sides, sauces + dressings, vegetables

pickled jalapeño relish

Undoubtably, spring has sprung.  I'm thinking many of you are well into your vegetable garden planning by now.  If I can offer one pretty much no-fail addition to your garden, it would be a couple of jalapeño plants.  They produce a major bumper crop and, in all honesty, are a lot easier to deal with than the squash monster.  It's easy to toss any extra peppers in a ziplock and keep in your freezer for use all year round.  Another suggestion would be to, err, pickle your peppers.  If you're thinking hey I'm no Peter Piper, I assure that there is nothing to fear.  Start with this pretty basic refrigerator pickle recipe and you'll soon be casting sideward glances at all sorts of cute vegetables.

I love to have this relish on-hand at all times.  It adds a nice spicy-sweet brightness to so many things. Add it to tuna salad, ground meat mixtures for burgers (especially turkey), on scrambled eggs, as a condiment for any grilled meat or fish,  serve with tortilla chips (duh) and on and on.  And feel free to improvise with the heat via the types of peppers you choose.  Store bought jalapeños are not very hot to me so I like to add a couple of habaneros to keep things interesting.  Totally your call, as always.

Lastly, this may seem like a ton of knife work but I promise you that the whole recipe with take no more that twenty minutes, start to finish.  Read on for some 101 knife tips.

pickled jalapeño relish

makes about 4 cups

1 medium red bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed and diced

10 jalapeños, seeded and diced

1/2 red onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely diced

2 t hot mustard seeds

1 1/2 c cider vinegar

4 T sugar

I find the easiest way to dice this many peppers at once (you do want uniform sizes here) is to use a very sharp knife and cut around the seeded ribs of the pepper.  Using this technique, you really never have to touch any of the seeds and you will have fairly uniform strips of the peppers.

To cut the onion, peel and then cut it so the root end is intact.  Place the onion flat-side down on your board. Using the tip of your knife, make evenly spaced vertical cuts along the onion, just to the root end.

Holding onto the root end while lightly squeezing the onion to help hold its shape, carefully make two or three horizontal cuts just to the root.

Now you  are ready to cut the onion into a uniform dice.

Why take the time to do it this way?  For one, it's actually faster once you get the hang of it.  Two, especially for this use, the relish will have a better mouth-feel if all of the vegetables are the same size.  Three, you keep the onion fairly intact, preserving all its flavor rather than chopping it over and over again on your board.

Once you have diced all of your vegetables, place them in a medium sauce pan with the remaining ingredients.  Bring the mixture to a boil and stir a bit to make sure all of the sugar has dissolved.

Pour into a glass container and let it come to room temperature.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.  The relish will be ready to use the next day and should keep for at least a month in the refrigerator.