A heavy frost did-in my pepper patch, so I harvested all the peppers that remained and were not ruined by the frost. That yielded a full basket of sweet bell, banana and lipstick peppers: more than we could possibly use before they go bad. I have a shelf full of canned, sliced peppers; bags and bags of frozen peppers, several jars of dried peppers… what can I do with these final sweet peppers for a bit of variety?
Marie turned to the internet and came up with a recipe for sweet pepper relish. This one is tagged with the word Heinz, so I assume that company is somehow the original source, so I’ll mention that, although the recipe was found on www.food.com.
Set up your canner and use it to sanitize 4 to 6 pint jars and lids by boiling them for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat but keep them hot while you prepare the relish.
Stick your onions in the freezer for a few minutes to reduce the eye irritation that occurs while chopping them.
Wash, core and seed the peppers. If you are including hot peppers (jalapenos, habaneros, Serrano – I’m using Cajun belles) you may want to wear gloves to prevent spreading the capsasin to delicate parts of your face. Washing your hands, even with soap and water does not remove this element from your skin.
Skin and cut the onions to manageable pieces.
Mince the garlic.
In a food processor chop the peppers and onion.
Combine all your ingredients in the saucepan or stock pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
Boil for 25 – 30 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Turn off heat.
Ladle the relish into hot canning jars, leaving ½” of head space. Use a skewer or other non-metallic item to poke the relish to release any trapped air bubbles.
Clean the jar rim and threads and the lid seal with a clean paper towel. Install the lid and band, tightening the band just to finger tight (careful, they’re HOT: use your jar wrench to hold the jar while you snug the band).
Use your jar lifter to place the filled jars into the canner (still containing hot water) as you fill them.
When all jars are filled, in the canner, and well covered with water, turn up the heat under the canner and bring it back to a boil. Cover and reduce heat as necessary to maintain a rolling boil, but not so vigorous as to splatter excessively or to knock the jars into one another. Check it occasionally to be sure the jars remain covered with water.
Process in boiling water for a minimum of 15 minutes, adjust this for your altitude.
When processing is complete, turn off the heat and allow to cool a bit before removing the jars. Mine took only a few minutes to cool to the point that the lids sealed down and went “plink” even though still in the water. If you MUST remove them from the canner immediately, handle them gently, do not tilt them and snug up the bands as quickly as you can to insure that the lids are held tightly to the jar rim until they seal.
Let the jars cool completely.
Refrigerate any jars that don’t seal and use those first.
If you choose to leave the bands on the jars, remove them first, wipe out any moisture that remains and put them back on. Once sealed the bands are not needed but, if you prefer the appearance or feel better about having the bands on them, get the moisture out so the band and lid don’t corrode.
You can use this relish in place of sweet pickle relish in most dishes such as deviled eggs or potato salad and as a condiment on hot dogs, hamburgers and sandwiches. Traditionally (here in the South), vegetable relish or chow-chow is used as a topping for white beans as a low cost main dish. Pepper relish is also a favored garnish for pork. It is unique and flavorful enough to be used alone as a side dish if you wish. Spice up your family’s dining table and try some sweet pepper relish.
In this batch I substituted ground raw stevia from our garden for the sugar. I harvested the stevia plant just a while ago (it builds the most sweetness in the late fall) bundled the sprigs and hung them to air dry. Use just the leaves, the stems and flowers don’t contain the stevioside that make this plant sweet.
You may drop a leaf or two into beverages like tea or coffee to sweeten it and retain easy retrieval. Raw stevia does not dissolve even if ground to a powder and will form “dregs” in the bottom of your cup if used as a beverage sweetener. However, stevia has a very sugar-like taste that holds up well to most cooking and it has no appreciable effect on your glucose levels, so it makes an excellent sweetener for diabetics or the diet conscious. It also lacks the nasty side effects of aspartame.
Your only limitations on the use of stevia are that it will not caramelize; so making fudge or caramel is not possible and it does not activate yeast; so many baked goods will not rise like you expect. In most other cooking ground, raw stevia will not make a difference in appearance or taste from sugar. You can buy a white, powdered stevia extract that will dissolve in liquids; but the other limitations remain.
Using stevia is simple: for each cup of sugar called for in the recipe, use 1 tablespoon of raw powdered stevia or 1 teaspoon of the dry processed stevia extract.
I have found that stevia grows well here in Tennessee even though it is a tropical plant. It will not survive winter, and starting from seed is almost impossible; so I take cuttings in the fall, root them, pot them and keep them indoors until late spring when warm weather returns. Then I transfer them back to my herb bed in the garden.
I hope you have enjoyed this recipe and will give Sweet Pepper Relish a whirl.
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