Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hot Dog Relish

I love food with a story. Knowing the history behind a meal or recipe makes it come alive in my mind. This relish has one of those stories.

I grew up with this relish. As a child I detested it because it was full of things I didn't "like". Peppers, onions, cabbage....yuck. Eventually I gave it a try and found it was not at all what I expected. Sweet, a little tangy and well, yummy. Added to a hamburger I found it quite enjoyable. I never quite took my love of it as far as my Dad did though. He eats it by the spoonful, not as a condiment but as a side dish! That always confused me because this man HATES onions with a passion. I suppose with enough vinegar and sugar anything is edible (Case in point? Pickled pigs feet. I mean really, who thinks of that?!?). 

Eventually, I learned that this was the relish my Dad grew up eating. It was his mothers recipe, a grandmother I never met as she passed away before I was born. I've been told I resemble her though. And judging from the bits and pieces she left behind, I share her love of food. My Grandfather remarried, a wonderful woman I have always known as Grandma. She is the consummate home cook; turning out pies, cookies and perfectly cooked roasts with grace and hospitality. Under her wing I learned how to make apple sauce and perfect sugar cookies. I still use the cookbook she gave me when I was ten; the very cookbook that I used to bake my first loaf of yeast bread.

I don't distinctly remember the first time I made relish. It was just a part of summer. Pick the peppers, make the relish. Eventually the relish making reins were handed over to me and I was off and running. Every summer I fired up the stove and went to work preserving summers bounty. It was never a chore, always something I genuinely enjoyed: and still do. Some of those creations made their way to the state fair as culinary exhibits and the rest ended up on the shelves of our pantry for enjoyment.

Last weekend my husband called, "Do you want some peppers?", not one to turn down a gift of produce my response was, "Of course!". He ended up procuring two grocery bags full of sweet peppers. Pure. Gold. And a sure way into this girls heart! I knew I wanted to make my grandmothers relish but upon further investigation I realized I did not have the cookbook her recipe is published in (A local church cookbook). Gasp! A quick trip to the local store that carries the cookbook was a bust, they were temporarily out. I searched the Internet for a similar recipe and came up empty. Disappointed, I resigned myself to making a new recipe I found online. While gathering my supplies to start on that recipe I remembered my grandmothers handwritten recipe notebook Grandma found while cleaning out earlier this year and gave to me. I flipped through cakes, cookies and wasn't until the last page that I hit pay dirt, "Hot Dog Relish"....I had it all along, in my grandmothers handwriting, and I didn't even know it!

It has been a few years since I've made any relish, but it all came back to me once I got started. The grinding, the tears shed over onions and the scorching heat rolling off of the pan as I stirred. It brought back many memories and when I tasted it, I knew it was right. A word of warning, this is an extremely sweet relish. Again, extremely sweet! (You have been warned!) If you enjoy a zesty concoction this is not the recipe for you. It is also a large recipe, I ended up with nine pints. If math is your forte you could cut it down to suit your needs.

I have always used a blender to grind the vegetables for this recipe. If you have a food processor feel free to make use of it. For anyone else that doesn't have a food processor here's how to use your blender - Cut the cabbage into fourths and then in half so you have eight pieces. Take two pieces, place in blender and cover with water. Using the "grind" option, process in short 2-3 second bursts once or twice. Usually twice is all you need to get the job done. Just be careful. You want to grind, not liquefy. Dump the contents of the blender into a colander and leave to drain. Repeat process until all vegetables are ground. I do one vegetable at a time, clearing out the colander and measuring (if needed) after each variety. Easy peasy.

Hot Dog Relish

4 cups ground onions
4 cups ground cabbage
4 cups ground green tomatoes
12 sweet red peppers, ground
6 sweet green pepper, ground

Combine all in a large bowl and sprinkle with 1/2 cup salt. Let stand 2-4 hrs. Rinse and drain.

Place in a large, heavy bottomed stock pot.


3 cups vinegar
7 cups sugar
1 tbsp celery seed
2 tbsp mustard seed
1 1/2 tsp tumeric

Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 mins. Pack in hot jars and process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

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