Over the weekend, my neighbor came over carrying a bucket of pickling cucumbers. She told me her husband planted too many pickles and she was overrun, and she asked if I could use some. My husband and I had not planted pickles this year because I have never had much luck canning them and getting them to taste good. They did not grow very well last year either, so I called it quits on the cucumbers. I was not going to turn my neighbor’s offering away, so I decided to try my hand at dill pickle relish!
Last year I made zucchini relish, and it turned out great! It even won third prize at our local county fair! I enjoy chopping vegetables, so I went on the hunt for some dill pickle relish recipes. I actually found four recipes on Pinterest, and combined aspects of all of them to create my recipe. (You can view the original recipes here, here, here, and here if you would like to see them.)
It was a two-day affair for me, although it does not have to be. The first day I had to go get my car serviced, so that chewed up most of my morning, and my husband and I went to a local parade and firemans’ carnival that night. So, my time was limited, and I had to finish it the next day. No big deal!
The first day consisted of chopping all the vegetables and soaking them in salt and turmeric overnight to draw out any extra juices.
The first thing I did was finely chop a red bell pepper and a green bell pepper and add them to a stainless steel bowl.
Next came the pickles. The neighbor gave me about 2 ½ pounds of cucumbers. I peeled them and scraped out the seeds. That was a trip! Some cukes had so many seeds, there was barely any flesh left! Others were relatively easy to take the seeds out of. I used a spoon and scooped as many seeds as I could, and then scraped out the rest. Let me warn you, the scraping is messy! Seeds were flying everywhere!
Eventually, I got all of the seeds out! I chopped up the cucumbers into small chunks and added them to the bowl of peppers. I ended up with about 6 ½ cups of chopped cucumber.
I saved the onion for last, just in case it was a strong one that made my eyes water. Thankfully, it was not extremely potent. I finely chopped one yellow onion (almost 2 cups), and added it to the bowl of vegetables.
I stirred them up, and added ¼ cup kosher salt to the mixture. I did a little research to find out why I should bother with this step. Turns out, the salt is supposed to draw the extra moisture out of the vegetables to prevent the relish from getting too soupy when it is simmering in the brine.
After I had the salt mixed in well, I stirred in 1 teaspoon of turmeric. I sprinkled some of the turmeric around the vegetables, then stirred them up. Then I sprinkled a little more on, and stirred again, and so forth until all of the turmeric was evenly distributed. I just did not want a big clump of cucumber pieces to be covered in turmeric while others had none; that is why I sprinkled a little at a time. The turmeric gave the cucumber a nice bright green-yellow color!
I put plastic wrap over the top of the bowl and placed it in the fridge to hang out overnight. The recipes I referenced said to let the vegetables soak anywhere from 2 hours to overnight.
For a brief recap of the first day’s relish dealings, you can check out this video!
Today, my task was to make the brine, cook the relish, and can it. I could not have asked for a more beautiful day! The sun is shining, but there is a nice cool breeze blowing. I have almost every window in my house open! We only have one window unit air conditioner upstairs, and we only use that overnight, so any summer days where I can open the windows and cool down the house are a huge blessing! Plus, canning heats up the kitchen terribly!
I first washed my jars and lids. I washed one pint jar and 8 half pints, just to be on the safe side. I would rather have too many sterile jars than not enough. Once they were washed, I put the jars in the oven and heated it to 215 degrees Fahrenheit. I placed the lids and rings in a saucepan filled with water and put heated it on the stove, but made sure they did not boil.
Next, I mixed up my brine. It is quite a list, so get ready! Three cups vinegar (I used white vinegar because that’s what I had more of, but you can use apple cider vinegar if you prefer), ¾ cup sugar (I used raw sugar, but white sugar works just as well), 1 clove finely chopped garlic, 1 Tbsp mustard seed, 1 Tbsp dill seed (which I had to fend off honey bees to harvest from my herb garden), 2 tsp celery seed, 1 tsp whole black peppercorns, ½ tsp turmeric, and 2 bay leaves. I brought this mixture to a boil, and then turned it down to simmer for 5 minutes.
If you do not have mustard seed and turmeric, you can just squirt in some yellow mustard. I did this last year in my zucchini relish, and it worked out just fine. However, the turmeric adds a nice color and the mustard seeds add a nice texture and look to the relish.
While the brine was simmering, I got the vegetables out of the refrigerator and poured them into a strainer. I rinsed them off with cold water to get any excess salt and turmeric off.
After five minutes, I scooped the veggie mixture into the brine. I stirred it up, and went fishing for bay leaves! I was terrified that I would not be able to find them and then someone would get a bay leaf on their cheeseburger! Finally, I found them, and kept them near the top for easy removal.
While waiting for the relish to boil, I filled my water bath canner and put it on the stove to start heating up. I made a video while I was waiting for everything to boil, which you can watch here.
Once the relish mixture boiled, I turned the heat down and simmered it for 9 minutes.
I ladled some of the liquid from the relish and poured it into a glass measuring cup. I added one Tbsp corn starch to it, and whisked it up until there were no lumps.
After nine minutes of simmering, I poured in the corn starch liquid and stirred it in very well. I let the relish simmer for 3 more minutes.
It was not quite as thick as I would have liked. So, if you want a thicker consistency to your relish, I would whisk 2 tablespoons of cornstarch into the brine.
From there, I filled my jars with relish, used a plastic knife to let out any air bubbles, wiped the rim of the jar, screwed on the lid and ring, and placed each one on the canning rack.
I used a slotted spoon to fill the jars, so that the relish had a more gel-like consistency.
I put one pint and 5 half pint jars in the canner. I had a little bit of relish left over, so I put it in a half pint jar, but did not put it in the water bath. I just let it cool, screwed on a plastic lid, and put it in the refrigerator for us to use right away.
The jars stayed in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes. I used the jar-grabbing tool, removed them from the canner, and set them on a towel on the counter to cool.
Within a few minutes, the sounds of popping lids could be heard. I love that sound!
The real test came when I made supper. We had venison cheeseburgers (almost all the meat we use is venison; we rarely eat beef) with today’s relish on top.
It tasted very good! To be honest, I was a little surprised, and very pleased! I really did not know what to expect. Alone, the liquid from the relish has more of an onion and pepper taste to it. But a big bite of relish on a burger…that really hit the spot! It has more of a sour note to it than sweet, but the vinegar is not overbearing. There are enough other flavors mixed in to cut the vinegar taste.
This was definitely a win for my canning efforts! I encourage you to try this recipe! And feel free to make it your own! If you like sweeter relish, add some more sugar. If you do not have some of the ingredients, either leave them out or substitute them with something creative! I would love to hear about your relish creations!
Dill Pickle Relish
2 1/2 pounds (6 1/2 cups) seeded and chopped cucumbers
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/4 cup salt
1 tsp turmeric
Combine vegetables, salt, and turmeric, cover, and place in refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
3 cups vinegar
3/4 cups sugar
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp mustard seed
1 Tbsp dill seed
2 tsp celery seed
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 bay leaves
Boil brine. Simmer 5 minutes.
Drain and rinse vegetables. Add to brine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 9 minutes.
Whisk 2 Tbsp cornstarch into brine liquid. Pour into relish mixture.
Simmer 3 minutes.
Put relish into jars. Process in water bath canner 10 minutes.