Home & Garden

Preserve your summer garden with these recipes for small batches of condiments

This pepper relish is made from assorted peppers, onion and pear. (Lisa Williams)
This pepper relish is made from assorted peppers, onion and pear. (Lisa Williams)
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By Lisa Williams, Sweet and Spicy correspondent

Having grown up in a family where canning and preserving was an all-consuming activity, I love having an assortment of jams, jellies and condiments in my pantry. They make meals extra special and remind me of home.

The arrival of summer triggers an urge to preserve, but I’ve been met by a persistent challenge. One must have sufficient quantities of three things at one time: the fruit or vegetable to be preserved; enough jars, lids and bands to hold the stuff; and enough time to prepare and manage it all. All of it, at once.

Those of us working full-time day jobs can’t very well take a day — or a week — off to can and preserve, nor do we want to consume the entire weekend. The problem is most recipes call for enormous quantities of ingredients, jars and time. Not too long ago, I was scrolling through Instagram and watched Julia Collin Davison of “America’s Test Kitchen” prepare a small batch of strawberry jam in about 20 minutes.

Thus inspired, I searched for recipes I could reduce to manageable sizes. Because I don’t know how many peppers are in a peck (Do you?), I steered clear of measurements I couldn’t figure out.

I worked up a version of my family’s beloved pepper relish and eagerly tried a couple of interesting vintage recipes.

The recipes I’m sharing with you are simple enough that you can make one or two after supper. Each recipe yields no more than a couple of pints, just enough for you and a friend. And if you decide you really like it, just make it again or double the quantity next time.

These small batch recipes let you enjoy summer now and preserve it for later, too.

Pepper Relish

If there was a written recipe for my family’s pepper relish, I never saw it. As a prized condiment, it ranks at the top, just behind fig preserves and mayhaw jelly. Annual shipments arrived no matter where I lived, and I’d stuff a jar or two in my luggage to bring home. An assortment of finely ground peppers — bell, cayenne, Anaheim, jalapeno — along with onion and sometimes pears are cooked down until they are vinegary sweet. We ate this all year long, but especially in summer over fresh purple hull peas, butter beans and corn. This is my approximation of the family recipe in a small-batch version. This is perfect for when you have an assortment of peppers in your community supported agriculture box or from your own garden.

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4 cups of the following assorted peppers, coarsely grated or shredded: For example, you could use 1 red bell pepper, 1 green bell pepper, 1 poblano, 1 Anaheim and 4 jalapenos or serranos. Feel free to adjust based on what you have at home and how much heat you want.

1 medium onion

1 pear, not overly ripe

Boiling water

1 cup sugar

1 cup white vinegar (you can use half white vinegar, half apple cider vinegar)

2 teaspoons salt

Grind onion, pear, peppers in a shredder or vegetable grinder. Do not use a blender because it will liquefy the vegetables. You should have 4 cups of ground vegetables.

Place the vegetables in a large saucepan and cover with boiling water. Let sit for 5 minutes, then drain very well. Add sugar, vinegar and salt, stirring well. Bring to a gentle boil; then reduce heat to medium. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, while the liquid reduces, about one hour. When the mixture has thickened up, remove from heat. Put into sterilized jars and seal tightly. Process according to your preferred canning method. Makes about 1 1/2 pints.

Source: Adapted by Lisa Williams

Strawberry Refrigerator Jam

Watching Julia Collin Davison of “America’s Test Kitchen” make a small-batch strawberry jam on Instagram inspired this month’s column. I am not married to any one version of homemade strawberry jam — I love them all: freezer jam, cooked jam with added pectin or, like this one, a cooked jam using only the natural pectin from a bit of lemon juice. This recipe is designed for 1 1/2 pounds of strawberries.

1 1/2 pounds strawberries, about 3 cups, hulled, caps removed, cut into half-inch pieces

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons lemon juice

Put berries, sugar and lemon juice into a heavy bottomed saucepan. Use a potato masher to mash the berries so they cook more quickly. Bring to medium high heat and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, for 20 minutes until mixture thickens. Cook until a spatula dragged through the jam leaves a trail.

Place in clean jars and store in the refrigerator. Makes 2 one-cup jars.

