Zucchini Relish to the Rescue!
This insanely delicious all-purpose zucchini relish serves as a versatile condiment that will likely become an ever-present accompaniment to meal times. Why? Because it’s far from being your run-of-the-mill bland pickle relish recipe. Prepare yourself for mouth-watering sweet and sour flavors that refuse to be ignored!
Why Make Zucchini Relish?
This recipe is the answer to one (or more) of the following:
- Your backyard zucchini patch is starting to overwhelm you with bucket after bucket of a seemingly endless supply of zucchini.
- You have a gardening neighbor and (surprise) they’ve just handed off their extra zucchini to you.
- You have a couple of zucchini on the verge of starting to shrivel and you want to use them before they go bad.
Think Relish is Boring?(Me too…but I was WRONG!)
It took a loooooot to get me excited about relish.
I don’t know why this was, but relish was just never on my list of fixins’ that I just couldn’t be without. Homemade Honey Dijon? Balsamic Rosemary Onion Jam? Mayonnaise? Oh, yes! those are definitely staples.
At least that’s how I felt until several pounds of homegrown zucchini from my neighbors garden arrived (unannounced) at my front door, with a note attaching exclaiming, “I couldn’t wait to share these with you! Enjoy!”
The gesture was touching, for sure, but I was already harvesting an abundance of my own zucchini so this arrival really caught me off guard.
Now I absolutely love this vegetable freshly grilled and sliced into soups, but with (both) of my freezers were already stuffed with recent harvests of tomatoes and bell peppers, I reluctantly decided to make relish because, well, I have OCD (Obsessive Canning Disorder) and there was nooo way these were going to waste. Worse case, I figured this 10 lb bucket of zucchini could make a practical debut at our annual community picnic in a few weeks.
And that was the best…decision… Ever!
Canning Your Own Condiments is a Game Changer!
Give your taste buds some credit by holding the line of what something “should” taste like (and if you like it) by at least comparing it to the homemade version, first! Nationally produced commercial brands of almost anything are (at best) a second-glass imposter to the original.
Now, I may sound a bit preachy right now, so let me also share that I’ll be the first to raise her hand and admit I’m guilty of doing exactly what I’m encouraging you NOT to do!
#i’m only human
But, after I made this all-purpose zucchini relish, I rediscovered why creating and canning your own condiments (instead of purchasing the bottled stuff on grocery shelves) always yields UNBEATABLE flavor variations you didn’t know you were missing.
And, you fo’ sure won’t find or experience this type of quality or flavor if you don’t make it yourself.
>>This is the end of my canning rant. Sorry, not sorry.<<
Zucchini Relish is the Flavor Ingredient You’ve Been Missing!
This all-purpose zucchini relish is sweet and sour, slightly salty and savory, and uses aromatic rice vinegar, making it the perfect base for so many snacks and meals! This won’t be a relish abandoned to the back of your fridge that only makes appearances for summer hotdogs and burgers. Oh no, you’ll want to use it for soooo much more!
Tasty Ways to Enjoy Relish at Every Meal:
- Breakfast: Relish is seriously an underutilized breakfast ingredient. You must try making bacon relish and cream cheese crescent pinwheels this weekend or folding some relish into smashed avocado on toast. This relish is also phenomenal in vegetable quiches and frittatas. Those speckled spots of green and red result in amped flavor and a picture perfect breakfast that looks like it took lots effort on your part. (Shhhh, you’re secret is safe with me).
- Lunch: All Purpose Zucchini Relish is the not-so-secret ingredient that improves any kind of meat, every time. If you enjoy the taste of a classic fried chicken sandwich but haven’t tried a zucchini relish as the leading condiment….WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? (Sorry to yell, but his is serious business). Whether it’s a glaze for BBQ meat or spare ribs, thrown into lasagne or plopped in a slow cooker with pulled pork, this relish is the instant (and ultimate) flavor boost no spice or seasoning combination can compete with.
