Relish the thought
Turning summer's bounty into easy, bright condiments
Fire and ice relish (Bill Hogan, Chicago Tribune / June 29, 2010)
Nor does making a relish mean being chained to the kitchen stove all day fooling with canning jars and water baths. Most relishes simply can be refrigerated.
Still, given all the relish jars stocked in the local supermarket, most folks facing the prospect of making their own relish will likely sigh, "Why bother?"
"Anytime you take the time to make a relish or any pickled product from scratch, you will have a freshness and a liveliness you won't get with a commercial product,'' said Rick Field, chief executive officer and "chief pickler" of Rick's Picks, a New York City-based maker and purveyor of pickled products.
"Relish provides the bright flavor notes,'' said Field, co-author of the new Williams-Sonoma's "The Art of Preserving," with Rebecca Courchesne and Lisa Atwood (Williams-Sonoma, $29.95). "Relish is not like mayonnaise. Mayo binds things together. Relish is the soloist in the band."
For Monica Bhide, a cookbook author and writer from Dunn Loring, Va., relishes are integral to her signature cooking style.
"There are so many ways to make your food have that one difference," she said. "Some people go out of their way to buy organic. Some people grow and use their own herbs. You can get as complicated as you want. But for me, it is always the little things like relish, one of the most overlooked and underused items in the kitchen."
Relishes can sport a dazzling array of flavor, but not all recipes are complicated. Field's first relish was made by chopping up pickled cucumbers in the food processor. Field believes ingredients should "speak for themselves" in a relish.
Bhide prefers "intensely strong" relishes because they make "a simple entree shine."
"With a little imagination, a relish can brighten up a dish with such oomph,'' she said. "They are my secret weapons when pulling a meal together."
What is relish?
"A cooked or pickled sauce usually made with vegetables or fruits and often used as a condiment; can be smooth or chunky, sweet or savory and hot or mild."
— Webster's New World Dictionary of Culinary Arts
For detailed how-tos on canning, consult the book "The Art of Preserving," or visit the Web site of The National Center for Home Food Preservation at the University of Georgia: uga.edu/nchfp
Pickled zucchini relish
Prep: 35 minutes Marinate: 6 hours Cook: 35 minutes Makes: 3 cups
"Although this zucchini relish is similar to sweet pickle relish, it has a softer texture and a mellower flavor,'' write the authors of Williams-Sonoma's "The Art of Preserving." They prefer using a julienne peeler or mandoline for this relish, but you can always chop the zucchini instead. You can refrigerate it for up to 1 month. Or can the relish; sealed jars may be stored in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year.