Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What I Should NOT Be Doing During Finals Week

I'm not sure if having the first day of finals week off was serendipitous, or more likely, I'll be cursing my misfortune in a few days, as all of my exams are bunched up at the end of the week. But one thing I do know for sure is that I should have spent my day off grading papers. But instead, I spent it canning. I sometimes make little holiday gifts of jam or chutney at this time of year for friends and colleagues, but this time, I was canning for someone I didn't even know!

You see, upon learning of this humble little cooking blog, one of my students asked me if I had homemade canned goods and preserves for sale, as she wanted to put a gift basket together for her aunt who loves such things. Of course, I was happy to oblige, and so we discussed what sorts of items would her aunt would prefer. I had many things on hand that I believed would fill the bill...all except one. My student told me that her aunt's favorite thing in the world was corn relish, and of course, that was one thing I did not have. I tried to talk her into some zucchini relish, but it had to be corn. So how could I not try and make her some? After all, it was for Christmas!

The thing I was most worried about was the unseasonable lack of fresh corn on the cob, but some knowledgeable folks on my favorite canning resource, GardenWeb's Harvest Forum, assured me that corn relish, since it's pickled, can be successfully made with frozen cut kernel corn. And guess what? It can, and it's TERRIFIC! This is such an easy and delicious recipe (from our trusty old friend, the Ball Blue Book), and I am thrilled to now know that it can be made year-round!

Oh, for those of you who may be asking, what do you do with corn relish, you can use it wherever a pickle relish might be called for, like on hot dogs, hamburgers or sandwiches. It's also good mixed into a pasta salad, or you can blend it with sour cream, mayo or cream cheese to make a delicious dip. Some people eat it as a side dish on its own. As for me, I like it on nachos with some black beans. YUM!

Home-Style Corn Relish
(Source: BBB's Fresh Preserving)

2 cups white vinegar
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt (that's plain canning salt)
4 cups cooked corn kernels, about 8 ears (I used frozen, thawed but not cooked)
2 cups diced mixed red and green bell peppers, about 2 large (I used one sweet red pepper, 4 long hot peppers and 2 jalapenos, as I like a little kick to my relishes!)
3/4 cup diced celery (about 2 stalks)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion (about 1 small)
1 tablespoon dry mustard (didn't realize I was out, so I swapped out 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds)
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
*I added 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and 1 teaspoon of coriander

6 (8 oz) half pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands (I used pints and got exactly 3 jars)

1. PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
2. COMBINE vinegar, sugar and salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add corn, red and green peppers, celery, onion, mustard, celery seeds and turmeric. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
3. LADLE hot relish into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center hot lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.
4. PROCESS filled jars in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

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