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Let’s Cook: Mixed Company… Relish It!

By Staff | Aug 14, 2015

Let’s Cook Mixed CompanyRelish it! August 12, 2015

Rays of sunlight recline on their sunny, star-shaped flowers, and before long this company of pollinated blossoms brings forth cucumbers. Deep green, covered with warts and often hiding under sandpaper-textured leaves, they have been known to have neighbors such as squash, tomatoes and even Swiss chard! They have been kissed by sunlight, encouraged by the moonlight, and have even danced in the twilight. Yes, cucumbers are cool – often 20 degrees cooler than the current air temp – but this does not mean they are motionless. Nature’s light, warm soil, pollination and rains choreograph the summertime performance of this all-American garden favorite.

Recently coming to our home was a celebration of cucumbers that were part of a grand performance at the garden party of lifelong gardener Curtis Loucks, of Rugby. They were good-sized, rich green, and happily bumpy all over from their rearing in his well-looked-after garden. One look at them and I knew they needed to merge with my meat grinder so they could be ground into impressive relish.

How many cucumbers need to ask if they can give you a hand in relishing a summer experience? Oh, about six medium to large ones. Actually, an encounter with them will long be remembered after your summer tan has disappeared. In the deep of winter, opening a jar of homemade relish will release the aroma of fresh cucumbers that will step you back into the summertime garden. One of the great joys of making relish is that it can be enjoyed straightaway on those summer hotdogs and hamburgers coming off the grill, as well as months later, when the patio is snow-covered and you are craving the straw-hat season to return.

My mom made her “Million Dollar” relish each summer, and I much-loved turning the crank on the aluminum meat grinder as the cukes were turned into a kaleidoscope of morning meadow green. Resting upon this shamrock carpet were buds of orange carrots, sunny yellow peppers, poppy red and orange peppers, and purple crocus onions. I cannot say that I enjoyed eating this relish as a lad, but in time I came to appreciate its bountiful flavor. It has been well over 40 years since I first made this relish with mom, but the smell, taste and sight of it has remained vivid in my mind. There was fine sense of satisfaction as we placed jars of it on the shelves in our fruit room.

I now look forward to making this relish each season, and it has made an appearance often at the Rugby Lions Club picnics in Ellery Park. The quart jar is always empty for the journey home on Third Street SW. Our meat grinder came to us via Harold and Jean Vigeland, and it is a genuine beauty. It rides sidesaddle on the counter-no clamp needed-and it sports a silver tone finish, deep burgundy handle, with elongated lines; making it a classic much like the back fins on a 1957 Chrysler New Yorker. We cherish it truly as we did our friendship with the Vigelands.

Now is the perfect time to be making relish, and the aroma that fills the kitchen will give an encore performance each time you open another jar. So the moral of making relish is simply this: You can have it both ways. Home canning brings instant comfort in the making, and this concoction can co-exist beautifully with sealing to be stored on a shelf that has been lined with oilcloth sporting a vegetable and fruit theme. May you have time to relish a bit of garden treasure this harvest season.

Million Dollar Relish

Made for many years by my mother, Marian, this relish works very well as a spread also. Simply blend several tablespoons with cream cheese that has come to room temperature. It can be used on crackers or on ham and roast beef sandwiches. If you desire, the cucumbers can be de-seeded by cutting them in half lengthwise and scooping out the seeds.

3 quarts of cucumbers (ground)

Cover with water and cup of salt. Let stand for three hours. Drain

Chop:

1 medium white onion and 1 purple onion

3 peppers; one red, yellow and orange

3 large carrots

Place in a large kettle:

5 cups of sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 tablespoon mustard seed

Add chopped and ground ingredients. Cover all with 2 cups of vinegar and boil for four to five minutes. Put into pint jars, seal and hot water process for 10 minutes in boiling water.

Pepper Relish

This recipe also comes from my mom’s collection. She received it from Clara Kranz of Underwood. This relish looks wonderful and makes a colorful Christmas gift. We often used this on roast, and other meats. It really adds zip! There were a few in my home who didn’t like peppers. They, however, often commented on the wonderful-tasting roast, to which this pepper relish had been applied.

6 green peppers

6 red peppers

3 onions peeled and coarsely chopped

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon celery seed

1 cup vinegar

Remove the seeds and white pith from the peppers (a grapefruit spoon works well for this). Place the peppers and the chopped onion through a food chopper or meat grinder, using a medium setting.

Cover with boiling water, let stand for five minutes, then drain well. Add sugar, salt, celery seed, and vinegar. Bring to boil. Boil gently for 20 minutes. Pour into sterilized jars. Seal and hot water process for 15 minutes.

Cucumber-Apple Relish

This recipe comes from a cookbook presented by St. Cecelia’s Altar Society of Portland, Ore. The book was printed in 1963, and the recipe comes from Flossie Mills. This relish has the added delight of apples and is excellent on meats, sandwiches, or blended into dressings for such things as tuna fish sandwiches.

1 quart cucumbers (ground)

1 pint onions (ground)

2 sweet red peppers

6 large apples

8 cups brown sugar

1 quart vinegar

2 oz mustard seed (put in bag)

cup flour

teaspoon turmeric (added to vinegar)

Extra salt if needed

Put cucumbers through meat grinder and sprinkle with four tablespoons of salt. Let stand overnight. Drain off liquid in the morning. Grind the onions, red peppers and apples (cored with skin on). Add this to the cucumber mixture. Add the remaining ingredients, sprinkling in the flour and stirring. Once blended, boil this for 10 minutes. Seal and process for 10 minutes in boiling water. Please note that the flour in this recipe makes the relish thicker. It can be omitted and the result will be a relish with more liquid.

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