Relishing the Change in Seasons

Summer is officially over in the northern hemisphere, and autumn is making itself comfortable. There is no longer enough daylight to ripen my tomatoes, so I have taken the plants down and salvaged as much fruit as I could. I was left with three piles. The ripe tomatoes will go into the freezer. The getting-ripe tomatoes will spend a few days in a paper bag with an apple. When they are ripe, they will join the other ripe tomatoes in the freezer until I have the chance to make sauce. What shall I do with the very hard and green ones, though?

You may remember that really good salsa verde recipe I found in 2019 (click here for a reminder). I do like that recipe, but I am just not up for working with hot peppers. Thankfully, I found an excellent green tomato relish recipe last year which requires only bell peppers. Here is the recipe. I cannot say enough good things about the National Center for Home Food Preservation website. It is my first stop when I am looking for a canning recipe. Here is what happened…

First, I washed and rinsed my jars, lids, and rings. The recipe makes 7-9 pints, so I prepared 18 half pint jars.

Next, it was time weigh and chop all the vegetables. This took a while, nearly two hours. Since I am a graceful gazelle (actually the opposite of that) in the kitchen, I made sure to wear my cut-proof glove. Mr. Food It Yourself bought this for me after I had an incident with a mandolin-style slicer. Trust me, this thing has saved my hand more times than I can count. My top tip for the chopping phase of any relish or salsa recipe is this: do the onions last. Just trust me on that.

For the cooking phase of the operation, my top tip is to have every ingredient and measuring device ready to go before you turn on the stove. Here I have the water with the salt dissolving in it, the sugar and starch measured out and mixed together, and the vinegar and mustard ready to be measured once the water has been emptied from the big measuring cup. Only with all these things in place did I turn on the stove. You do not want to be digging through a kitchen drawer looking for a one-third cup measure while your relish is scorching on the bottom of the pot.

While the vegetables were simmering in the brine, I measured the vinegar and mustard into the big measuring cup. I also prepared for the draining step. I set out two colanders, just in case and I am glad I did. There is no way all those vegetables would have fit in one colander.

Once all the veggies were drained and returned to the kettle, the remaining ingredients were added. A quick five minutes later and it was time for the processing phase. I should mention that I started the jars boiling at the same time I started cooking. That is also when I poured hot water on my lids and rings to heat them up. (Remember- do not boil your BPA-free canning lids!)

One final tip, this one relates to the processing phase. I can scald 18 jars at once in my canner, but I cannot process that many. So, I pulled out nine, while the rest stayed in the boiling water. I filled and capped the first nine jars, then removed the second nine. The first nine processed while I filled and capped the rest. All the jars are hot during filling and have plenty of room during processing. I will have to wait until tomorrow to be sure, but as of right now, all 18 jars of relish have sealed.

Actually, we got 18 half-pint jars that were processed, and there was still six pints left. Not sure why that happened. Mr. Food It Yourself has suggested we purchase a large number of hot dogs. A relevant bonus tip: you can freeze food in strait-sided canning jars. Just be sure to leave about one inch of head space.

It is always a little sad to see the short New England summer, and our gardening season, end. I do like the cooler weather, though, and it is hard to stay grumpy about the change in seasons when the leaves are starting to turn. I am looking forward to sharing this relish with my friends and family, so we can taste summertime even in winter. What are you cooking up as the seasons change? Share in the comments!