Every year my Nana would make delicious treats using produce from my grandfather’s garden, including wonderful relishes and thinly sliced bread & butter pickles. Towards the end of the summer she’d make piccalilli, a sweet and tangy relish, with all of the green tomatoes left on the vine when the weather got cool.
This past weekend I decided to try my hand at putting this year’s crop to good use. My family couldn’t find Nana’s recipe, so I did some research and came up with a blended version of some I found online.
Through process of elimination, I weeded out ideas such as adding cauliflower and cabbage (didn’t seem quite right) but remembered flecks of red (bell pepper) and the distinct sweet-tart taste. I decided that a process taking multiple days wasn’t for me, and neither was one that required the somewhat frightening canning process. Simple, straightforward, and traditional – that was what I was looking for.
I think what I ended up pulling together came out great; I knew once I started the final cooking process it just smelled right (this realization was followed by a small happy dance complete with “it smells right!” cheering). The spices were on-point (surprising since most of the recipes called for whole allspice, which I don’t think most people have just lying around) and I felt like I was on to something. Plus, it only took half of a lazy Sunday to make, which seemed quick compared to the two day process some recipes called for!
I wrapped the spices in a coffee filter (you could use a tea ball) and let them infuse into the veggie mixture as it cooked. Overall, the process was easy; just chop veggies, soak, cook, and then put in canning jars! I knew it would all get eaten quickly, so I didn’t bother with the preserving process.
I’m very pleased with the results, and feel like I was able to recreate a recipe that is very close to my heart. Now I can carry on my Nana’s tradition through many more fall seasons!!
makes about 4-5 cups of relish
4 cups chopped green tomatoes (this was about 8 small tomatoes for me)
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 yellow onion
1 cup sugar
1 2/3 cups apple cider vinegar
2 tsp whole peppercorns
6 whole cloves
1 tsp whole mustard seed
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup salt
1. Chop all vegetables. Slice the tomatoes and run through a food processor, pulsing to achieve a small chop (like salsa). Don’t worry about the seeds; they are so small that you don’t even notice them once the relish is done. Do the same with the red and green pepper, except take out the seeds.
2. Put veggies into a large non-reactive bowl, like plastic or glass. Dissolve 1/2 cup salt in 4 cups water, heating over low until clear. Pour salt water mixture over the veggies.
3. Stir and allow to sit for 4 hours.
4. After 4 hours, strain veggies through a fine sieve. Rinse VERY well or your relish will be too salty. Resist the urge to eat the veggies as salsa; the mixture smells delicious and I was tempted to take a tortilla chip and dive in!
5. Bundle spices in a coffee filter and tie closed, or put in a tea ball. Place spices, veggies, sugar, and vinegar in a non-reactive pan. I used my large nonstick wok-type pan since I didn’t know how my sauce pans might react.
6. Stir well and bring mixture to a boil. Boil gently, stirring often, for 30 minutes.
7. While the mixture is still hot, spoon into warm, sanitized canning jars, leaving an inch of air at the top. Seal jars, turning the lids until just tight. If you’re lucky, you may hear the telltale “pop” a few hours later, indicating that your piccalilli has been sealed and will last into the winter months (if it doesn’t get eaten before then). Allow jars to cool on the counter for a while and then put in the refrigerator to store.
Enjoy as you would any other relish. We love it as a spread on subs, or as a topping on hot dogs or kielbasa. Yum!