But in my family, we call it only '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.
Sharon's Pickle is a spectacular paired with pork, especially. But I often throw a tablespoon or two into chicken salad or egg salad. 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 -- and 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 2 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? The "POP" that happens when the jars seal ... there went one now!
FROM THE ARCHIVES The Recipe Box has a special section especially for recipes where perfect summer tomatoes are called for!
A YEAR AGO THIS WEEK Chiogga Beets with Horseradish Cream ... "the other chiogga beets turned out pale and pretty pink, some paler than others but still ruby colored. They were delicious, drizzled with a simple dressing of sour cream and horseradish."
TWO YEARS AGO Herbed Grape Tomatoes ... Another family recipe! "the sauteed combination of green onion and parsley is really nice"
GRAMMA MILLER'S RIPE TOMATO RELISH aka SHARON's PICKLE
Makes about 10 pints
30 medium ripe tomatoes (about 14 pounds this year)
6 medium yellow onions
3 green peppers
2 jalapeno peppers (this isn't traditional, I'm adding it this year for the first time)
6 pears, peeled and diced (because pears aren't yet in season, I use 3 15-ounces cans of pears in light syrup, including the syrup, the fruit diced small)
4 cups sugar
1 - 2 cups (or more) white or cider vinegar or a mixture
2 tablespoons table salt
2 tablespoons pickling spices
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil for blanching the peaches and tomatoes. Wash the peaches and tomatoes well. (I wash and then let soak in cool water).
While the water comes to a boil, in batches chop the onion, green pepper and jalapeno in a food processor. Transfer to a very large bowl (I use my mother's old bread bowl which holds 5 quarts and even it's not enough.) Add the pears, sugar, vinegar (see notes below about vinegar quantity) and salt.
Four or five at a time, drop the peaches into the water and blanch for 1 minute til skin splits, transfer to colander to drain and cool. Let water return to a boil before adding more.
Cut an X in the skin of the blossom end of each tomato, then four or five at at time, drop into boiling water. Cover and blanch for 1 - 2 minutes til skin splits, transfer to a colander to drain and cool.
One by one, peel and then chop the peaches and tomatoes, discarding the peels and adding the pieces (juice and seeds and all) to the bowl. When the bowl is full (as will happen long before you're out of tomatoes) stir to combine.
Fill three large pots (I use two Dutch ovens and a stock pot) about 2/3 full. Wrap the pickling spices in two or three squares of cheesecloth. (You'll need as many as you have pots for cooking. You can also staple the spices into coffee filters. )
Bring the three pots to a boil and let simmer until liquid cooks off, adding the leftover tomatoes as soon as you can. 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. This batch had a lot of liquid and took nearly 9 hours, in part because I started off with only two pots.
A couple of hours in, TASTE the mixture. It needs to have a strong vinegar component, if it doesn't, add vinegar. (My Mom and I made a very unsuccessful batch one year, we realized too late it was because we didn't use enough vinegar.) It's done with the liquid is cooked off and the whole mixture has turned a beautiful shade of brown. It could be refrigerated at this point ... say if it's time for bed and you don't have the energy to fill and process the jars right then! If so, return to a boil but be careful, once it's fully cooked, it's easy to accidentally burn the bottom.
Fill the jars and process for 10 minutes.
SHARON'S PICKLE 30 tomatoes (14lbs), 6 peaches, 3 15oz cans pears, 3 green peppers, 6 onions, [2 jalapenos? 2006], 4c sugar, 1 - 2 c vinegar, 2T pickling spices, 15min hot water bath
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