The alternate title to this post should be “What to do when you grow way too many pickling cucumbers in your urban garden and don’t want any more pickles!” I’ve made dill pickles, sweet pickles, spicy pickles, fermented pickles, refrigerated pickles, and canned pickles… and quite honestly, I’m pickled out. And yet the vines keep on producing more cucumbers, even as the leaves wither and get cut off, those hardy vines just keep growing new leaves and new flowers!
It sounds like I’m complaining, but actually I am in awe of the whole process. From one tiny seed, grows a vine that produces dozens, maybe hundreds of cucumber, each one with the potential to either feed me or to return to the ground as seed for another set of vines.
Gardening is incredible! I’m only sorry now that I didn’t discover that until I was in my 40s (and living in a townhouse outside Washington, DC with very little space to plant one).
If you’ve been reading my blog posts all spring, you’ve seen the progression of my garden and how we are maximizing the space next to and behind our house, both within and outside our privacy fence. In April I showed you the bare dirt outside my home office window, marked off with neat rows, then you saw those rows become spring greens like arugula and bok choy, then those began to give way to summer plants. Now, the side yard is almost completely taken over by the three little watermelon plants I decided to intersperse between the greens. We aren’t sure how to tell when they are ripe, so we experimented with one last week (it wasn’t.)
But obviously… and this is the point of this blog post… cucumbers are the number one harvest right now and I needed to come up with something I could make with them that I could water bath can, since the refrigerator is already full of Mr. Gutsy’s spicy refrigerator pickles and my lacto-fermented half sour dills (yes, we are a mixed pickle marriage). Unfortunately, neither of us really like heat processed canned pickles – him because they aren’t crispy and me because they just aren’t as good as fermented.
Enter pickle relish. I saw a traditional recipe for it in my canning cookbook that called for a shockingly large amount of sugar and thought, “I can do better.” So I set to work. I examined every recipe online and print I can find, including some that called themselves “natural” and used several cups of coconut sugar or honey. I did a little experimenting and eventually discovered that I could still get a nice sweet taste with a much smaller amount of honey and a nice thick consistency with a single secret ingredient that I couldn’t find anyone else used.
The result is a sweet relish that hits all the right flavor notes and can be enjoyed by people in both the elimination phase of the Paleo autoimmune protocol (AIP) and on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.
NOTE: If you don’t want to make a whole batch for preserving and instead just make one cup to enjoy at your next barbecue, simply divide the recipe ingredients by 4 and simmer as long as it takes to get a thick consistency instead of transferring the relish to jars for canning.
Did you know that most distilled white vinegar is made from corn and most corn in the United States is genetically modified so it can be treated with glyphosate (Roundup)? That’s why this recipe calls for apple cider vinegar instead. That means that the finished product will be a dull green, but trust me when I tell you the flavor is still spot-on.
Apple cider vinegar is easy to find these days, but as always… if you are looking for a good place to buy it and all the AIP-friendly ingredients you need for this recipe and the others on my blog, I recommend ShopAIP.
AIP Sweet Cucumber Relish Recipe
- 1 pound cucumbers
- 6 ounces celery
- 6 ounces white onion
- 1 medium apple, peeled and cored (about 6 ounces in weight)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- ½ cup honey
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- Use a food processor fitted with a shredding blade to process the cucumbers, celery, onion, and apple into small, but uniform-sized pieces. Mix in kosher salt and then transfer to a bowl. Add enough water so that all of the contents are underwater and then allow this mixture to sit at room temperature for 2-4 hours.
- Prepare a water bath canner and four ½ pint canning jars, rings, and lids for preserving. Set canner with water in it over high heat and place clean jars in the water. Allow it to come to boil while you prepare the relish in the next steps.
- Transfer the cucumber mixture to a fine mesh strainer set over the sink and allow all of the liquid to drain. Press down with a clean wooden spoon in order to squeeze as much liquid out as you can.
- In a 6 quart (or larger) saucepan or preserving pan, combine this cucumber mixture with honey and apple cider. Bring to a boil and then reduce to low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
- When water in canner is boiling, use tongs to carefully remove the canning jars. Ladle the hot relish into the hot jars, leaving a ⅛ inch of headspace. Fit with lids and rings and then using canning jar lifter, transfer these jars into the boiling water in the canner.
- Process for 10 minutes, then use canning jar lifter to carefully remove each jar from the canner. Let sit without disturbing for 8-12 hours, then remove rings so that you can clean off any sticky residue underneath them. Replace rings for storage if desired (I always do, but there is debate about whether that is the correct practice - my mother always keeps hers off, so who knows which one of us is "right!").
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