Saturday, August 08, 2009

Nana's zucchini relish

One summer when I was a teenager, my Nana (or maybe it was my mom, using Nana's recipe) put up several quarts of zucchini relish. I remember running down to the dark hall shelves in the basement, grabbing a jar, then popping it open to have on burgers, hotdogs, even in tuna salad. Looking back, I'm surprised I liked it as much as I did, as I've never been a big fan of sweet pickles or relishes—but this stuff was delicious.

A few years before she passed away, Jim and I were up visiting Nana at her home on San Juan Island, and I remembered to ask her for the recipe, since I had recently started canning. She rummaged around but couldn't find it. A few months later I got a note in the mail in her typically brief style, which had the recipe attached.

I've never had zucchini plants of my own, but each year when one friend or another offloads some of her bounteous harvest, I dig around for Nana's recipe, with about as much luck as she had trying to find it when I asked. It usually turns up some time in the winter or spring, when canning season is long gone, and I tuck it in a spot I'm sure I will remember for next year.

So this summer, when my friend Gretchen gave me a couple enormous zucchini, I started trying to find the recipe again. It took me a few days, but I finally found it. (And yes, I've already forgotten where I had it stashed.) Here it is, transcribed for clarification, and easy cutting and pasting:

Nana's Zucchini Relish

7-8 medium zucchini (washed)
4 large onions
3 large stalks celery
1/2 cup pickling salt
3 cups sugar
3 cups cider vinegar
2-1/2 teaspoons celery seed
2-1/2 teaspoons mustard seed
2-1/2 teaspoons turmeric

1) Cut vegetables into 1/4 inch cubes. Add pickling salt, cover and let stand in refrigerator overnight. Drain in colander. Rinse under cold running water to remove salt.

2) In large kettle, combine sugar, vinegar and spices. Bring to a boil and simmer for two minutes. Add vegetables. Remove kettle from heat, let stand for 2 hours (I actually cooked the mixture for 20 minutes and skipped letting it stand, which seemed to work just as well and saved some time.) Return liquid to boil and simmer 5 minutes.

3) Spoon relish into clean jars and seal with lids in a water bath. Process for 10 minutes. Makes about 4 pints.

The plan was for me and Gretchen to get together and make relish at her place, but we didn't manage to connect, and I went ahead and made the relish tonight so I could use those gargantuan zucchinis before they went south. Gretchen, if you're reading this, now that I've test-driven the recipe, we should definitely get together and make some more.

I used my nana's recipe as the basis, with a few alterations. Her recipe called for 7-8 medium zucchini, but since I had two very large zucchini, I approximated by using 10 cups of ground zucchini and 2 cups ground yellow summer squash. I used the grinder attachment for my KitchenAid stand mixer, which worked fine on the zucchini and squash, and saved me some prep time. For some extra color, I added red and green bell peppers (one of each). I had mediocre results using the grinder on the peppers, and it didn't work well at all for the onions or celery so I chopped them by hand. I also added two tablespoons of cornstarch to help the relish set up.

I found the recipe with these modifications actually made about 9 pints. GOOD.

Ah, Nana, I miss you.

1 comment:

aubrey said...

this totally reminds me of my mom. yummers!