Written by: Pam Grant
During the summer and into the fall, an activity in which most of us participate is grilling up hamburgers and hot dogs. Thousands of these tasty, hand-held culinary staples are eaten annually.
One of the most popular toppings to adorn your hot dog or hamburger is relish. We are all familiar with the traditional, green, pickle relish. But the term "relish" can actually be used to include any combination of chopped or ground vegetables or fruits that have been pickled with a variety of spices and flavor combinations. Relish has been used for years as a delicious way to preserve an over-abundance of vegetables from the garden.
My grandmother and mother have been making relish ("hot dog relish" as we call it) over the course of my entire life. The type of relish we make is a combination of overripe cucumbers (the large ones turned yellow and seedy which you typically toss out) and various other garden vegetables.
Years ago, my mother received the greatest compliment on her relish when she ran a concession stand one summer at Reid State Park here in Maine. She loves to tell the story of the gentleman who bought a hot dog, ate it, and then waited in line again. When he finally reached the busy window again he said, "Lady, I want another hot dog. But you can forget the hot dog - just put some of that relish in the bun." That relish is the secret family recipe I make every year and the recipe I now share with you.
Why would I want to give away a family secret? It's because some things, like this recipe, are too good not to be shared with everyone.
This recipe will make about 10 pints or 5 quarts of relish. My family usually doubles the recipe as this makes a wonderful gift to give during the holidays. Those of you in the catering business should give some serious thought to making up a batch of this. It's easy to make and will store well for a year if the jars are sealed properly. In my opinion, it's vastly superior to what is commercially available at your local supermarket. Homemade sides and condiments are beginning to be a rarity these days. What a delightful surprise to your customers or guests when even your condiments are homemade.
Many of you will be tempted to use a whirling, pulsing, food processor to make this recipe. I would, if you have the means, caution you away from doing this. This recipe is meant to be prepared with a Universal #2 cast iron grinder. This is a workout for those of you who have never used one. It attaches to a table or countertop and you feed the hopper with one hand while you crank the handle with the other. Don't let me kid you folks. This, depending on what you're grinding, can be hard to turn. I have frequently picked the table off the floor trying to grind meat in it, but the results are like nothing I have ever found with any electric appliance. For those of you who have never seen one, see the below photograph for a glimpse of what it looks like.
I may be old fashioned, but in our family we have never gotten the same results using an electric food processor with this recipe. For some reason the food processor makes the pieces too fine and uniform. I have a Kitchen Aid Mixer with a grinder attachment and found that it pulverized the vegetables and made a relish the consistency of baby food. This is a rustic relish and although it is meant to be spoon-able, all the ingredients should be discernable on their own retaining their original color and shape. I would recommend a fine hand chopping rather than a food processor if you're not fortunate enough to find the Universal #2. You could pick one up at a local flea market ranging in price from $5 to $50 depending on the vintage model you find. Mine is over 50 years old now but newer ones can still be purchased for about $28 from Amazon.com.
This recipe requires you to have home canning supplies and knowledge on how to home-can. For a detailed, step-by-step explanation on how to do home canning, see my Cheftalk.com article entitled, "Preserving the Garden's Bounty in a Jar." As always you should follow all home canning safety recommendations. If you're unfamiliar with these, please be sure to check out this good resource. http://www.aces.edu/dept/extcomm/specialty/food_safety.html.
Equipment you'll need:
Sterile quart or pint jars enough for recipe
Sterile lids and bands (rings) enough for jars
Note: Rings should be clean and rust free. As I tried to capture in the photo below, the ring on the left should be discarded. The rust will cause an uneven seal on the lid and could cause your jars to not seal properly.
Hot Dog Relish Recipe
This is a two part recipe. The first step is preparing the vegetables. The second step is preparing the mustard sauce to be eventually combined with the vegetables to make the Hot Dog Relish.
Preparing the Vegetables
1 quart ripe cucumbers peeled (measured after grinding)
1 quart onions (measured after grinding)
1 sweet red pepper
1 sweet green pepper
1 small cabbage
1 large cauliflower
½ cup pickling salt
Water to cover
Course-grind or chop all the above ingredients. Cover with water and mix in salt. Soak for 30 minutes. Bring to a full boil for 1 minute and drain very well. Set aside.
Preparing the Mustard Sauce
1 cup brown sugar
3 cups granulated sugar
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 ½ teaspoon dry mustard
1 quart cider vinegar
Mix flour and sugars together well. Mix remaining Mustard Sauce ingredients together in a heavy kettle and add sugar mixture. Bring to a full boil for 5 minutes. Stir constantly as this will burn easily.
Combining the Vegetables with the Mustard Sauce
Combine the mustard sauce with the drained vegetables and put immediately into hot, sterile jars.
Place lids and rings on jars and tighten. Invert (turn jars upside down) jars for 10 minutes, and cover with a towel to prevent drafts on jars. After 10 minutes, turn jars upright and continue to cover with a towel till jars are completely cooled and sealed.
This method of sealing jars is used in many jam and jelly recipes where hot sugar sauces are used. Jars can be stored in a cool dry place for up to a year.
Having now unveiled my family's secret recipe, I hope you will find that it is simple to make and heavenly to eat. Try making up a batch and you might find it becomes a regular summer & fall recipe for your family, too.
It is reccomended now to "bath off" or process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling hot water canner. Methods change over the years and although we have never had a problem sealing our jars this was the people in the know have advised changing to a hot water bath processing. Better safe than sorry!
Place jars while still warm in your canner of boiling water. Bring water back to a boil and let boil slowly for 10 minutes. Shut off canner and let it cool for 5 min before removing jars. Cover jars with a dry cloth to prevent cold drafts from breaking jars. Let sit undisturbed till completely cooled.