Sunday, August 22, 2010

Relish the Thought of Overgrown Cucumbers (or How I lost my Home Canning Virginity!)

My husband and I have just returned from a week in Chicago ( business, unfortunately - not vacation) and my cucumbers used the opportunity to grow into blimps. Giz of  Equal Opportunity Kitchen suggested I toss them into the composter, but I didn't have the heart. I nurtured those cucumbers, fertilized them, watered them, provided them with beautiful coloured cages to climb - how could I resort to such an undignified end for their brief lives?

After googling and a bit of research, I decided to try my hand at preserving cucumber relish. I remember the delicious relish my mother used to make when I was a youngster, and wondered if I could pull it off. I have never in the almost 60 years of my life ever canned anything, so this would be a new experience.

Off to Canadian Tire® to buy supplies:

and a book:

Bernardin® are the folks that make the jars. They were the resource I counted  to hold my hand through the process. This recipe is from Bernardin® Guide to Home Canning and makes 6 - 500 ml. jars of relish.

Cucumber Relish

7 cups peeled, finely chopped cucumbers
4 cups finely chopped green pepper
4 cups finely chopped red pepper
2 cups finely chopped celery
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup pickling salt
2-1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 cups white vinegar
3 tbsp. celery seed
3 tbsp. mustard seed

 1.  Peel the cucumbers and seed them. The recipe I used did not say to seed them, but when using watermelon sized (well, almost) cukes, the seeds are undesirable.

 2. Chop all the vegetables and combine in a large glass or stainless steel bowl. Little did I know that this process would take well over an hour! Once all the vegetables are combined, add the pickling salt, mix well and allow it to sit for 4 hours.

(I found it necessary to alter the recipe. I under bought peppers and over peeled cukes, so my cucumbers took up the slack for my pepper shortfall. Also I had red and yellow peppers and no green ones, so that was another deviation from the original recipe. I'll know in 2 weeks if my changes were a good idea or not. That's the suggested wait time before using the relish in order to allow flavours to blend.)

3. Line a salad spinner basket or sieve with cheesecloth and scoop the relish mixture into it to drain.
Rinse it well and drain several times as it's pretty salty. Very salty! Squeeze out the excess liquid.

4. Combine sugar, vinegar, celery seed and mustard seed in a large stainless steel saucepan. Mix well and bring to a boil. Add the vegetables and return the mixture to a gentle boil for 10 minutes.

Jar preparation:
At some point near the end of the 4 hour wait time, prepare the mason jars for use. The clean jars need to be placed on a rack in a canner and covered with water. Heat the water to a simmer (180° F/82° C.) The snap lids need to be heated also in the same temp water - not boiling. Keep them hot until ready to use. Remove  from the hot water with a jar lifter. Tilt to drain all the hot water out.

5. Ladle the relish mixture into the jar to within 1/2" of the top rim. This is the headspace. Using a non-metallic utensil, poke around in the mixture to remove air bubbles. Wipe the rim of the jar to remove any stickiness and centre the SNAP Lid on the jar. Apply the screw band securely until resistance is met. Do not over tighten.

6. Place the jar in the canner. Repeat with the remaining jars and relish mixture.

7. Cover the canner and bring the hot water to a boil. Process by boiling the filled jars for 15 minutes. Remove jars from boiling water without tilting and cool upright, undisturbed for 24 hours. After cooling, check the jar seals to make sure the lids have sealed properly and curve downward. Remove the screw band, wipe dry and replace. Do not tighten firmly.

8. Label and store in a cool, dark place.

The recipe was supposed to make 6 - 500ml jars. I only got 5 out of it. The way I figure it, with the canner, jar lifter, jars and book I had to purchase to make it, each 500 ml. jar is worth $7.41 not including tax! . (That's not including the  non-cucumber vegetables I purchased.) Maybe Giz's idea to pitch the cukes wasn't such a bad one after all!  I should listen to her more often!

However, my mother would be proud of me if she was here to see it! My first preserves! Ever!  The experience - Priceless!


  1. Wow -- very impressive. Sounds like quite the process. I made 3 jars of pickles -- I think only one may be edible. Not sure what I did wrong.

  2. Some of the wierdest experiments turn into something fantastic. You just never know. I'll be looking forward to hearing about them. I'm also curious about who's eating them with all that sugar.

  3. I don't think it will be Cary eating a whole lot of it! I was afraid to try preserves with Splenda as I wasn't sure how well they would keep. If the relish tastes good, I'll be tying a pretty ribbon on a few of the jars and giving them away!