Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Relish the Thought

Since I caught up with making salsa this week and had a huge canner still full of water, I decided to tackle another canning project.

Yeah, I know. The temps outside are pushing 90, the temps inside aren't far behind, and I want to stand over a hot stove and steaming pots? Am I nuts? (Don't answer that.)

I still had two large zucchinis in the refrigerator, and it seemed obvious to me that I should use them up, taking advantage of that half-gallon of fresh cider vinegar, by making zucchini relish.

For most of my life, I really haven't wanted much to do with anything vinegar-based, save for a light vinaigrette dressing on salads. I've never been crazy about pickles or other such condiments, and I certainly never understood why My Dear Papa fell into raptures over French fries sprinkled with malt vinegar when we went to the county fair every summer.

Somewhere along the line, though, things changed. About half a dozen years ago, a choir friend gave me a jar of her homemade zucchini relish. Politely I thanked her, but privately I thought I probably wouldn't get more than a tiny spoonful down before I gave up.

Boy, was I wrong! The tang of the vinegar, balanced by sweet sugar and spices, turned that shredded zucchini into something new and exciting. All summer long I found myself heaping dollops of it onto veggie burgers, until at last the jar yielded no more.

The next summer, I decided to make some for myself. It ended up a little too liquid, though still full of good flavor, and I shared some with the Southern Belle so that her mother and her mother-in-law, both fans of relish, could enjoy it as well.

This year, in deciding to try it again, I pulled out my family cookbook and found a straightforward recipe for the relish, so despite the heat, I plunged into the process once more. Last night I shredded the vegetables (local zucchini, onion, and green pepper), salting them and allowing them to drain overnight.


After work today, I set the pot on the stove and simmered local cider vinegar with sugar and a handful of spices (mustard seed, celery seed, turmeric, nutmeg, and black pepper), releasing a piquant and seductive aroma throughout the loft.


After that, I added the vegetables to the pot and allowed the mixture to simmer while the water in the canner came to the boil. I ladled the relish into jars (1 pint and 3 half-pints), capped them, and lowered them into the water to process. And a short time later, my work was done.


I saved just enough to top my veggie burger for dinner (I don't usually eat them much any more, but this seemed like a special occasion), and I was more than satisfied with the blend of flavors and textures, even before the relish has time to age.

Maybe it's due to my getting older and realizing that life isn't always sweet and smooth, that the tart and bitter times have their place in making my existence fuller and more flavorful, that has helped me appreciate vinegar a little more. Sometimes that sharp flavor can be just what you need to wake up your senses and taste things in a new way. (Heaven knows I go just as crazy over fair fries with malt vinegar as My Dear Papa now!)

And it helps to know I'll be able to relish that extra little kick in my meals this winter.

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