Thursday, September 6, 2012

Preserving Summer

..this is my vegetable version of Summer In A Jar: Amish Zucchini Relish. Or, in lieu of enough zucchini -- cucumbers. Yes, yes, I know. I may be the only one in the world that leaves her car windows down & front door wide open in late summer in case any one wants to anonymously unload their bumper crop of summer squash ;)

Since losing the use of my raised beds I've had problems growing zucchini in a plastic tub. I think I may simply be planting too many in it. Next year maybe I'll get smart and try one plant per pot instead of cramming all 3 into one.

The tasty non-bitter, so-sweet-n-tender-you-can-eat-the-skin cucumbers out-produce the zucchinis now. So I just substitute them in my standard recipe & grate what I do get of the squash into freezer packs to use in winter for carrot.. I mean, zucchini ..cakes.

Besides the usual flowers, some climbing green bean plants for beauty & early fall meals, basil, oregano, sage, & thyme (from Kay's garden), chives, corn, tomatoes, rhubarb, & strawberries... growing the ingredients for that amazing relish are thee most essential garden crops. So Gypsy peppers & onions, cukes & zucchinis reign supreme. I like Gypsy peppers because they are extremely prolific & easy to grow. They come on so much faster than bell peppers, too. It's simply beautiful to watch them change day by day as they mature from pale yellow-green, to yellow, to orange, to red... thin-skinned & crisp, they are delicious from the yellow stage on!

I'm pretty doggone proud of this relish recipe because I created it from a good basic one I found many years ago, adding & subtracting ingredients that fit our tastes. It won me a blue ribbon at the fair back in the good old days when I used to have fun exhibiting my kitchen crafts. If all that wasn't enough it's also the absolute tastiest, finest, most beautiful relish money can't buy!

** so kind as to ignore the 'scorch' misspelling!**
In the past I used the old Oster stand mixer's grinder attachment to process the vegetables. When that finally gave up the ghost I switched to its tiny food processor attachment. So it's a long process, but one that I still enjoy. One day I'll enjoy it even more when I own a normal-sized processor! I like making those chunks of vegetables turn into this colorful relish blend with just the push of a button:

Next, putting together all the gorgeous spices & seed textures & colors, it becomes a virtual artist's palette.

I love the way the whole house fills with the scent of the cooking relish. That sweet-tart, spicy, vinegar-y scent is actually quite heady & therapeutic; talk about aromatherapy! To me, this is one major 'feel-good' air freshener!

The easiest method for sanitizing the canning jars was the invention of the microwave oven. Just place squeaky clean hot jars, filled half full of hot water, into a clean microwave & boil for 10 to 20 minutes (depending on jar size: half pints to quart).

So the first jars are filled & ready for the steam canner. I'm excited! But wait, there's more cooking pleasure to come - cuz the most fun of all is when there's that awesome musical sound of the pop!pop!pop! when the processing of the jars is complete and each lid seals!

It's so intensely gratifying for me to see the literal fruits-of-my-labors all lined up on the kitchen counter top and then stored in neat, tidy rows in the pantry waiting for a year of sweet relish use. Simplest & best Thousand Island Dressing you can imagine? Mama's relish stirred into a mixture of mayo & ketchup. mmm-mmm good!

This was the 2nd batch I've made in the past week or so. With any luck, and the weather holds, I'll be making a third before the frost bites!

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