Summer in a Jar: Corn Relish


Even though it isn’t officially summer anymore, we who live Down East are still harvesting tomatoes, corn, and peppers while in the garden winter squash is ripening and root vegetables are fattening up. It was cool enough this past week to put a fire in the cook stove where I heated up corn relish before spooning it into canning jars. Yellow corn with flecks of red and green really brightens up the preserves shelf and the dinner plate in winter.

This recipe came from my island neighbor Sharon Daley, the telemedicine nurse on the Seacoast Mission vessel, the Sunbeam, who somehow squeezes canning time in between trips to Maine island communities. I had not ever made corn relish and for some reason didn’t think I would like it. Sharon handed me a spoonful and changed my mind for me. “I knew I could convert you,” she said.

I try to grow enough corn for fresh eating; corn cut raw off the cob to freeze; and sometimes still have more. A few jars of corn relish is a good addition to the winter supply: sharpens up the salad plate, is great on chicken, fish, and pork, and embellishes vegetable dishes of almost any sort (think sweet potatoes or butternut squash).

The original recipe had what are, for me, a couple of annoying features: for example it recommended half a cup of chopped onion and a cup and a half chopped celery. Measures like that tend to relegate the rest of an onion or a bit of celery to refrigerator oblivion, and I think that sensible cooks will agree upon rounding to the nearest whole vegetable. Four ribs of celery is roughly a cup and a half. A small onion will do the trick. If you are a nervous cook, go ahead and chop and measure if you want.

As far as mustard seed is concerned I figured on a heaping tablespoon rather than one and quarter tablespoons, and a heaping teaspoon of the celery seed rather than one and a quarter teaspoons. Besides, since it really is a matter of taste and I prefer slightly more muscular flavorings anyway, I added them a bit more generously.

You’ll need five cups of cooked corn – I used about seven ears for that but how many you’ll need will depend on size of the ears of corn you acquire.

If you are not used to scanting a cup of anything, the easiest way to create one is to measure out a whole cup then remove a couple of tablespoons full.

The relish doesn’t need much cooking. Just get it hot. Process as you do any pickle or relish. There is plenty of vinegar and sugar in this to do most of the preserving work.

P.S. It was great to hear from some of you about the tomato soup recipe we featured last week. Apparently a fair number of folks are still dealing with a tomato harvest, and found the soup worked well. Jeannie Tabor in Monson wrote, “It was pretty labor intensive with all the chopping, cooking, “food milling,” cooking again and canning, but it was good! I started with twelve quarts of tomatoes so I adjusted the other ingredients somewhat and I did put in the roux. It made it very smooth and creamy.  Got seven quarts and three pints total.  My husband sampled the leftover spoonfuls of soup in the kettle and declared it “Really, really good.”  Thanks for the recipe.  I will plan to save this one for next year.”

Without the roux, the soup is thin, and if you want, you can cook it down a little, as I did, then add water and roux later when you serve it to get the soup consistency you prefer without canning a whole lot of liquid.

Corn Relish
Serves: Makes five and half pints
  • 5 cups of cooked corn cut from the cob
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 green pepper, finely chopped
  • 4 ribs of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 scant cup of sugar
  • 2 ½ cups cider vinegar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon pickling salt
  • 1 heaping tablespoon whole mustard seeds
  • 1 heaping teaspoon celery seed, or to taste
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric, optional
  1. Put all ingredients into a heavy cook pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Spoon into clean, sterilized jars.
  3. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 to 15 minutes.


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.