Sweet Red Pepper Relish to Brighten Winter Meals

The trusty old hand-cranked grinder makes perfect relish every time.

Some of you may have pepper plants enjoying this late blast of summer weather and some of them may be turning red. This recipe sent me by Muriel Billings in Seal Harbor has been sitting in my “Try These” file waiting for red peppers which I achieved in the garden this week, and I cooked up a batch.

The gorgeous color and zippy sweet-and-sour flavor commend these for winter dinners as relish accompaniment to chicken or pork. Muriel had written that it is good over cream cheese on crackers, as indeed it is. Putting the relish together is very easy: only four ingredients, and a straightforward process. It takes a few hours but you can ignore it for several of those.

A food processor is way too speedy and irregular to work well for this relish. I still have and use my mother’s old grinder which is suitable for projects like these. All cucumber relish goes through the hand-cranked old thing clamped tight to the kitchen counter. It chewed up the red peppers just right, as it does when I make ham salad spread, or put together corn beef hash. I used the medium blade.

I reduced the sugar by half a cup and decided to add a few red pepper flakes to give it a bit of bite. If you raise hot peppers and are used to working with them, you will know how much to add to achieve your preferred level of heat, in case you want any at all.


Sweet Red Pepper Relish
Serves: Makes 3 pints
  • 8 large red peppers, or enough peppers to make 6 cups ground
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 cups vinegar
  1. Grind the peppers the medium coarse and put them in a bowl.
  2. Sprinkle the salt over them and allow it to sit for 3 to 4 hours.
  3. Empty the salted peppers into a heavy bottomed cook pot and cook over medium heat for 1 ½ hours.
  4. Test for doneness by putting a spoonful on a saucer and tipping it to check that only a little liquid seeps out.


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.