 1/2 cups of cider vinegar,

2 teaspoons of dry mustard,

2 teaspoons of celery seed,

1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

and 1 teaspoon of tumeric.

Stir that all together and boil it for 15 minutes, uncovered, or until the vegetables are tender. 

When that's done, you'll mix 2 tablespoons of water

With 4 teaspoons of cornstarch.

Mix it together until smooth

And then pour it into the boiling vegetables.  Boil for another 5 minutes or until the liquid clears and thickens, stirring often.

Now you're ready to fill your pint-sized jars (or half-pints if you choose . . . I always use pints).  For this application, I'm using my stockpot again.  I can fit four regular pint jars into the insert.  It saves me from having to boil so much water, as I would if I were using my conventional boiling water bath canner.

In this case, I ended up with a partial pint, and so I won't process that.  I'll just allow it to cool, and then put it in the refrigerator. Since I'm making another batch tomorrow, I can add any extra to it when I do that.

Once you've filled your jars and attached the lids and rings, immerse them into the canner at a full rolling boil and process them for 10 minutes for half-pints and 15 minutes for pint jars.  Add five minutes of processing time above 1,000 feet  and an additional 5 minutes for each additional 1,000 feet of elevation.  I'm at 1,400 feet, and so I add 5 minutes of processing time for a total of 20 minutes.

Remove them from the canner and listen:  you'll hear a Plink, Plink, Plink, Plink, as the lids seal onto the jars.  It's the sweetest sound in the kitchen in my humble opinion.  When you hear that sound, you know your processing has been successful.

Not so hard, eh?  And look how beautiful these are.  Now here's the recipe:

Zucchini Garden Pepper Relish
Recipe by:  Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard

Note:  This recipe has been doubled, and therefore, can be halved for smaller batches.

8 about medium zucchini (about 3 lbs) -- finely chopped
4 medium onions -- finely chopped
1 sweet red pepper -- finely chopped
1 sweet green pepper -- finely chopped
4 tablespoons pickling salt
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons celery seeds
1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1 teaspoon tumeric
2 tablespoons water
4 teaspoons cornstarch

Toss together zucchini, onions and red and green peppers in a large non-reactive bowl.  Sprinkle with salt and stir well.  Let stand for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Drain vegetables in a sieve lined with cheesecloth and rinse; drain again, squeezing cheesecloth into a bundle, pressing out excess moisture.

Combine drained vegetables, sugar, vinegar, mustard, celery seeds, hot pepper flakes and tumeric in large stainless steel or enamel saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat and boil gently, uncovered, for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

Blend water and cornstarch; stir into vegetables.  Cook for 5 minutes or until liquid clears and thickens, stirring often.

Ladle relish into hot pint jars to within 1/2 inch of rim (head space). Process 10 minutes for half-pint jars and 15 minutes for pint jars. Add five minutes of processing time above 1,000 feet and an additional 5 minutes for each additional 1,000 feet of elevation.


And with that job done, I'm off to sew.

7 comments from clever and witty friends:

Junebug613 said...

While the cooking and canning of vegetables is wasted on me. I am not a fan of vegetables in general (color me a finicky eater), the strawberry ice cream looks yummmy! We have a strawberry festival here every February. It's been years since I've gone - it's kind of like a state fair, but I think I'm going to go next year. That and I would love to make some strawberry jam. My grandmother - Dad's side - always used to make it. Wonder if my stingy aunt will let me have a copy of that recipe.... probably not.

Anonymous said...

this looks great, I'm going to make some. Thanks.

quiltzyx said...

I don't care much for sweet pickle relish, so don't know what I would think of this zucchini relish. I have, however, recently become addicted to dill pickle relish!

The strawberry ice cream does look very yummy - I have to get out my ice cream maker now!

quiltzyx said...

I don't care much for sweet pickle relish, so don't know what I would think of this zucchini relish. I have, however, recently become addicted to dill pickle relish!

The strawberry ice cream does look very yummy - I have to get out my ice cream maker now!

Snoodles said...

I'm channeling my inner WC Fields right now....I never met a sweet pickle that I didn't like. LOL
Thanks so much for the detailed instructions - this one is on my list for this weekend!
By the way, the blueberry chutney is a hit with all three of us here! It's even good on toast! :)

Farm Quilter said...

What a great idea for zucchini!!! I make tomatillia relish that my family loves, but what a great idea of what to do with all those zucchini! Beautiful!!!

Kristy Lynn said...

Barbara this is an excellent tutorial! Very detailed and the photos are a helpful addition.

p.s. i LOVE canning!!!

thanks for visiting and joining up with us at the Wednesday Fresh Foods Blog Hop - we hope to see you this week again with another seasonal treat!