Source: Julia Collin Davison

Melon Peach Conserve

Cantaloupe and peaches occasionally appear together in salads and salsas, but what a flavor revelation when they’re cooked. This old recipe from the Lincoln (NE) Women’s Club adds almonds and just a touch of nutmeg for a very tasty finish. Stir into a bowl of hot oatmeal or spoon over a simple pound cake. This small batch recipe makes one pint but can be easily doubled.

2 cups diced cantaloupe

2 cups diced peaches

2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Pinch of salt

1/4 cup sliced almonds or slivered blanched almonds

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground of possible

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Put cantaloupe and peaches in a medium-sized heavy bottom saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add sugar and lemon juice and stir well. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 20 minutes, or until thickened.

Remove from heat. Stir in almonds and nutmeg. Pour into hot, sterilized jars and seal securely. Process according to your preferred canning method or place in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Source: Adapted from a recipe from the Lincoln (Neb.) Women’s Club, “America Cooks, The General Federation of Women’s Clubs Cook Book,” 1967

‘Carorange’ Confiture

When I saw the intriguing combination of carrots and citrus, I knew I had to try this recipe. Carrots are naturally sweet, especially early in the season. Cooked, mashed carrots combine with orange peel and a whole lemon make a marmalade like spread. Add this to grilled chicken or fish just before serving. Bring it full circle by tossing over warm cooked carrots. Of course, it’s wonderful spread on a piece of toast. This small batch recipe makes one pint; triple to make more.

2 organic navel oranges

1 cup water

1 cup mashed, cooked carrots

1 organic lemon, ground or shredded in a food processor

1 1/2 cup sugar

Carefully remove the peel from both oranges, taking care to avoid the white pith. Cut the peel into slivers. (Save the orange flesh for a smack.) Place orange peel and water in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.

Add carrots, lemon and sugar. Bring to boil and stir until sugar is dissolved. Simmer at low heat, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens, about 1 hour. If you have a candy thermometer, cook until 220 degrees; otherwise, cook until the mixture thickens and pulls away from the pan. When a spatula dragged through the mixture leaves a trail, it’s done.

Pour into hot, sterilized jars and seal securely. Process according to your preferred canning method or place in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Source: Adapted from a recipe by Mrs. Harold M. Graham, Ruidoso, NM Women’s Club in America Cooks, The General Federation of Women’ Clubs Cook Book, 1967

Watermelon Rind Preserves

Over the years, I’ve been intrigued by making watermelon rind preserves, but I was put off by the thought of cleaning an entire watermelon. I’m not sure how my mother and grandmother made them as no written recipe remains. Most recipes I’ve seen use lemon and ginger because the watermelon rind itself doesn’t have much flavor. For this recipe, I added a second warm spice, ground coriander, to heighten the lemony notes.

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3 cups peeled, diced watermelon rind (the rind from 1/4 of a whole watermelon should be enough)

Water for soaking and initial cooking of the rind

2 cups sugar

3 1/2 cups water

1/2 lemon, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground coriander

Prepare watermelon the day before making preserves. Remove inner flesh and outer green peel, leaving the white rind. Dice into 1/4 to 1/2-inch pieces. You should have 3 cups of watermelon rind. Put in a bowl and cover with water. Add 1 tablespoon salt. Leave overnight.

The next day, drain watermelon rind and rinse well. Put in a heavy bottomed saucepan and cover with 2 inches of water. Cook until fork tender, about 30 minutes. Drain.

Return rind to the empty saucepan. Add sugar and water and boil gently for 30 minutes. Add sliced lemon, ginger and coriander. Reduce heat and cook until liquid is reduced and rind becomes translucent.

Put into sterilized jars. Seal tightly and process according to your preferred canning method. Makes about 1 1/2 cups preserves.

Source: Adapted from the National Center for Home Food Preparation.

Pepper Sauce

On many a Louisiana table you may still find an old ketchup or Worcestershire sauce bottle repurposed to hold a pepper vinegar also known as pepper sauce.

Small peppers, such as cayenne, bird’s eye or serrano

Vinegar, amount as to be determined by size of bottle

Small peppers such as cayenne, bird’s eye or serrano are stuffed in a jar, then the jar is filled with white vinegar. After sitting for a week or so, this flavorful vinegar is ready to douse sparingly or liberally atop vegetables — usually turnip greens, mustard or collards. You don’t see ketchup in glass bottles these days, but the bulk kombucha bottles at New Pioneer Food Coop are good substitutes.

Source: Lisa Williams

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