Uses and Recipes for Sweet and Spicy Relish

The dictionary definition of relish-to savor, take delight in and enjoy-says it all. Sweet and spicy relishes are perfect before dinner, during dinner and after dinner. Relishes are also great go-betweens for snacking and on target when tucked into a festive jar and given as a gift.

Garnish with Relish
Since just about everything-including the perfect meal-is all in the presentation, perfection just got closer to home. Relish, a hodge-podge of color and taste, is the perfect place to begin any dinner presentation. For an elegant look that will be both appealing to the eye as well as to the palate, serve shrimp on a bed of tart citrus relish. Serve red and green relish on the holiday table. Add a spoonful of sweet and spicy fruit relish-bursting with every color of the rainbow-to a garden salad, sprinkle dried cherries on the entire package and serve.

Relish Goes with Everything
Relish is a perfect side dish to any meal. When making relish, be careful to use only stainless-steel pans. Vinegar can pick up the metallic taste of other metals and can discolor the metal at the same time. If you plan to can your relish, make plenty. If you plan to use it quickly, make enough for a few jars and store it in the refrigerator. Or fill a couple of small canning jars, wrap a ribbon around them and deliver your bounty to friends as hospitality gifts.

Any type of vegetable can be used to make relish-some inventive people make relish with fruits and nuts, omitting the vinegar and bite from their relish. Going instead for a sweeter, syrupy taste creates a completely new taste sensation that brings to mind dessert. Relishes that do not have the acidic bite of vinegar, however, should not be canned. (See recipe below for a syrupy recipe that tastes wonderful when scooped onto pancakes, crepes, French toast or waffles.)

Relish Rules

  • Serve chilled or at room temperature (relishes taste different depending on the temperature).
  • Ingredients should be bite size-no larger than ¼ to ½ inch.
  • Relishes should make your mouth come alive. Keep to the basics of one taste dominating the dish, such as spicy, sweet, tart and tangy, but with variations bleeding through. Spicy can also be sweet and sweet can also be tart or tangy and vice-versa.
  • Blend tastes together: Make in advance and let the ingredients get to know one another through extreme temperature. Chill the relish in the fridge or pop it into the microwave for a few minutes. One rule of thumb: While anything goes in a relish, some vegetables will lend their own flavor and some will pick up the flavor of the vinegar and herbs. Experiment until you get it down to a science.
  • Most relishes have some type of pickling agent in them, such as vinegar or salt, but if you are not canning your relish, these ingredients are added for taste only. When using vinegar, however, make sure you have a product that is at least five percent acidity, which is necessary for preserving. Herbal vinegars do not always have a high enough acid count. If you want a certain taste or blend-such as rosemary-don't rely on rosemary vinegar; instead use crushed rosemary and regular vinegar. Don't take a chance and spoil the whole batch.
  • When you want each ingredient in the relish to stand on its own, make the relish just before serving.
  • Use as a stand-alone condiment or as a complement to a dish.

Wake Up to Relish
There is nothing quite like a late breakfast on a holiday morning. The whole family-except the cook-usually sleeps in. Once your family gets a whiff of this relish, however, they may quickly find a new reason to get out of bed in the morning. The breakfast scents of cinnamon, maple syrup and sausage, combined with the aroma of warm apples and pecans, can be very enticing.

This relish makes a great compliment to any table and is an especially nice treat when hosting guests. The following recipe could also be labeled Holiday Breakfast Chutney, as it is primarily made of fruit and relish is primarily made of vegetables.

Holiday Breakfast Relish

  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 2 cups chopped apples (Fuji for sweeter and Granny Smith for a more tart taste)
  • 3 cups breakfast sausage links (cut into pieces)
  • ½ jalapeno diced (or ½ tsp red pepper pieces)

Peel and core apples, dice and place in large bowl. Chop pecans and add to apple mixture. Add cinnamon and brown sugar, mix until sugar melts. Cook and drain sausage, cut in pieces and add to bowl. Cut jalapeno and mix in separate bowl with maple syrup. Let stand for 20 minutes. (If you don't want pieces of jalapeno in the relish, put the cut jalapeno into a cheesecloth bag and submerge it into the syrup, pressing to release the jalapeno flavor. After 20 minutes, pull the bag out, scrape off the syrup and discard.) Pour maple syrup over apple mixture, mix well and heat. Serve warm, over pancakes or crepes, adding syrup as desired. Add flair with a dollop of whipped topping.

Gentleman's Delight
Mixing the delightfully sweet yet tart and spicy tastes of autumn creates a relish that goes hand-in-hand with barbecued chicken and rainbow trout. And because autumn is reminiscent of the hunt, a gentleman's relish is in order.

Gentleman's Relish is primarily an anchovy paste. This top-notch relish was created in 1828 by John Osborn, an Englishman who apparently knew what a man's man wanted in a relish, because the recipe has been sought after ever since. Reportedly, the true recipe is top secret these days. The only company licensed to sell it is Elsenham Quality Foods, located in Elsenham, England.

With research, the following recipe was uncovered. While not perfect, it is said to give much the same taste and texture as the original Gentleman's Relish. Keep in mind it is suggested that only Mediterranean anchovies should be used in this recipe.

Gentleman's Relish
Grind the following into a salty paste and serve over buttered toast with thin slices of cucumber on top, scrambled eggs or baked potatoes.

  • 1 cup anchovies, drained
  • 2 tablespoons fresh white breadcrumbs
  • ¾ cup softened butter
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, ginger and ground pepper to taste
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