Intro: Bread & Butter Zucchini Relish
Every year is the same; we plant zucchini and squash thinking some of the seeds won't grow, and we end up having a kitchen full of them! If you grow these veggies (yes, botanically they are fruits...weird), you know how plentiful they are! You SWEAR you've picked them all and the next day you have a couple foot-length ones... So what do we do with them? Canned bread and butter zucchini relish: it tastes like finely diced b&b pickles but with zucchini that holds its crunch better. We make around 50 jars with these special in-season ingredients every year and either give them away or use it on hotdogs, hamburgers, potato salad, or mixed with mayo as a fish dip... it has become a prized commodity at family reunions!
What else is great about this relish? You know where it comes from! This recipe uses basic organic produce from your garden (or easily purchased from a farmer's market). According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), bell peppers and squash are some of the most important produce to buy organic because they - commercially - have the highest pesticide levels. The EWG also has a list of the "Clean 15" produce that are "more ok" to buy non-organic, which includes onions, so we feel good about buying them from the farmer's market. For us, the most important aspect of buying organic is the idea that, because there are no preservatives, the produce will more likely be sourced locally; this, in turn, means we are hopefully supporting local Midwest farmers.
Lastly, as you notice, this is a canning recipe. It uses the water bath method of canning, not a pressure canner. All you need is a stock pot and basic canning supplies. You can make and eat this relish without canning it, but it's better after settling for a few weeks and you'll likely want to keep it in stock.
Step 1: Ingredients & Materials
- 2 1/2 cups green zucchini, finely chopped
- 2 1/2 cups yellow squash or zucchini, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 cups white onion (2-3 medium), finely chopped
- 1 red bell peppers, seeded and finely chopped
- 1/3 cup pickling salt
- Crushed ice
- 4 cups sugar
- 3 cups white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons mustard seeds*
- 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
- 1 1/2 teaspoons celery seeds
*No, you don't have to use all organic spices, but in the spirit of the organic cooking challenge, try Whole Foods, Sprouts, Trader Joe's, farmer's markets, or a natural store for your recipe items!
- Mixing bowl
- Lid or plastic wrap
- 6-8 qt cooking pot
- 7 pint size jars, lids, & jar bands (rims)
- Large boiling water-canner or stock pot
- Paper and cloth towels
- Optional: magnetic lid grabber and jar lifter
Step 2: Dice Veggies
I first cut up all my veggies - zucchini, squash, pepper, and onion. We found that you could just use all 5 cups of green zucchini and onions and omit the pepper, but we like the yellow squash or yellow zucchini and red peppers to add color! Yes, yellow squash and yellow zucchini are interchangeable here; we use what is on hand.
To dice finely chopped squash or zucchini, I cut each into "coins" or thin slices, then cut each coin into strips, and then dice the strips. The measuring tape in the picture should give you a rough estimate on the desired diced size.
Step 3: Chill & Rinse
Next we need to chill the veggies and let them soak for 3-12 hours. We do this so the veggies keep their crunch! Would you want a droopy pickle? I don't think so. So we treat the relish the same we would if we were making pickles.* After dicing the veggies and putting in a mixing bowl, I cover with 1/3 cup of pickling salt, a couple inches of crushed ice**, and water.
I put saran wrap (or a lid) on the bowl and set on my counter for 3 hours. If you are going to soak the veggies for longer, put them in your fridge.
After they are done soaking, remove the ice and drain the mixture in a colander. Rinse multiple times! Slush it, spin it, mix it around, just get the salt off the veggies or your sweet bread and butter relish is going to be oh so gross.
*I also make pickle coins and spears with this same recipe. SO good.
**If you only have regular ice, that's fine! Don't feel the need to hand crush ice :)
Step 4: Cook Relish
Before we start the relish mixture, add water to your water canner now. Or start it 10 minutes ago. Is the saying, a watched water bath canner never boils? Basically, it takes a long time for a large pot of water to boil, so do it early. The water will need to cover your jars by an inch. This is hard to estimate now; if you're short water later, I'll go through what to do.
Back to relish. In the cooking pot, combine the sugar, vinegar, celery seeds, turmeric, and mustard seeds, and heat to boiling. Stir occasionally. Add your veggies and return the mixture back to a boil.
Step 5: Give the Relish a Water Bath
During my free time, I sterilize the pint jars and jar bands in hot soapy water. Do not wash the lids or you'll remove the glue. When the relish is close to to returning to a boil, I put the jar lids in a bowl of boiling water. Don't put more lids in that you need because you shouldn't use a lid that has been previously used or been in water already. (Some people do it, but I don't want to take the chance of spoiling.) You'll likely get 7 jars out of this recipe, so I'd start with 5-6 lids and add more if necessary.
When the relish has boiled, I place the funnel over a jar and pack in the hot mixture, leaving about 1/2-1 inch of headspace at the top. I take a spoon or my bubble-remover and move around the inside of the jar to release the bubbles in the liquid. Then I take a paper towel, dip it in the hot lid water, and wipe down the top of the jar lids to remove any excess liquid or relish. Lastly, I place on the lids and jar bands, screw them on finger tight (do not over tighten!!), and place in the boiling-water canner using the jar lifters.
If there isn't enough water to cover the jars by 1 inch, quickly boil water (in a kettle, saucepan, or coffee pot), and add it to the canner. Don't add room temperature water to the canner or there is potential for the jars to break. After the water is boiling, process the jars for 10 minutes. Remove the jars and place on a cooling rack or towel for at least 12 hours.
Step 6: Eat Now or Wait
After the jars are cool, you can absolutely eat the relish now. I found, however, that the relish is even better after sitting in the jars for 1-2 weeks. If the relish somehow makes it to a year, the zucchini is still crunchy and tasty as ever. Enjoy!