Sweet Cucumber-Pepper Piccalilli
Should some great explorer ever stumble upon the fountain of youth made famous in the history of Herodotus, we suspect it will be tinged goldenrod with miraculous turmeric. Also nick-named Indian saffron, both for its Asian pedigree and yellow coloring, this elixir of a spice is rumored to stave off all sorts of unpleasant maladies. Never ones to decline an opportunity for longevity, we like to slip a pinch of it into our pickle relish; its earthy, slightly peppery flavor is a pleasant foil to the condiment's sweetness. It also contributes a lovely hue. To avoid staining one's fingers, we advise delicate handling.
Spoon this relish over burgers, sausages, or sandwiches. We even like it atop the occasional pork chop.
The Successful Cannery:
We fancy ourselves capable of being excellent homesteaders, the sorts who might maintain a chicken coop alongside our wine cellar. But when it comes to canning, we are unapologetically lazy. The likelihood of us filling a hand trolley with crates of tomatoes for furious sauce making is slim. We are far more apt to create on a whim-to, say, simmer up a single jar of Strawberry-Champagne jam as a means of using up the dregs of last night's cru and this morning's basket of market-fresh berries. Our canning is often the result of inspiration, or even the result of whatever odds and ends our icebox tells us must come to a fitting conclusion; it is meant to last us as only as long as the meal at which we intend to serve it. Our kitchens tend toward an infinite, motley rotation of brined, potted, and jellied flavors.
All this is to say that when one is canning in such small batches, preparing a cleanish jar and storing the results for a day or two or even, really, a full week, is often more than sufficient. However, should one aspire to more-to a winter larder crammed with summer's bounty or a gift of bespoke pickles for every acquaintance-then matters are quite different, and precautions must be taken to avoid poisoning oneself or one's friends. It would be grand if the old skull and crossbones magically appeared upon a jar the moment a canned food had gone off, but unfortunately, one cannot always determine these things with a glance or whiff or taste.
We direct those endeavoring to become industrious and versatile canning practitioners to a canning and preserving manual, which will be filled with reams of advice. For those just wishing to avoid a spell of botulism, follow our tips for jar sterilization and sealing, which are suitable for very small batches of high-acid goods (including jams, marmalades, chutneys, tomato sauces, pickles, and relishes):
How to Sterilize one's Canning Jars
Method Number One:
Fill a large pot with water. Place clean jars into the water and bring them to a boil; let the water bubble for 10 minutes, remove the jars with tongs, and place them on a clean towel to dry and await filling. Since canning jars are made with glass, and we oppose having shards of glass in cookware, we recommend purchasing wire canning racks to hold the jars in place during boiling. One might use the contraption as a modern-looking fruit bowl during one's canning off-season. Alternatively, one can sterilize jars individually, though this will require some extra time. Simmer the lids separately in hot water, as boiling them might destroy the seal. Leave the bands at room temperature. The jars should still be warm when filled so that the hot preserved item does not shock the glass and break the jar, so time the sterilization process accordingly.
Method Number Two:
This technique is quick and simple, but is limited to those fortunate few who own the newfangled electric device known as a dishwasher. Place the jars and lids in the dishwasher, with or without detergent, and run the machine until it enters the drying cycle. At this point, transfer the jars and lids (which will be surprisingly hot, so don oven mitts or use tongs) to a clean towel, where they can wait to be filled. They should still be warm when filled so that the hot preserved item does not shock the glass and break the jar, so time their removal from the dish-washer accordingly.
How to Seal One's canning Jars
To seal a jar, fill it with one's hot preserved item (be it jam, pickle, marmalade, or chutney), making certain to leave a headspace of about half an inch at the top of the jar. Wipe away any food residue from the top and screw the lid on tightly. Now one must seal the jar. To do so, either (1) process the jars in a canner (a special pot used in preserving) according to the manufacturer's instructions or (2) create a vacuum seal by turning the jar upside down for an hour or so until the center of the metal lid puffs ever so slightly; it should flex when pressed. Once sealed, store the item in a cool, dry, dark pantry or cellar for up to a year.
Cooking Methodcanning, preserving
Make Ahead RecipeYes
Recipe Courseside dish
Dietary Considerationside dish
Taste and Texturesavory, tangy, tart
Type of DishCondiments
- 4 cups finely chopped, unwaxed kirby cucumbers, skin left on (1½, to 1¾ pounds)
- 1 cup finely chopped onion (about 1 medium)
- ½ cup finely chopped red bell pepper (about 1 medium)
- ½ cup finely chopped green bell pepper (about 1 medium)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2/3 cup distilled white vinegar
- ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
- 1 cinnamon stick
- One 2-cup canning jar, sterilized (see Notes)
Under a warm running tap, scrub the cucumbers well with a vegetable brush. Place the cucumbers, onion, and bell peppers in a large colander set over a bowl. Sprinkle 2½ teaspoons of the salt over the vegetables and toss to combine well. Let them stand for 3 hours, then discard any liquid in the bottom of the bowl.
Transfer the vegetables to a clean dish towel (we prefer towels cut from thin cloth, such as a flour sack). Bundle the vegetables tightly and squeeze them as strongly as one can manage, until no more liquid can be extracted.
In a small saucepan set over medium heat, stir together the vinegar and sugar until the sugar completely dissolves, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the vegetables, turmeric, black pepper, the remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and cinnamon stick; simmer until the liquid has evaporated and the relish is thick, 10 to 12 minutes.
Fill the jar with the hot relish and seal, if desired (see Notes), or let cool to room temperature before chilling. Chilled, unprocessed relish will keep in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
2011 Sarah Huck and Jaimee Young