The neighbors went out of town for several days, and came back to zucchini the size of an ocean liner. Well, maybe not that big, but BIG ENOUGH. After they gave some to another neighbor who has a Thali-style Indian restaurant, I received a gift on my doorstep. Snort. There was also a freshly baked loaf of zucchini bread with the squash. Nobody needed to twist my arm to dive right into that!
Zucchini relish is very simple to make, although it takes a bit of 'inactive time' ... allowing the grated squash to brine overnight. I'll be on the lookout for more over-achieving squash, as the resulting 'relish' is incredibly good! That squash in the photo, along with some onions and sweet peppers, yielded about six 8-ounce jars of relish for the pantry.
I've always enjoyed making pickled condiments. Perhaps it has something to do with being raised in the South. Another one of my favorites is good old fashioned Chow-Chow cabbage relish. You'll find the recipe right here. If you can make one, you can make the other. They're not that different.
This process need not take up a lot of your time. I prepped the vegetables and tossed 'em into the brine in about 30 minutes on a Saturday afternoon, then cooked and bottled same on Sunday. That part took about an hour from start to clean up.
One of the characteristics of really large squash is the big, spongy seed core. I cut that away, keeping just the nice firm sides. It still yielded plenty of squash. Cut it into manageable chunks and toss that in a food processor in smallish batches.
I don't recommend reducing the squash or peppers down to their smallest. I prefer a little chunkiness. I'd do one batch larger, the next batch smaller and mix the two.
I recommend having a large, stainless (non-reactive) pan or pot handy to brine in overnight. You can also use a large plastic or glass bowl.
Mix up the processed squash, onion and sweet peppers. Salt it. Mix a bit more. Cover with a kitchen towel. You can refrigerate it, but I just set it on the countertop ... well, actually out on top of the washing machine in the laundry room overnight.
Nothing's going to 'go bad'. People have been salting foods and letting them brine for millennia before refrigeration was invented. I wouldn't go more than 24 hours without rinsing the salt away. If you get jammed up for time, just put the rinsed vegetables in the fridge until you can get to it.
Pour the brined vegetables into a colander and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Let it drain while you prepare the rest of the ingredients, and set up your cooking and canning space for action.
Prepare your cooking and canning work area. You'll need a large pot to boil the jars and lids. This type of canning process is referred to as a 'water pack' method. Boil the jars for about 15 minutes to sterilize, then reduce the heat and let that sit until you're ready to fill jars with relish. For more details on home canning, take a look at Home canning: A pandemic skill that will serve you well.
Having everything set up and organized can make the process fun and rewarding. This is a nice way to get the family involved with cooking, and impart some nice skills to the next generation.
You'll need a jar lifter and funnel. A pair of tongs are handy for getting the lids out of the hot water. I also keep a spoon handy to add/subtract what I'm putting into the jars.
You need to pay attention to getting the right about of 'head space' - that gap between the top of your product and the jar lid. Too much or too little and the jar won't seal properly. I like about 1/2-inch of head space for the small 8-ounce jars. The towel keeps drips and mess to a minimum, with easy clean-up. You'll also want a folded, dampened paper towel to wipe the rim of each jar before putting the lid on. If there's any residue on that rim, you won't get a proper seal. All it takes is a quick, careful swipe around the rim.
All you need is a clean, damp paper towel to wipe the far rims.
Now's the time to measure out the remaining relish ingredients - from sugar through the spices. Just measure and dump right into your cooking pot.
Bring the vinegar, sugar, spice mixture to a boil and stir so that the sugar is dissolved.
Now, add the rinsed, drained vegetables. Bring it back up to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a slow boil for about 10 minutes. I've seen recipes that recommend cooking for up to 30 minutes. I don't like that since the vegetables loose their nice texture and color.
Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. All that's left is to fill the jars, put the lids on and process for 20 minutes in the hot water, covered.
Pull your processed jars out of the hot water, and allow them to cool on the countertop before putting them into the pantry.
How will you know if the jars have sealed? Tap and listen. They should have a 'tinny' sharp sound.
And, don't worry if you have some leftover .... toss it into a jar for the fridge! This didn't last two days!
This relish is incredible on sandwiches, of course, but also wonderful on grilled proteins, a salad, beans, pasta, a grain bowl .... you name it!
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