I used to make this relish at the end of every August. It made sense when I had a garden with more than enough tomatoes, and a few green ones that would never live up to their red, ripe potential as the summer waned. But now I think, why wait? Barbecue season is at its peak now, and this is the condiment I crave to slather on just about anything that comes off the grill. By the end of August, the horse is already out of the barn, the ship has sailed, the toothpaste is out of the tube. Or as my mother used to say: “summer is over by the fourth of July.”
Now there’s a cheery thought. I guess that’s where my glass-half-empty outlook came from. Thanks, Mom. Never mind. It’s incentive to start pulling out the canning jars. Canning has always been grounding for me. Coming home from a trip after a lazy (or frenetic) summer vacation, the urge to ‘put something up’ inexplicably arises. Once the laundry is done and the house is put right, there I am in the steaming kitchen with a vat of boiling water and a mess of jars and lids and funnels. As if, as my mother predicted, summer will be over in the next few minutes.
Piccalilli is one of those summer foods that you actually don’t need to process in a boiling water bath because you probably will devour it soon after you make it. It can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of months (or longer, but it may taste a bit old.) If you are planning to give it away, it’s not a bad idea to process it so it doesn’t clog up the refrigerator, or disappear into no man’s land on the back of a shelf only to be rediscovered sometime around Christmas. A jar of it makes a great gift for the friend who is doing the grilling at her house.
The British version of piccalilli, sometimes called India relish, often contains cauliflower, zucchini, and turmeric, while in the American South you will find cabbage among the ingredients and it is called chow-chow. Those are a few ideas you could play around with. Or you could stick with New England style piccalilli. It most likely came from India, brought by sailors on whaling ships, or on clipper ships in the China trade. Call it what you will, but serve it with hamburgers, hot dogs or a plate of ham, pork or cold cuts and you will not be disappointed.
Makes 3 pints
2 pounds green (unripened) tomatoes
2 large white onions
1/3 cup coarse kosher salt
2 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
3 large carrots, grated
2 sweet red peppers, seeded and grated
1 sweet yellow pepper, seeded and grated
1. Grate the tomatoes and onions in a food processor fitted with a coarse grater attachment. If you do not have a food processor, chop small by hand.
2. Layer the tomatoes and onions with the salt in a large bowl. Let stand for 4 hours.
3. Set a colander in the sink, and drain the tomatoes and onions. Rinse 3 times in generous amounts of cold water to remove most of the salt. Drain again. Press out excess liquid with your hands.
4. Stir together the vinegar, water, sugar, mustard seed, cloves, allspice, turmeric, red peppers, yellow peppers and drained tomatoes and onions in a large pot set over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Adjust the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Ladle the relish into sterilized jars, seal, and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. For room temperature storage of up to one year, process hot relish in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
BOILING WATER BATH
1. Fill a large, deep pot with enough water to cover the jars by 1 inch. Bring to a boil.
2. Inspect canning jars for cracks and discard defective ones. Thoroughly wash the jars in hot soapy water or run through the dishwasher.
3. Wash lids and screw bands. Use only unused lids each time to ensure a good seal.
4. Fill jars to within 1/4 inch of the top (headspace) with hot relish. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean, wet paper towel before covering with the lid. Screw on the bands.
5. Set a rack or a thick folded dishtowel on the bottom of the pot of boiling water.
With a sturdy pair of tongs, place the jars in the pot.
6. Process the jars at a gentle boil for 10 minutes. If necessary, add more boiling water to cover the jars by 1 inch.
7. With tongs, remove the jars from the water and set on a dishtowel to cool.
8. After12 hours, check the jars to ensure that they are sealed. Press on the center of each lid; it should remain concave.
9. Label and date the jars by writing on the lids with permanent marker.
10. Remove the screw bands to prevent them from rusting and store the jars for up to 1 year in a cool, dark place.