Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The Father's Day Relish Experiment

So 20 posts into this blog, and after making several different types of pickles, a jam, a sauce and a few marmalades, I was ready for something different - a relish.

I can remember a few years back when I was travelling around Canada, I was in Vancouver in the middle of winter.  After a bit of sight-seeing and walking around, I was pretty hungry.   I came across a guy who had set up a barbeque on a street corner and was grilling some kranskys for hot dogs.  You could pair your kransky with a range of  pickles and relishes, displayed in a line of jars.  After a several hours of deliberation, I decided to go with the cucumber relish. The relish really complimented the hot dog and even all these years later, I wanted to recreate the delicious relish to have on sandwiches, hot dogs and to serve with meat.

A relish is pretty much a condiment featuring finely chopped vegetables, preserved in vinegar and sugar, flavoured with herbs and spices.  I used Kevin West's Saving the Season as a reference book to inspire my recipe, and he says that "relish occupies a niche somewhere between condiment and side dish" - so it's quite versatile.

I also wanted to make something from scratch, and invent my own recipe, rather than adapting recipes as I've done previously. Reading through West's relish recipes (try saying that 3 times, quickly!) and some others on the internet, I could see the type of low acid vegetables that are required in relishes, and could see which vegetables are used often and clearly work well, like onions, zucchini and cucumber.

I calculated the dilution level for the vinegar, and decided to include sugar to taste.  I added more sugar than in West's recipes, but he says in his book that he prefers his relishes to be less sweet (and I have a bit of a sweet tooth).

The first step in the recipe is to salt the vegetables.  I ground up some rock salt in a spice grinder and then coated the vegetables.  When I left my last job, my team bought me a spice grinder as a farewell present - it really saves compared with a pestle and mortar.  Tasting the end result I thought I might have over-seasoned the relish, but after trying it with some food, I think it balances out nicely.

The relish is perfect with meat, like a simple roast pork.  The fennel in particular adds a really nice aniseed flavour to cut through fatty meat. Over the weekend, I had my family's Father's Day lunch.  As with all family functions, my mum had completely over-catered and conveniently cooked some roast pork for me!  My cousin Bettina who took some photos for my recipes on Yahoo! 7 Food (caramel apple jam and zucchini pickles) was kind enough to take some shots of the relish for me.

You'll also see in the recipe below that I had planned to include leeks into the relish.  But after being swept up in a busy weekend, I totally forgot to add them into this first batch!  That being said the relish still tasted fantastic.

Update:  The good folks at  Yahoo! 7 Food just published this relish concoction! Check it out!

Father's Day Relish

What you need:

  • 1kg of zucchini 
  • 6 sweet bullhorn peppers, different colours
  • 1 large bulb of fennel
  • 1 brown onion
  • 3 spring onions with bulbs (found these at Harris Farm)
  • 2 leeks
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 6 long red chillis
  • 1 litre of apple cider vinegar
  • 430 ml of water
  • 2 cups of sugar 
  • 3 tablespoons of coriander seeds
  • 3 tablespoons of fennell seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon of mixed herbs

Making the relish:

  1. Finely dice all of the vegetables into tiny squares - the dice is important in ensuring the relish is of a "spoonable" consistency.
  2. Now coat the diced vegetables in the sea salt and leave aside at least for two hours. This will drain out excess water from the veg and assist in preservation.  I had to leave mine overnight because I couldn't finish it in one day.  
  3. Then pour the vegetables into a colander to allow the excess water to drain out.  Thoroughly  rinse off the salt, and pour a kettle of boiling water over the vegetables, and let the vegetables drip dry for about five minutes.
  4. In the meantime, toast your fennell and coriander seeds in a dry pan until they become fragrant - be careful not to burn them.  Then grind these up in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder.  
  5. Pour in the vinegar and water into a pot, and add in the sugar.  Heat the brine until it the sugar dissolves, then add in your vegetables and the toasted spices, mustard powder and herbs. 
  6. Cook the mixture for 20-25 minutes on a low simmer, until the vegetables are a bit translucent.  
  7. Sterilise your jars.  I used some wide mouth pint sized Ball jars.  Use a slotted spoon to pack the vegetables into the jar - this just ensures that the jars aren't just full of brine but filled with lots of the relish.
  8. Then top off each jar with the brine, leaving half an inch of room from the brim of the jar (or sufficient space as specified by the jar maker) if you're canning them. 
  9. If you're canning the relish, heat the jars in a water bath for 10 minutes, and then remove.  Double check that the lids have been properly sealed, and if not, then repeat the canning process.  


  1. Great idea pairing a fresh relish with pork! I love pork but sometimes it needs something to lighten it like this :D

  2. Love the pic of the delicious pork.

  3. Vinnie! OMG, this relish is RIDICULOUSLY DELICIOUS. We were lucky enough to score a jar from your lovely girlfriend... so very lucky. Tangy, with so much interesting flavour, it is such a perfect complement to various meats. So far we've paired it with pan seared kangaroo fillets and barbecued lamb chops. Now we are being militant about not using it up too soon, because we won't be satisfied until we've paired it with some gorgeous crackly roast pork belly a la your post. Salivating!