SAN FRANCISCO — The bustle of preparing for the holidays is in the air. But the old-fashioned ritual of making jams and relishes for holiday gifts has mostly been forgotten, and these days many home kitchens aren't used for much more than microwaving take-out food.
But in case you feel adventurous, try Wirtabel's Melon Chutney and the Garden Relish. These two charmers can give a one- or two-dish plain meal the variety and sparkle that a more ambitious menu provides.
The Pennsylvania Dutch understood the luxury of small offerings of lively "sweets and sours." Most of us like the opportunity to indulge our personal tastes, adding a little "zing" to what we eat. This is the magic that a spoonful or two of relish can provide.
The Garden Relish doesn't require any canning process. If you want to forgo the canning of the chutney, cut the amounts in half and keep the chutney in the refrigerator. It will last for about a week.
SWEET AND SOUR GARDEN RELISH
This relish goes well with grilled white fish, flank steak or lamb kebabs.
3/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons celery salt
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 large tomatoes
1/4 large onion
1/2 medium-size cucumber
Put the vinegar, water, sugar, celery salt, mustard seed, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Refrigerate 2 to 3 hours before using.
Before serving, remove the stem core of the tomatoes then peel and chop them into small pieces. Cut the stem top and root bottom off the onion. Peel the outer paper skin off. Lay the onion flat-side down, then cut 1/8-inch strips lengthwise. Cut into 1/8-inch pieces crosswise. Set aside.
Peel the cucumber and cut into thin slices, then stack the slices and cut them in half.
Add the tomato and onion pieces to the chilled marinade, stir to incorporate. Cover the relish. Keep the cucumber pieces separate but refrigerated.
Just before serving, add the cucumber and serve. This relish will keep for several weeks, but keep it covered and refrigerated. Makes 3 cups.
Per 1/4-cup serving: 27 calories, 0 g protein, 7 g carbohydrate, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 269 mg sodium, 0 g fiber.
WIRTABEL'S MELON CHUTNEY
This chutney goes well with turkey, pork or veal.
1 small melon, such as cantaloupe or honeydew
6 pears or apples
4 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups white vinegar
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup dark raisins
1 cup peeled, finely chopped fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks, each 2 inches long
Cut off both ends of the melon. Cut off the rind and slice the melon in half; discard the seeds. Cut each half into 1-inch strips then cut them into 1-inch-wide cubes. (You should have 6 cups. If you have more, save for another use.) Put the melon cubes into a large pot.
Peel and seed the pear or apple. Cut in half and place the halves cut-side down. Cut into 1-inch-wide cubes. (You should have 6 cups.) Add to the pot. Add the sugar, vinegar, raisins and ginger.
Gather the allspice, cloves and cinnamon sticks in a small square of cheesecloth and tie them up. Carefully use the back of a chef's knife to smash the spices in the cheesecloth. Add cheesecloth bundle to the pot.
Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook for about 2 hours, until the chutney becomes thickened and darker. Taste occasionally to check on the need for more spices or sugar or salt and add if needed. When the chutney gets thick, remove from the heat and discard the spice bag. Pour or spoon the mixture into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace (empty space). Screw the lids on.
Put a wire rack in the bottom of a Dutch oven or large kettle (which will keep water circulating under the jars) and place the filled jars on the rack. Add hot water to cover the top of the jars by 1 or 2 inches. Boil for 10 minutes. Remove the jars from the kettle and let cool. Store in the cupboard. Makes 8 cups.
Per 1/4-cup serving: 60 calories, 1 g protein, 15 g carbohydrate, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 4 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.