Ripe-Tomato Relish is almost but not quite as thick as chutney. It's made from perfect summer tomatoes, peaches and pears. Even with fruit and sugar, it’s a savory relish, not a sweet jam.
In my family, we call Ripe-Tomato Relish "Sharon's Pickle" because my cousin Sharon has loved it so much for so long. The recipe comes from her Grandma Miller so it's now in at least the third generation. I need to work on the fourth generation, who are busy bearing babies aka the fifth generation!
Ripe-Tomato Relish is spectacular paired with pork, especially. But I often throw a tablespoon or two into chicken salad or egg salad or with sliced meat in a sandwich instead of ketchup or another spread. It's just one of those specialties that's, well, always special. I make it in pint jars for my own use, in half pints for gifts – it always gets rave reviews.
When my mom was alive, we'd make it together in May with tomatoes she and my dad hauled from Florida on their way north for the summer. It takes lots of chopping – so company does make the job fly by faster. But even working in solitude, it's nice, about two hours of prep work, then a long time on the stove, then quick work to fill and process the jars in a hot water bath.
What is a hot water bath? It's when you carefully place sterilized jars filled with the hot relish into a big vat of boiling water. It seals the jars to lock in flavor and color and destroy microorganisms that cause spoilage. NOTE: I'm the first to process jars of Sharon's Pickle. My mother, my aunts and certainly Grandma Miller never did. But canning specialists do recommend processing home-canned foods in hot water baths, even relishes with high vinegar content like this. And after all the hauling, all the blanching, all the peeling, all the chopping, all the time on the stove, the hot water bath seems like one last safe – and simple – step. And so I do.
If you're new to canning, check out my Practical Home Canning Tips, a sort of "what I wish I'd known beforehand" list I wrote four years ago during the Summer of Obsessive Canning.
And here's a quiz. Besides the lineup of pickles and preserves and jams and jellies, what's the most satisfying moment of home canning? It’s the "POP" that happens when the jars seal. There goes one now!
RIPE-TOMATO RELISH with PEACHES & PEARS
(in my family, we call it just "SHARON's PICKLE”)
Makes about 10 pints
6 large peaches
30 medium-size ripe tomatoes (about 14 pounds)
6 medium yellow onions
3 green peppers
2 jalapeño peppers (my addition)
6 pears, peeled and diced
4 cups sugar
1 - 2 cups (or more) white or cider vinegar or a mixture
2 tablespoons table salt
2 tablespoons pickling spices
BLANCH THE PEACHES AND TOMATOES Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil for blanching the peaches and tomatoes. (To “blanch” is to cook quickly, just enough to soften the skins so that they’ll release easily from the fruit.) Wash the peaches and tomatoes well, I usually wash them first, then let soak in cool water to remove any further dirt.
For the peaches, drop the peaches into the water three or four at a time. Blanch for 1 minute until the skin splits, transfer to a colander to drain, then onto a baking sheet to cool. Let the water return to a boil before adding more.
For the tomatoes, cut an X in the skin of the blossom end of each tomato, then four or five at a time, drop into the boiling water. Cover and blanch for 1 - 2 minutes til skin splits, transfer to a colander to drain, then onto a baking sheet to cool.
When cool enough to handle, peel and then chop the peaches and tomatoes, discarding the peels and adding the pieces, juice and seeds and all, to a very large bowl.
PICKLING SPICES Wrap the pickling spices in two or three squares of cheesecloth or staple the spices in folded-over coffee filters, you’ll need as many as you have cooking pots.
COOK DOWN-DOWN-DOWN Fill two or three large, heavy pots about 2/3 full. Leave the covers off, bring the pots to a boil and let simmer until the liquid cooks off. Especially at the beginning and near the end, stir ever 15 minutes to monitor the temperature. My notes from other years say this takes 2 - 5 hours. My last couple of batches had so much liquid, it took nearly 9 hours to cook. Three pots make a difference, it’s easier for low heat to reach into the deep mixture. At some point, you will want to combine the pots, however, so that there is just “one” flavor mixture.
TASTE FOR VINEGAR A couple of hours in, taste the mixture. It needs to have a strong vinegar component, if it doesn't, add vinegar. Keep tasting throughout the cooking process as it cooks down, add vinegar along the way as needed. (My mom and I made a very unsuccessful batch one year, we realized too late it was because we didn't use enough vinegar.)
FILL & PROCESS THE JARS IN A HOT WATER BATH Fill sterilized hot canning jars with the hot mixture and top with sterilized hot lids and rims. Immediately drop into boiling water and process for 10 minutes. Need more information on how to do this? Practical Home Canning Tips may help!
HOW LONG DOES IT KEEP? Use Ripe-Tomato Relish within a year or two.
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
TOMATOES It’s important that the tomatoes be really ripe. This means that the tomatoes might be a little bruised. Once the skins come off, they may be fine but be sure to cut off any actual bruised part.
PEARS Because pears aren't in season at the same time as peaches and tomatoes, I use three 15-ounces cans of pears in light syrup, including the syrup, the fruit diced small.
POT SIZES This recipe makes a lot! That means big pots are needed. I collect the chopped peaches, tomatoes and vegetables in a my mother's old bread bowl which holds 5 quarts and even it's not enough. For cooking, I use either a very large stockpot and two Dutch ovens or more recently, the very large stockpot and a large LeCreuset Dutch oven.
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MORE JAMS, PICKLES & PRESERVES
~ Homemade Zucchini Relish ~
~ Tomato Ginger Jam ~
~ Green Pepper Jelly ~
from A Veggie Venture
~ How to Make Rhubarb Jam & Rhubarb Jelly ~
~ Slow-Roasted Tomatoes ~
~ Cranberry Chutney ~
from Kitchen Parade