Sweet Cucumber Relish: A Must-Have For Family Barbecues

My Sweet Pickle Relish recipe is your perfect kitchen project for a tangy and sweet home-cooked meal. This relish combines cucumbers, onions, and bell peppers with spices. Waterbath canning keeps it conveniently shelf-stable.

Perfect for burgers, hot dogs, and more.

A single pint-sized canning jar filled with homemade sweet pickle relish, sealed and placed on a red and white checkered cloth, indicative of the canning process and the relish's readiness for storage.

Sweet Pickle Relish Recipe

Serving Size 6 pint jars

Equipment

  • Boiling water canner
  • 6 pint-size canning jars with lids and bands
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Colander
  • Large pot

Ingredients 

  • 4 cups finely chopped cucumbers (about 4 medium cucumbers)
  • 2 cups finely chopped onions
  • 1 cup finely chopped green bell peppers
  • 1 cup finely chopped red bell peppers
  • ¼ cup pickling or canning salt
  • 3 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar 5% acidity
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons celery seeds
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric

Instructions 

  • Chop and Salt: Finely chop cucumbers, onions, and bell peppers. In a large mixing bowl, combine chopped vegetables with pickling salt. Mix well.
    Neatly chopped cucumbers, green and red bell peppers, and onions arranged in separate sections in a clear glass bowl on a marble countertop.
  • Drain: Cover the bowl and let stand for 2 hours. Then, rinse the mixture in a colander under cold water and allow to drain completely.
    A colander containing the rinsed chopped cucumbers, green and red bell peppers, and onions after being drained, placed over a bowl on a marble surface.
  • Sterilize Jars: Heat jars in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Wash lids in warm soapy water and set aside with bands.
  • Combine Vinegar and Spices: In a large pot, mix the sugar, apple cider vinegar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, and turmeric. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
    A large pot on a stove containing a boiling mixture of vinegar and spices like turmeric, showing a wooden spoon, indicative of the relish's seasoning process.
  • Add Vegetables: Add the drained vegetable mixture to the vinegar solution. Return to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
    The relish after cooking, showing finely chopped cucumbers, peppers, onions, and spices mixed together in the large pot, ready for canning.
  • Fill Jars: Pack the hot relish into hot jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rim of the jars with a clean, damp cloth. Place the lid on the jar and secure with the band until fingertip tight.
    A sequence showing the process of ladling the hot relish mixture into canning jars, illustrating the step of transferring the cooked relish into jars
  • Process: Place jars in the boiling water canner, ensuring they are covered by at least 1 inch of water. Bring to a rolling boil and process for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove from canner and allow to cool undisturbed.
    The jars placed inside a boiling water canner for processing, with a view from above showing the jars submerged in water.
  • Check Seals: After cooling, check that lids are properly sealed by pressing the center of the lid. It should not flex. Store in a cool, dark place.
    The sealed jars of sweet pickle relish resting on a red and white checkered cloth, cooling down after being processed in the canner.

Notes

Make sure your work area, utensils, and jars are clean and sterilized to prevent contamination.
Adjust processing time according to your altitude for safety.

More Tips:

To achieve the perfect texture, chop your cucumbers, onions, and bell peppers as evenly as possible to help blend the flavors and make it easier to pack into jars. Plus, it makes sure that you get a consistent ratio of veggies to pickling liquid in every bite.

If you don’t have pickling or canning salt, you can use table salt instead, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Regular salt has additives that can make your relish look cloudy. Plus, pickling salt is better at keeping your veggies crisp.

Remember to let the chopped veggies sit for 2 hours with salt, as it draws out water from the vegetables and keeps your relish crunchy. Skipping it might give you a softer relish than you’re hoping for.

If you want to reduce the sugar, remember that it will definitely make your relish less sweet, but it’ll also affect the preservation. If you want to cut back, maybe try a little at a time.

After filling the jars with relish and before sealing them, take extra time to remove any air bubbles. You can do this by gently tapping the jar on the counter or using a non-metallic tool to stir and release trapped air.

A close-up image of sweet pickle relish in a white bowl, showing finely chopped green and red bell peppers, cucumbers, and yellow mustard seeds, all mixed together.

Serving Suggestions

Serve with hot dogs and hamburgers or mixed into sandwiches, wraps, tuna salad, or potato salad.

About the Ingredients

Changing the ingredients in Sweet Pickle Relish may affect its taste, texture, or appearance. But you can try out different variations for a recipe that suits your taste.

  • Cucumbers: Use zucchini as a close substitute.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: White or white wine vinegar can be used. Don’t forget to check the label for the acidity level.
  • Sugar: Honey is a good alternative, but remember that honey is sweeter, so you should use less of it.
  • Mustard Seeds: Using dry mustard is a great option, but use fewer seeds. You can buy them from the bulk spice section of bigger grocery stores, health food stores, or online.
  • Celery Seeds: Finely chopped fresh celery leaves
  • Ground Turmeric: Leave it out if it’s unavailable. Remember that it affects the color more than the taste.
  • Pickling Salt: Use kosher salt as a substitute. Look for it in stores with a good variety of canning supplies or specialty food stores.
An overhead image displaying the essential equipment for making sweet pickle relish, including a boiling water canner, a jar lifter, a canning funnel, jars, lids, and a large pot, all neatly arranged on a kitchen surface.

Storage Instructions

Storing in the Pantry:

  • Once your jars have cooled and you’ve checked that the seals are tight (the lid shouldn’t pop when you press down in the center), label your jars with the date.
  • Store them in a cool, dark place, like a pantry or a cupboard, away from direct sunlight. Properly sealed jars can last up to a year.

After Opening:

  • Once you open a jar, keep it in the refrigerator. An opened jar of relish should be used within 2-3 months for the best quality.
  • Always use a clean spoon to take out the relish to avoid contamination.

Freezing Instructions:

  • Freezing isn’t recommended for this recipe. The process can change the texture of the vegetables, making them mushy when thawed. Plus, the vinegar in the relish doesn’t freeze well, which can affect the taste and consistency.

Remember that if jars don’t seal properly after the canning process, don’t store them in the pantry. Put them in the fridge right away and use them first.

I’ve been making this sweet pickle relish every summer for years, and it’s become a tradition in our household. I started making it to use the cucumbers from our garden, and it has now become a must-have for our family barbecues.

If you haven’t tried making homemade relish before, now is your time to try it!

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