- Dinner: Zucchini relish will quick become your go to flavor base for pizza and pasta sauces. Too often, salt and pepper are added to brighten or balance savory dishes. Next time, skip the shakers and instead bring out the flavor by adding an acidic ingredient like relish. Your tomato, cheese, and tomato sauces will thank you (and so will the kids and hubby)!
- Snacks and Entrees: There are a number of side dishes like deviled eggs, baked beans, potato and tuna salad that have the tendency to be uninspired and, honestly, a bit bland. Sneaking in this all purpose zucchini relish is a great way to immediately impart deep flavor that brightens and balances any dish that needs a bit of an “uuumpff”.
Whew, is that enough to get you going? You won’t want to waste a drop from your relish jar. But if you want to SEE some of these recipes in action, take a look at the video below:
Helpful Recipe Tips to Note:
- Bigger ISN’T Better: Look for small, firm zucchini with blemish-free, vibrant green skin. Zucchini gets bitter as it grows larger so avoid any overly large squash. Don’t use any vegetables that are overly ripe, badly blemished or have started to mold.
- All About Looks: I do like to use a bit of a “color code” when preparing this recipe especially if I plan to give a few jars away as gifts. Lawdy, I am the type of canner that enjoys the visual appeal of purty (yes, not pretty, ‘purty) looking jars sitting on the shelf, so while you can use just standard green peppers, go for yellow and/red peppers if you have some. And, leaving the skins on your zucchini won’t affect flavor or texture at all, while still giving you a nice deep green color contrast.
- Brine Basics: You have a number of vinegar options at your disposal with this recipe. While distilled white vinegar is most commonly used because it has a mellow flavor and retains the color of your product, consider going ½ distilled and ½ apple cider vinegar for something a bit more distinct flavor. This recipe uses rice wine vinegar to add mild sweet and crisp aromatics. Regardless of the vinegar(s) you choose, you must ensure that the acidity is at least 5% or higher to ensure your relish is safely preserved (simply put, don’t use your homemade stuff).
- Don’t Rush Relish: Why? Because it’s meant to get better with age, and is actually best eaten at least a week later when the flavors have had time to meld and the vinegar mellows out a tad. Can you enjoy this immediately? Yes. Totally. Please do. But if you truly want to experience the epitome of relish goodness–give it some time, honey!
- Choose Quality Cucumbers: Always use a pickling variety of cucumber instead of “table” or “slicing” cucumbers. And, if you do buy cucumbers, select unwaxed for pickling since brine and pickling solutions cannot penetrate the wax.
- Be selective about your Salt & Sugar: Stick with pure granulated salt, such as pickling or canning salt. Other salts contain anti-caking ingredients that can make the relish cloudy. While you can exchange white sugar for brown, white sugar will give your relish a lighter color, but brown sugar may be a preferred flavor.
- Jar Size=Safety: Only use half-pint or pint canning jars, which are the tested and approved quantities specially designed for home canning.
Is this recipe approved as safe?
YES! That’s because I only share tested home canning recipes inspired by reputable sources. I take safe canning practices very seriously, so this (and any) recipe that appears on my blog or YouTube channel will:
- Use only recipe methods that follow safe and science-based guidelines published by the United States Department of Agriculture, National Center for Home Food Preservation, and Jarden companies like Ball and Bernardin.
- Source all information so that you can follow it back to the canning authorities where the recipe originated. I know this makes nearly every other word in my blog post look like a lit-up Christmas tree, but I want you to be a confident, informed canner too, so I’m very transparent about any modifications I include.
My goal with publicly sharing canning recipes is to inspire you to create your own healthier, better-tasting, and usually cheaper convenience foods. And, to show how canning food in the modern world still makes sense! Above all, I want you to be both safe and successful in your canning efforts. For this reason, I’ll always link to the approved NCHFP canning recipes and encourage you to make a small investment in purchasing the most updated preservation books and equipment I use in my own kitchen.
