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before: green tomatoes at the end of the season

Unless you are much farther south than I am, you’ve already had a killing frost. Hopefully, whether on the vine or on the window sill/vegetable bin/basement you have a cache of green tomatoes. While not the main ingredient, it can be one of the more challenging ones to find — if you don’t grow your own tomatoes or if you, like me, had a blight wipe out the tomatoes before the peppers were in full season. This year, against my conscience, I actually bought green tomatoes. The day before the first killing frost, I begged my local farm stand to get some of the green tomatoes for me.  I have made this relish, a recipe that I got from my sister, Suzy, many years ago, nearly every year. No matter how many jars I make, they are always gone at the end of the season. With their mixture of green and red peppers, they are perfect for holiday giving.


after: one of about 20 half-pints of green tomato relish

I’ll be honest. This is not the easiest canning project that you’ll endeavor. It takes two days: grind all the veggies the first day. Salt them and let them sleep covered in the basement. On day two, you rinse out the salt, make and can the relish. But this relish tastes just as good — possibly better — than in looks. Most definitely worth the effort. I have a nephew who has never asked me for anything, but unabashedly he asked that I give him the relish for Christmas. This year I did 1 and 1/2 recipes in hopes on not running out.


grinding the red peppers

There are two key cautions about the process of making the relish:

  • Use a meat grinder to grind the vegetables — NOT a food processor. It will build up your arm muscles and spray/drip vegetable juices all over your kitchen, but keep your mind focused on the end product, because it WILL be worth it.
  • On day two, rinse the vegetables very well with cool water. I put the relish in a large 16- or 21-quart pot and fill with water, then drain three times to make sure all of the salt is removed. Then I put the relish in an oversized cheesecloth and wring it out until practically dry. This ensures that your relish will not be too watery.

recipe for Aunt Suzy’s sweet holiday relish

Yield: 9 pints


  • 3 lbs yellow onions (4 C. ground)
  • ½ large cabbage (4 C. ground)
  • 10 large green tomatoes (4 C. ground)
  • 5 lbs total green and red bell peppers, about 10 green and 5 red (7 C. ground)
  • ½ C. pickling salt
  • 6 C. white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. celery seed
  • 2 Tbsp. mustard seed
  • 1 ½ teas. turmeric
  • 4 C. cider vinegar
  • 2 C. water


  • Wash and grind all vegetables in food grinder, or chop very finely. Do not put in food processor. Measure to stated amounts; drain excess liquids.
  • Place all vegetable in large pot, mix together. Sprinkle with salt; cover loosely with towel; set overnight.
  • Rinse vegetables thoroughly 2 times to remove all salt, draining well each time; place in several layers of cheesecloth and squeeze out water; set aside.
  • Combine remaining ingredients in large pot; boil 3 min; add drained vegetables; return to boil; simmer 3 min. Remove from heat.
  • Ladle hot relish in jars leaving ¼ in. head space. Add small amount of liquid if necessary to ¼ in. head space
  • Process 15 min. in boiling water bath

more great recipes and canning instructions

You’ll find this and other great recipes in my book Can It! published by BowTie Press, Inc.

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