Friday, September 19, 2014

Got Cukes? Make Relish

by Anita Mae Draper

Back before I was writing as a profession, Sept always brought kitchen counters full of preserving jars - empty or full or both. Now with only our youngest at home, I'd rather use my time crafting stories and working on genealogy than spending hours stressing over anti-garden-growing weather followed by hours of cleaning and preparing produce and jars. Since my husband was raised without a garden and the season of preserving which followed it he never understood my 'hoarding food' passion when we could buy everything we wanted in the store. This meant it wasn't a big loss when I quit.

But sometimes I miss it.

I love walking into the kitchen during the pickle-making process and being hit with the smells of garlic, vinegar, and spices.

The canning recipes I used most often which resulted in awards at local fairs, were:

  • Apple Pie Filling
  • Apple Jelly
  • Crabapple Jelly
  • Green Tomato Mincemeat (vegetarian)
  • Green Relish
  • Spiced Pickled Beets 

I used the Apple Pie Filling recipe mainly when we lived in Eastern Ontario where there was an abundance of apple trees.

The Crabapple Jelly was a mainstay in our family until the last few years. We still have 2 varieties of crabs, but now I love watching the birds eat them while on their long migration southward.

Green Tomato Mincemeat makes wonderful holiday tarts while using up all those green tomatoes that aren't good enough to ripen between layers of newspapers. Our summers are very short.... the summer of 2014 arrived last Sunday and lasted a good eighteen hours. I'm kidding of course because we actually had one hot day in July and two more in August before the rain returned.

I received the Green Relish recipe from a French-Canadian neighbor, Marie Drouin, back in our Ontario days. I've always found the end result to be as good, if not better, as the sweet green relish you buy at the grocers, providing safe food handling procedures are used.

ca 1990 Anita Mae Draper's garden and backyard, Casselman, Ontario

One day I visited Marie while she was working on her relish recipe and during her coffee break she kindly copied it out for me. With mounds of my own cukes waiting to be processed, I was so thankful to receive it I didn't question that it was written in French. I figured after all those years of taking French in school, I'd surely be able to translate it. But in those pre-internet days, I couldn't figure out how much graine de celere and moutarde poudre was called for in the recipe because it was written as 2c. a the with the appropriate apostrophes going in both directions.  2 cups? It couldn't be.  2 tablespoons? More likely teaspoons.

But I needed to be sure, so I paid Marie another visit and while she talked, I scribbled the English translation on the recipe card as you see it below.

Green Relish Recipe Card Side 1

Green Relish Recipe Card Side 2

As you can see by the stains and marks, the recipe has been well-used. And that doesn't even include the times I used it after I wrote it into my recipe journal in case I lost the original card.

Please note that the best cucumbers for relish are the firm, smooth-skinned, dark green cucumbers that grow about 8-9 inches long and not the long slender English cucumbers, nor the small 2-4 inch pickling cucumbers. Some varieties of this cucumber have small spines (pricks) which are easily brushed off and are shown as white spots in the photo below. Cukes that are yellowing, soft, or shrivelling, do not make good relish.

I went to my photo files for a picture of the best type to use but the only example I have without searching through boxes of photos is this one that JJ entered in the Comic Character/Animal from Vegetables category in the Weyburn Fair when he was 6 years old. For those who don't know the characters from Big Idea's Veggie Tales, JJ's entry was Larry the Cucumber for which he received 2nd place.

6 yr old JJ's 2004 Weyburn Fair entry

Older brother Nick who was 9 yrs old at the time, entered another Veggie Tales character, Bob the Tomato, and snagged the 1st place ribbon which is Red up here in Canada. The only criteria for this category is that the character/animal be made from something grown, either in Canada or elsewhere. For both entries, the boys used mushrooms, raisins, vanilla bean, etc for the features.

9 yr old Nick's 2004 Weyburn Fair entry

This video has nothing to do with a Cucumber Relish recipe except for showing the size and type of cucumbers to use for best relish results. It's also a very silly song for your entertainment.

I'll be posting a transcript of this recipe, over on my website's Recipe Blog which is woefully out of date and needed something current to give it new life.

Do you preserve or can for the winter? What are your thoughts ... satisfaction when you see your shelves?  Or not worth the time and trouble?

Fun sharing time: What's your favorite Veggie Tales character or song?


Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their 4 kids. She writes cowboy stories set in the Old West, and Edwardian stories set in the East.  Anita Mae's short story, Riding on a Christmas Wish is published in A Christmas Cup of Cheer, Guideposts Books, October 2013. She is honored that Guideposts Books have chosen a second short story, Here We Come A-wassailing,  for inclusion in the 2014 Christmas Cheer II book set.   Anita Mae is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Agency. You can find Anita at


  1. BWAHAHAHAHAAH!!! I love Larry!

    Don't care to eat cucumbers, but don't mind watching them sing and dance, especially if it annoys the tomatoes. :D

    1. DeAnna, I think the songs are the best part. I have to admit that it took several lines before realizing that Larry was making fun of Bob though.

