IMG_20160920_143854353_HDRwatermarkWhen I first started canning, I’d get overwhelmed with a particular item of produce that was available in abundance, and thumb through my canning books looking for recipes that used that fruit or vegetable. For instance, I once had an abundance of peaches, and had already canned plenty of them, so I made peach chutney. The problem? We don’t really eat chutney (this recipe excepted). So it languished on the shelf, beautiful but unwanted, and eventually, several years later, I opened the jars and fed it to the chickens.

Cucumbers are another produce in abundance in this category. I like a good pickle once in a while. But I’m not gonna eat a jar a week, or even a month. My husband doesn’t like pickled cucumbers in any form. So after making pickles (dill, sweet, bread and butter) and sweet pickle relish for years, only to have it, you guessed it, often get fed to the chickens, I’ve cut way back on how many cucumbers I grow, because we just won’t use them up.

Peppers, on the other hand, we love. I grow hot ones for making my own spice mixes (cayenne, dried red New Mexican, smoked and regular paprika, homemade smoked dried jalapenos for chipotle, dried anchos), and for processing into delicious things (pickled jalapenos, roasted green chilies and roasted bell peppers stashed in the freezer for various recipes, chopped sweet peppers, frozen for use in any recipe that calls for fresh, batches of homemade BBQ sauce, hot sauce, salsa). You get the idea.

But this year, I have an overabundance of sweet red peppers, mostly a variety called Marconi Red, because I accidentally started too many plants, and then didn’t sell them all at market, and, well, I couldn’t just toss the plants out. And I started thinking about pickled peppers, as I KNOW my husband will eat lots of pickled jalapenos, and about how long it takes me to go through a jar of sweet pickle relish (I pretty much only use it in tuna fish), and it dawned on me. What about a sweet red pepper relish instead of a cucumber relish? That my husband would probably eat, and I’d be more likely to eat it on things as well.

PepperRelishA quick google search turned up a recipe for Sweet Pepper Relish from the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP). Because peppers are not acidic enough on their own to be canned without vinegar, I wanted to start with a recipe that I knew was tested and safe. All recipes from NCHFP are well tested. But then I thought, what if I smoked the fresh peppers for a couple of hours first, before I pickled them? I bet that would add a whole additional dimension of flavor. And it did. We’ve already eaten this as a topping for grilled pork chops with great…wait for it…relish.

New to canning? I’m not going to give a lot of details about how to prepare your jars, secure the lids, and boiling water bath canning in general. But it IS important, and you DO need to know it. Please check out this site before you start.

Smokey Sweet Pepper Relish
Makes About 6 Pint Jars

  • 10 cups fresh red sweet peppers (about 6 to 8 lbs before coring/chopping)
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion (about 3 medium)
  • 2 1/2 cup cider vinegar (or vinegar of choice that is standardized to 5% acidity)
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 4 tsp pickling salt
  • 4 tsp mustard seed

LittleChiefSmokerPlace fresh peppers in smoker and smoke for several hours (optional).

Core and roughly chop peppers and onions. Then finely chop (but not puréed) in a food processor, measuring resulting pulp and juice. Measure peppers first, then onions. (Note that the original recipe calls for 1/2 green and 1/2 red peppers. Mine were about half red as they weren’t fully ripe, so that’s what I used. The recipe also directs you to grind the peppers and onions using a stand mixer attachment and the course blade. Um, no, that isn’t going to happen. How old IS this recipe anyway?)

Place peppers, onions, and all other ingredients into a large heavy bottomed pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Watch closely and stir frequently so it doesn’t scorch.

IMG_20160919_174642936watermarkLadle hot relish into already prepared hot half pint or pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Remove air bubbles if needed. Wipe rims, seal and process for 10 minutes at elevations under 1,000 ft. Remove and let cool. Check seal, and store for up to a year or more. Note: I plan on giving this as Christmas gifts.

Miles Away Farm Blog © 2016, where we’re miles away from being done with peppers for the year, and that’s OK with us.