All Purpose Zucchini Relish | Canning Recipe
(Makes about 6 1/2 cups )
- 8 cups finely chopped zucchini
- 2 cups finely chopped onion (red or white)
- 2 finely chopped medium sweet red, green or yellow peppers
- 1 cup finely chopped celery
- 4 tbsp pickling salt
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 1 ¼ cup white vinegar
- 1 ¼ cup rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp celery seed, optional
- 2 tsp mustard seed
- 1 tsp each: dry mustard and ground cloves
Water bath canner, canning jars, jar lifting, canning lids, and rings, large pot
- Place finely chopped zucchini, pepper and celery all together in a large, non reactive mixing bowl. Combine with salt and cover with cold water until covered. Let sit for at least 1 hour and up to six.
- Drain and rinse the zucchini mixture using a colander or large sieve, and drain and rinse again. After the second rinse be sure to press out excess moisture; set vegetable mix aside.
- In a large heavy bottom pot, add sugar, vinegar, celery seed (optional), mustard seed, dry mustard and cloves. Bring ingredients to a boil over high heat. Then, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add reserved zucchini mixture and return to a boil.
- Once a boil is reached, reduce the heat and gently boil, uncovered for at least 45 minutes or until mixture is thickened.
- Ladle your relish goodness into hot jars within 1/2 inch of headspace and process 10 minutes for half pint jars and 15 minutes for pint sized jars. (See steps below for water bath canning)
How do I sterilize my jars?
Sterilizing your jars is a quick and easy process that destroys the enemies of preservation — bacteria, yeast, and fungi so that your food stays fresh and shelf-stable for 12 months (or more). It’s not hard to do at all. Below, I’ve shared several options, pick your preference:
- Run the jars through a ‘quick clean’ or ‘sterilization’ cycle in your dishwasher.
- Place the jars in a large pot (12 quart) of water on top of a steaming rack (so they don’t touch the bottom of the pan), and bring the water to a boil for 10 minutes. Remove hot jars right before use.
- Or hand wash and rinse the jars, dry them, and place them (without lids or rings) in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes.
You CAN do this!
Filling your Jars
- Sanitize (directions above) your jars and place them on a dishtowel.
- Grab your funnel and ladle that delicious homemade relish into the jars, leaving a ¼ inch of headspace.
- Remove any air bubbles by running a long plastic or wooden skewer between the jar and the jam.
- Wipe the rims of the jars with vinegar to remove any spillage (which can prevent your jars from creating a seal).
- Secure the rings to the top of your jar until they are “fingertip tight”–secured but air still has room to pass through.
Preserving Your Zucchini Relish:
Relishes are an acidified food because of the large amount of vinegar added. Since they are
high acid products, relishes are processed in a boiling water bath canner.
- Using a jar rack or plate, lower the jars into the boiling water of your water bath canner.
- Pour in more water to ensure that the water covers at least an inch above your jars.
- Place the lid on your pot.
- Bring water to a full boil for 10 minutes, then use a jar lifting to remove the jars out of the water and let them cool on a towel undisturbed for a minimum of 8 hours. (note: do not tighten the caps or you’ll risk breaking the seal).
When are the jars ready?
As your jars cool, you’ll hear the jars making clicking pops. Leave the jars undisturbed on a towel for a minimum of 12-24 hours. After that, you can confirm the jars have been sealed by removing the rings. A sealed jar lid will remain secured to the jar without the rim and be slightly indented in the center. Use your index finger to moderately tap on the jar in a few places, it should not pop back when pressed. The majority of your jars will seal within a few hours of cooling down. If you have any jars that didn’t seal properly, just store them in the fridge and use them within 3 months.
When does this relish expire?
Sealed jars will store in a cool, dark place for a year. If the seal is broken, the relish will keep in the fridge for at least a month.
Craving more onion recipes? Don’t miss out on my insanely popular (but better yet, delicious) Sweet and Spicy Onion Jam, which will surely become another one of your favorites!