Back in the 1950s, there was a restaurant in Stamford, Conn., named The Hamburger Den that was a local favorite, not just for pretty good burgers, but for pots of delicious relish on each table. I tried back then as a teen to duplicate the relish but just couldn’t get it.
Later, in the 90s, I decided I had to make that relish I so loved and finally came up with what I remembered. Every time I entered this relish in the State Fair of Texas, it won a Blue Ribbon! Here’s the recipe:
Sweet Red Pepper and Watermelon Rind Relish Recipe
• 2 pints watermelon pickle (see my recipe in previous post)
• 1 quart apple cider vinegar*
• 4 cups white cane sugar
• 1 cup cinnamon Red Hots candy
• 16 cardamom pods
• 8 tbsp whole cloves
• 1 tbsp pickling salt
• dash or two Tabasco sauce, optional
• 2 large red onions, chopped in 1/4 inch pieces
• 6 large red bell peppers, diced about a scant ½ inch
1. The day before: Put the Red Hots and half of the vinegar in a quart jar. Stir, then let the mixture sit overnight, covered. The Red Hots won’t completely dissolve; that’s fine, you really want the “hot” red part.
2. The day of: Sit comfortably and chop and dice all the peppers and onions.
3. Pour the vinegar off the Red Hots that didn’t dissolve into your stainless pickling pot.
4. Prepare a syrup with the cinnamon-y vinegar, sugar, salt and whole spices. Bring up to heat and boil 10 minutes. Then, pour the syrup into the pot.
5. Drain the watermelon pickle. In the processor, chop the watermelon pickle pieces to a relish texture or use a knife to chop them quite fine, about ¼ inch.
6. Add the watermelon pickle, the chopped onion and diced red pepper to your syrup mixture, bring back to a boil and take off the heat.
7. Remove the cardamom as best you can, but leave all the cloves (they remain as an important element).
8. Ladle into jars, seal and process in boiling water for 10 minutes.
Yield 6 pints
Serve the relish on hamburgers, of course, and it’s also yummy on a meatloaf or turkey sandwich. Vegetarian friends tell me it also adds delicious zing to a cheese sandwich.
*Be sure to get real apple cider vinegar, usually only in pints or quarts — never the apple cider-flavored vinegar available in ½ gal and gallon size.
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