The following post is either going to blow your mind or convince you that I’m stupid.
I don’t eat a lot of relish, but every now and then it goes well with charcuterie, or maybe a steamed wiener on a sweet white bun. For the past few years I’ve been trying to make relish and other condiments like piccalilli by chopping up a bunch of vegetables and canning them with a sweet and sour pickling liquid. I haven’t been entirely happy with the results. Maybe I chopped the cucumbers too coarsely, and the condiment didn’t have the semi-fluid, spreadable consistency I was looking for. Or perhaps, since the chopped vegetables have to be completely submerged in the pickling liquid for safe canning, the relish was too soupy and had to be pressed before eating.
I’ve always thought of relish as chopped cucumbers that are pickled. Then I realized – and this is the potentially “stupid” part – that it could just as easily be pickled cucumbers that are then chopped. I love the idea of only pickling whole or mostly whole vegetables, then blitzing them in a food processor to make a spread. Here are some of the benefits I see to this method:
- Whole or mostly whole vegetables retain better crunch through the canning process, so they make for a spread with more structure and texture.
- It’s much, much faster to can large pieces of veg.
- By blitzing the pickles at the last minute, condiments can be tailored to fit the dish. If you put up some dill pickles, a few jars of pickled zucchini, some pickled peppers, onions, and garlic, then you can combine them into any number of piccalilli-masterpieces throughout the winter.
Maybe this is how everyone makes relish and I only just clued in. At any rate, next year’s pickle pantry is going to look a lot different than this year’s.