Before I left to go camping I picked all the okra and zucchini, knowing I'd have more than enough when I returned. And so I did. But I didn't expect the cucumbers to go crazy that week too. I don't can every item every year. I know, from my canning records over time, that for just the two of us, various batches only need to be canned every three to four years. For example, I still have jars of dill, sweet, and bread & butter pickles from the past few years. So this year, it was time to make some sweet pickle relish.
This is my mom's pickle relish recipe, which I've cut in half to make 9 ½-pints (go ahead and double it to suit your family's needs). Nowadays, most cooks would use a food processor to chop the vegetables. But I was lucky enough to find an old food grinder, forgotten in a top cupboard in a rental house long ago, so I make my relish the same way Mom and Grandma did. Cut your cucumbers in half lengthwise and scrape with a spoon to remove the seeds before chopping or grinding.
Sweet Pickle Relish (makes approx 9 ½-pints)
2 quarts ground cucumbers
1 cup ground onion
1 cup ground bell pepper (optional)
¼ cup non-iodized salt
Let set 2 hours. Rinse and then drain well (I use a colander lined with a towel, pressing out as much liquid as possible). Start heating your jars and sealing rings in water to cover.
In an enameled pot, mix the cucumber mixture with the following and bring to a boil.
3 cups sugar
1½ cups vinegar
1 teaspoon turmeric
1½ teaspoons celery seed
1½ teaspoons mustard seed
Take the hot jars out of the boiling water and turn off the heat. Fill your jars, leaving ¼" headspace. When you know how many full jars you have, drop enough lids into the hot water, and then make sure the top rims of the jars are clean (I use a dampened folded paper towel, both so that I can turn and refold it for each jar, and so I don't transfer any bacteria from a dishcloth to the jar tops). Seal jars, hand-tight, and put into hot water bath (making sure the hot water covers the tops of the jars by at least 1" - I pour a splash of vinegar into the hot water after all the lids are removed to prevent hard water marks on my pretty jars of preserves). Process 10 minutes after bringing the water back to a low boil. Remove from the water and let set (do NOT touch or tighten the lids) and listen for the wonderful "ping" of a sealing jar.
After the jars are completely cool, I remove the rings for storage and wipe down the jars. If any haven't sealed they're stored in the refrigerator (with rings) and used first. I stick little labels on the lids (so I don't have to deal with removing them from the jars later - Mom just writes the date on the tops with a grease pencil). See my jar lifter, on the left of the above photo? It belonged to my dad's mom. I found it in a kitchen drawer of the old farmhouse before the house was sold, jacked up, and moved. It's a true work of art and a joy to use - easy and secure one-handed operation and immense sentimental value to me.