Free food: think 'monster' zucchini and 'prolific' peppers. This time of year, free food makes its way into our kitchens where we become its steward, charged with 'no waste' and looking for recipes to use up large zucchini and piles of peppers. With this recipe for zucchini relish, I made good use of two extra-large zucchinis, each one weighing 2+ pounds and still only Size XL beside a four-pound Size XXXL.
The zucchini relish recipe is 'tried and true' -- it came from my friend Linda who got it from her friend Kathie who got it from her mother-in-law who got it from, well, you know. Grating and chopping takes a good hour, then the vegetables rest for three hours before getting cooked and processed in canning jars.
The relish is sweet, almost enough to be called a 'zucchini jam' but still, leans to the savory side. It's got some bite too, thanks to a good measure of black pepper which shouldn't be skipped. It's thick and good for spreading (as photographed, on bread atop feta cheese, say). The color is beautiful! The carrots and red peppers stay bright and colorful, the zucchini takes on the amber color of turmeric. Yes, I really like this stuff!
KATHIE'S NOTES "I had an 80-year old neighbor who put it on all her sandwiches (said it stimulated her appetite) and always wanted me to sell the relish. For Christmas, my siblings ask for relish, nothing else. I think the turmeric makes it special."
FUNNY PAGES My friend Stephanie from the St. Louis food blog Iron Stef has the funniest picture ever of one of those big honkin' zucchinis that emerge from gardens this time of year. Be sure to check out her Zucchini Baby.
HOMEMADE ZUCCHINI RELISH
Time to table: 6 hours
Makes 8 or so pints but can be canned in half pints if preferred
15 cups grated zucchini, from about 4 + pounds of fresh zucchini
1 pound carrots, grated
6 cups chopped onion, from about 5 onions
8 sweet peppers, a mix of red and green, chopped (I used 2 red, 6 green)
1/3 cup table salt (Linda's sister suggests using pickling salt)
Mix these together in a very large bowl. Let stand at least three hours. (This batch stood overnight.) Drain in a colander or wrap in cheesecloth so the excess liquid can be squeezed out.
LIQUID & SPICES
3 cups vinegar (cider is preferred because it's gentler and more fruity but I used plain white vinegar and it was fine)
6 cups sugar
3 teaspoon celery seed
1-1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1-1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
3 tablespoons cornstarch stirred into a little cold water to make a paste
Mix ingredients in a very large kettle, stir until sugar is dissolved. Add drained vegetables and bring to a boil. Let cook just a few minutes, until liquid is mostly gone. Transfer relish into sterilized jars and seal. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.
Large zucchini can be seedy and spongy in the centers -- cut this out before grating. If large pieces of skin get through the grater, pull these out, they'll likely be tough. The small slivers cook fine, however.
Grate the zucchini and carrots in the food processor. Onion and peppers get mushy in the food processor so should be chopped by hand.
Even though I've done a lot of canning, I always review my own practical home canning tips before getting started on a new batch. There's always something to forget, otherwise!
~ more recipes for canning & preserving vegetables ~
~ more zucchini recipes ~
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