Simple Food Keeping Hacks and One Good Relish


There is a row of reddening tomatoes on the window sill, a few more zucchini in a basket, a mere handful of green pole beans, onions drying on the barn floor, red peppers in the hoop house, and believe it or not, we are still picking and eating sweet corn. Most of my big preserving is over but there is still a little more than we can eat up as it comes along.

There are a few easy ways to preserve produce at the end of the season (or any other time, for that matter). As much as I love looking at my cellar-way shelves lined with pint and quart jars full of red tomato sauce, green pickles, and deep yellow peaches, and jam jars with strawberry, or peach preserves, chutneys, and chili sauces, sometimes life is too busy (or it is too warm and lovely outdoors) to retreat to the kitchen, heat a canner full of water, get out the lids and rings, and process all the food. And sometimes there are too few tomatoes to make a batch and I’m not canning zucchini anyway. So here are a few things you can do.

Got tomatoes? I chunk them up, put them in a zipper-closing bag, lay them flat in the freezer to solidify, then stack up to store. They are perfect for soups, sauces, and stews. Alternatively, freeze them whole on a tray then knock them into a plastic bag to store, a trick I learned forty years ago. My friend and seasonal neighbor Kay Wood used to skin tomatoes, and put them separately into plastic bags with a bread bag closer between each one, select one to use to chop or slice when partly thawed.

Got peppers? Chop or slice, freeze them on a cookie sheet, knock off into a zipper-closed bag and freeze. When you need some, shake out the desired amount.

Got a few green beans? Ditto above.

Got zucchini? Quickest way to get rid of this stuff is to grate it, and spoon it into zip-closing bags and freeze them flat. If you have a favorite zucchini bread or cake, measure out the amount of zuke you need into the freezer bag, and that way you can thaw a pre-measured amount to usse. I dump grated zucchini into spaghetti sauces, chili, and soups to vege it up a little where it seems to melt away. Alternatively, roast chunks of zuke or summer squash dribbled with olive oil (and seasoned with garlic) in an oven at 425 for hardly any time—say fifteen minutes–then freeze it in a plastic bags. Rewarm as a fast vege for supper.

Got corn? Slice it raw off the cob into a bowl, spoon into a plastic bag, zip it closed and freeze flat. Pull out for a side for supper or as an ingredient wherever cut corn is needed (like corn chowder or succotash).

Or you could make one good corn relish. I was visiting my friend and island-neighbor Sharon Daley who was making salsa and had more tomatillos than she wanted but was willing to share. She makes salsa to mix with corn relish to serve. I never thought I liked corn relish but Sharon gave me a taste of hers, which I thought was wonderful, and she said, “I knew I could convert you!” I went home and made a batch. Here is the recipe, easily doubled if you wish.

One Good Relish
Serves: 7 half-pints
  • Corn Relish
  • 5 cups of corn, cut off the cob
  • 1 large red pepper, diced
  • 1 large green pepper diced
  • 1 ¼ cups of celery diced
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 2 ½ cups white vinegar
  • 1 ¼ tablespoons salt
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons celery seed
  • 1 ¼ tablespoons mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  1. Mix everything together, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes.
  2. Fill your sterilized jars, close with lids and rings, and process for fifteen minutes in a boiling water bath.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.