Squashapalooza Day IV: Zucchini to relish

Squash remaining:  4.

Days remaining:  4.

Thursday’s my day off.

Well, it’s my day off from my paying job. In the summer, it’s my best shot to take care of the two tasks that seem to be on an endless loop: tend the garden and put up produce.

Sadly, crazy heat and sudden thunderstorms seem to be on an endless loop for us, too, lately, so the only gardening today was a quick weed-whacking out back. The ridiculous weather, though, did give me a good excuse to spend most of the afternoon in the kitchen, chopping and cooking and jarring (and spinning records) under the ceiling fans.

Two bunches of beets roasted off, two pints of blueberries jammed, two discs of pie dough resting in the fridge, and – most importantly – two more zucchini dispatched. Bonus points for freeing two more onions from the crisper. Double-bonus points for only one minor knucklescuff from the box grater.

Shredded zucchini, peppers and onions combine for a sweet pickle relish.
Now, where’s that hot dog?
Zucchini-pepper relish

I adapted these pickles from Food in Jars, the wonderful book from Philly-based, small-batch maven Marisa McClellan. I’d have linked directly to her instructions, but she doesn’t have this recipe (from page 157 of the book) on her site. My alterations were minimal:  halving the recipe, subbing in a red pepper for a portion of the green ones, and spiking the jars with a small, whole, dried cayenne from last year’s garden instead of sprinkling red pepper flakes before the final simmer. Everything else is pretty faithful. I got four half-pint jars plus a quarter-pint out of this batch. I suspect the yield was a little less than spec because we’ve had so much rain (resulting in plumped-up produce that gives up a lot of its water mass during cooking).

  • 2 cups green bell peppers, chopped to a pretty fine dice (I used 2 big peppers)
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, same way (a single big pepper)
  • 3 cups grated zucchini (2 medium squash)
  • 1-1/2 cups grated onion (2 medium bulbs)
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar, divided
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp mustard seed (I had only brown on hand, but would rather have used yellow)
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 5 small dried chiles

Start a big pot of water for the canning bath, and load the jars and rings in to sterilize them. They’ll be ready when the water’s at a rolling boil. Simmer the flat lids in a small saucepan of water, as well.

In a large, non-reactive pot (I used a big Le Creuset dutch oven), combine the peppers, zucchini, and onions; stir in one cup of the cider vinegar. Cook over medium heat until the vegetables are soft – about 20 minutes. They’ll have given up a lot of liquid, so drain them (but don’t rinse!), and return them to the pot.

Add the second cup of cider vinegar, plus the sugar, salt, mustard and celery seeds. Save the whole chiles for later, but if you’re using flakes instead, add them here (about 1/4 tsp will do it).

Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.

Place one of the peppers inside each hot jar.

Carefully ladle in the hot relish, leaving 1/2-inch of headspace. Rotate the filled jars gently, looking for any bubbles; poke any you find with a skinny knife, a chopstick, or a kebab skewer. Wipe the rims with a clean cloth, apply the lids and rings. Process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes.

Let the jars rest in the hot water (with the heat off) for 5-10 minutes more, then lift them out to cool on a folded towel.

As the jars cool, check the seals. Sure enough, one of my lids didn’t ping. Rather than reprocess pickles , I just put those fail-jars in the fridge and eat them first. Though I regularly make a second attempt with fruit preserves (or, say, whole tomatoes) whose jars don’t seal properly, I find that extra cooking time for pickled veggies is apt to make them mushier than I like.

Once it cooled, I tasted the rogue jar today. This is a fairly sweet relish, perfect for hot dogs or egg salad. I could see it spicing up a turkey burger, too.

Just two squash left – and three days to go. I can do this.

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