Sweet pickle relish combines cucumbers, green or red bell peppers, and onions from the summer garden. This is the classic relish to enjoy on hot dogs and hamburgers.
Half-pint jars are probably the right size for canning sweet pickle relish. Once opened you’ll want to keep this relish refrigerated and use it up within two weeks.
I choose pickling cucumbers that are odd-shaped to make relish—those are the pickling cucumbers that aren’t straight and not a great choice for the pickle jar. You’re going to chop up these cucumbers to make the relish, so set aside the odd ones.
My favorite pickling cucumbers (those are the short, compact cucumbers with tender skins) are County Fair, National Pickling, Pickle Bush, Regal, and Saladin. I grow at least one of these each year. So keep these varieties in mind for next year’s garden. (The long, slender slicing cucumbers are not well suited for relish making or pickling.) More on cucumber varieties: click here.
Canning Sweet Pickle Relish
Yield 6-7 pint jars
Some relish recipes require 5 hours of cooking and a day of cooling. This recipe will take a bit less than 3½ hours from the start of preparation until the end of processing.
- 6 medium pickling cucumbers, peeled
- 3 green or red sweet peppers, stems removed
- 6 medium onions—the sweet Vidalia onion is a good choice
- ¼ cup pickling salt
- 2½ to 3 cups sugar (less sugar means a tangy relish). You can substitute 1¼ to 2 cups honey for the sugar–again, less honey means a more tangy relish.
- 2 cups cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
- 2½ teaspoons celery seeds—or substitute 1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
- 2½ teaspoons mustard seeds—or substitute 1 tablespoon fresh chopped sage
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- Wash the cucumbers, peppers, and onions under cold water. Slice the peppers and discard the stems, membranes, and seeds. Remove the stem and blossom ends of the cucumbers; you can, but don’t have to peel away the skins of the cucumbers. Peel away the outer skin of the onion. Now chop the cucumbers, peppers, and onions or put each through a food chopper separately using a medium or “chop” blade. About ¼ inch cubes is ideal.
- Measure 6 cups of chopped cucumbers, 3 cups chopped sweet peppers, and 3 cups chopped onions.
- Combine the vegetables in a large bowl, a 5 or 6 quart saucepan. Sprinkle with pickling salt and stir to mix. Add cold water to cover. Let the vegetables stand covered at room temperature for 2 hours (longer if you like).
- Drain the vegetable mixture in a colander set in the sink, rinse with fresh water, and drain well. Return the vegetables to the bowl, cover with ice water, and let the vegetables sit for 1 more hour.
- Combine the vinegar and sugar in a 4-quart kettle or pot. Put the spices in a cheesecloth or spice bag.
- Quickly bring the mix to a boil, stirring constantly. Add the vegetables to the pot and return the mixture to boiling. Cook uncovered over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes or until most of the excess liquid evaporates; stir occasionally to keep the mix from sticking to the pot. Remove the spice bag and discard as the liquid evaporates.
- Ladle the relish into hot, sterilized half-pint canning jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Run a spatula down in between the relish and jar to release air bubbles. Fill with more cooking liquid if necessary.
- Wipe the jar rims with a clean, damp cloth and adjust the lids in place to seal. Screw the ring bands on as tightly as you can.
- Put the jars on a rack in a boiling-water canner making sure they don’t touch the canner sides. The hot water in the canner should just cover the jar lids by 1 to 2 inches. . Place the kettle covered on the range to heat. Bring the water in the canner to a boil for 10 minutes (start timing when the water reaches a boil).
- Take jar out of water at end of processing time with a jar lifter being careful not to disturb the lid seal. Cool on a wire rack or folded towel away from drafts. Leave on ring bands in place until jars are cool. Check for good seal by pressing each lid with your finger; if the lids stay down when pressed, the jars are sealed and the rings can be removed.
- Label and store canned relish in a cool, dark place. Refrigerate all jars after opening.