      My FIL loved cukes but he'd burp for several minutes after eating them. Deep, loud, bubbling burps reminiscent of gargling. It was quite funny unless you were trying to eat and it went on and on...

  2. I'm with you all the way, Anita. I used to can like crazy and it was hard work! but boy oh boy it was a treat through the winter. I remember spacing things out so that the last jar of something wasn't opened until spring. I never made relish but I did a lot of pickles. The nice thing with relish is you can use the big cukes. I long to smell the pickles though... I had a bread and butter recipe using the small pickle cukes. Now I'm too cheap to buy them by the peck basket, because I can't grow anything since I moved from 'the farm'. I have done applesauce, peaches, green beans in the last few years when I get bulk products, but nothing compares with the old days of having a huge garden of my own.

    1. Deb, you reminded me that I forgot to mention my Sweet Mixed Pickles - the ones with cauliflower and pickling onions. I never canned those, however, as I kept them in a covered 2 gal pickle crock and then scooped them out as needed. I tell you... by the time we ate the last ones the following summer, they were sweet!

      I could never make B & B pickles to match the ones my mom made. Thankfully, she kept us well stocked and in return, I supplied her with jelly for her toast.

  3. Every year I tell myself I'm going to take a class and learn how to can! The only thing I've even attempted are refrigerator pickles and refrigerator pickled beets.

    We had a Bob the Tomato tomato with a nose a couple years ago. His "nose" was pointy though, so we named him Luigi, Bob's Italian cousin. :)

    1. Niki, everything I learned has been from books except for this relish recipe with Marie. My mother never canned when I was around, and she lived too far when I became interested in the process.

      The big thing in canning however, is that sealing times and methods have changed due to food safety concerns. Whereas many older recipes limited time in the water-bath canner believing that the amount of sugar and vinegar would keep the food for a long period, the current trend to immerse in the water-bath canner for longer periods often results in over-cooked and therefore soft foods. It's the main reason I stopped doing dills.

      So perhaps a canning class is the best way to proceed because then you'd be able to discuss this with someone who has experience in the process.

      Luigi is my favorite Mario Bro. :)

  4. Niki, let's take a class together! meanwhile I need to head over to Anita's recipe page.

    I miss Veggie tales. We used to have a giant stuffed Bob that made an excellent snuggling pillow.

    1. Susie, we had a stuffed Bob as well but somehow it's disappeared as the kids have left home. Hmmmm....

      I've just added more photos about different types of cukes over on my recipe blog although I'm not sure if you checked the post before or after. :)

  5. You might enjoy a recent blog "Pickles on the Counter" I love having canning jars full of goodness just waiting to be enjoyed!

  6. Your July 3rd, 2014 post does indeed have a nice jar of pickles on the counter.

    But it's the skillful way you weave the Gospel message into every post that really caught my eye. :)

  7. I enjoy canning too! Just this afternoon, I looked at the shelves in our basement with a sense of satisfaction! I've done up several pints of tomatoes and three or four kinds of jam this season. I don't often do pickles as I'm not a big fan of pickles.

    My memory of making relish (many years ago) is the thick tears from trying to chop the needed onions by hand. Yes, the relish was good but the onion tears were intense!!!

    1. Sounds delicious, Elaine.

      I admit to using my food processor for making relish - especially for the onions. I've learned with experience that crying and knives don't do well together. :(

  8. Silly songs with Larry - I love "Oh Santa" and "Where is my hairbrush." LOL.

    1. The Hairbrush song is the first I'd heard of Veggie Tales and I was hooked! Just thinking of it reminds me of my sister and her daughter running about the house in a frenzy, singing. :)


Share This Post

How Our Giveaways Work: The Official Rules

We, the ladies of Inkwell Inspirations, would love to give free stuff to everybody. Since we can't, we will often have a giveaway in conjunction with a specific post. Unless otherwise stated, one winner will be drawn from comments left on that post between the date it was published and the end of the giveaway as determined in the post. Entries must be accompanied by a valid email address. This address is used only to contact the commenter in the event that he/she is the winner, and will not be sold, distributed, or used in any other fashion. The odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. NO PURCHASE, PLEDGE, OR DONATION NECESSARY TO ENTER OR TO WIN. ALL FEDERAL, STATE, LOCAL AND MUNICIPAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS APPLY. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.