There is an American tradition of pickling and canning that goes back to the early settler days. Because of the seasonal uncertainty of food sources and the lack of refrigeration, it was really important to extend the bounty of the summer and fall harvests by putting up and preserving meats and vegetables. Pickling and brining foods provided special relishes, chutneys and sauces to liven up the monotony of winter meals. In the South, that meant chow-chow, a relish made of cabbage, onions, green tomatoes and cucumbers. In the North and Midwest, that meant chutneys and piccalilli, a sweet pepper relish that was a mix of pepper and green tomatoes derived from the English version of Piccalilli, which was a variation on an Indian Pickle.
Today, Piccalilli Pepper Relish is still a great way to use up all those sweet and hot peppers that start overflowing in July and August. It has a sweet and sour tanginess that is great as a condiment for pork roast or fried chicken, or greens. Like any good relish, you can also put it on hot dogs and in deviled eggs. You can really use it as a table condiment the same way you use salsa or ketchup.
Here’s what you’ll need…
First, you’ll need some peppers…
You can make Piccalilli relish with any combination of fresh peppers. I like using about 3/4 sweet peppers, like bells, bananas and sweet Hungarian or Italian frying peppers, and 1/4 hot peppers, like jalapeños, serranos or Anaheims. I think it’s also nice to have a pretty combination of colors, since the colors stay intact during processing.
Piccalilli Pepper Relish
5 cups diced peppers – mixed sweet and hot (about 1 1/2 lbs)
1 1/2 lbs. green tomatoes, about 3 medium
1 small onion, chopped
3 cups apple cider vinegar
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons cup yellow mustard seeds
2 tablespoons kosher salt
Makes 7 pints
Equipment you’ll need:
7 pint canning jars with NEW lids
large, heavy-bottomed pot that will hold all pint jars at once
Step One: chopping the vegetables
This will take a while, but you want to hand dice all the tomatoes, onions and peppers. I’ve seen recipes where you toss it into the food processor and chop everything fine, but I personally don’t like the look of that. And if you try that with the green tomatoes, you will end up with mush. What you want is a small, uniform dice cut for all the veggies–onions, tomatoes and peppers.
Here’s how small my pepper dice was…
You can see how pretty it is when you mix pepper types.
Here is my tomato dice.
Notice that the size of the dice is the same as the pepper. The uniform dice not only looks better, but it actually helps keep the cooking time of the two ingredients about the same.
In a colander, combine the diced tomatoes, onion and peppers with two tablespoons of kosher salt and place over a sink to drain for a few hours. This will draw out the excess moisture from the vegetables.
Step Two: Sterilize your canning jars
Before you start cooking the piccalilli relish, sterilize your canning jars and have them ready to fill.
Place your glass canning jars, jar rings and lids into a heavy-bottomed stockpot or canner and fill with enough water to completely submerge the jars at the top. Place the pan on a medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the jars sit in the hot water until you are ready to fill them.
Step Three: Cooking the Piccalilli Relish
When the chopped ingredients have drained for a couple of hours, you are ready to make your relish. In a large pot, add the brine ingredients–apple cider vinegar, sugar, allspice berries, peppercorns, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, mustard seeds. Heat the brine over a medium heat until it comes to a boil. Add all the chopped and drained vegetables into the brine and bring back up to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes. The vegetables should be cooked down and the mix will look like a relish. Remove from the heat.
Step Four: Canning the Piccalilli Relish
As soon as you take the relish off the heat, return to your stockpot of hot water and jars. Remove the jars, rings and lids from the water bath and place on a clean kitchen towel to dry. DON’T THROW OUT THE HOT WATER! You will be using this for your heat-processing. Turn the heat back on the water to bring the temperature back up.
Ladle the relish into the canning jars. Make sure that you distribute the spices evenly throughout the jars. Leave at least 1/2 inch room at the top of the jar. Tap the jars gently on a cutting board or on your towel to force air bubbles up to the top. Then, making sure that you’ve wiped up any drips from the lid, place the clean, new lids on the jars and put the rings on to hold the lids in place. The rings should not be too tight. Just tight enough to loosely close the jar.
Use jar tongs (if you have them) to place the closed jars back into hot water bath. The jars should be completely submerged under the hot water and have about an inch of water above each lid.
Bring the water back up to a boil and heat process the relish for 15 minutes. Remove from the water bath with the jar tongs and let the jars cool to room temperature. You will hear the jar lids pop as they cool and seal themselves. They are now safe to store at room temperature in your kitchen pantry.
Aren’t they pretty? These make great gifts… if you can part with them. Enjoy!