There is a poetic alchemy in canning piccalilli. Like the sentiments expressed in Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, piccalilli preserves the best tastes of summer gardens for future enjoyment when the world outside is not so lushly verdant. No one practices the art better than my sister, Beth Ann. People hint strongly for a jar of her captured sunshine.
Beth Ann’s piccalilli contains peppers in a variety of colors and heat intensity for a more complex flavor. The other main ingredient is firm tomatoes in various stages of ripeness. Onions, Granny Smith apples, vinegar, sugar, and spices are also included. A pinch of cinnamon adds a little je ne sais quoi. We like to serve the piccalilli with brats, fish tacos and sandwiches.
Piccalilli is the British name for the relish with East Indies origins. The British interpretation of the versatile recipe contains cauliflower. The Dutch version has a kick, reflecting its Suriname influence. My Yooper friends from the Upper Peninsula called their relish Chow-Chow. Their favorite Chow-Chow contained grilled corn and a healthy portion of mustard. It was usually served with the famous U.P. Cornish Pasties.
Whatever you choose to call the relish and whatever you choose to add, the great thing about the relish is that it’s practically foolproof and utilizes almost any available vegetable. I’ve enjoyed sampling local favorites around the U.S. and in other countries. If variety is the spice of life, Piccalilli is the perfect relish.