A traditional relish with a southern twist! Prepared with corn, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, and jalapenos, Southern Corn Relish is a condiment that demands respect and attention!
If you’ve been reading Lord Byron’s Kitchen for some time now, you’ll know how much I love a good canning recipe. Also, just in case you didn’t know already, I cannot live without sauces and condiments. Seriously, I can make an entire meal on canned relish, pickles, etc. This Southern Corn Relish is my latest addiction!
A few years ago, I published a recipe for Sweet Corn Relish. It tastes just like the Bick’s brand, which was always in my mom’s fridge. I used to eat that stuff by the spoonful. This time around, I wanted to make something a little different. After all, life is too short to make the same canned corn relish ever summer, right?
This Southern Corn Relish recipe comes together quite easily. There’s no fancy skill need to make this dish. All you need is a little patience and a good, sharp knife. There’s a lot of chopping. I’ll walk you through the steps to get the best results.
HOW TO PREP THE TOMATOES
Whenever I can something with tomatoes, I prefer to use roma tomatoes. Roma tomatoes have more “meat” and less pulp then other types of tomatoes. Save the heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes for sandwiches! Roma tomatoes are sometimes called plum tomatoes.
You will need to remove the skin. Have you ever tried to peel a tomato? It’s not and easy thing to do in their natural form – especially if you need to peel three pounds of them. There is an easy way to do it though.
To start, wash the tomatoes well. Use sharp paring knife to cut an X in the bottom of each tomato. Don’t cut too deeply. You basically just want to cut through the skin. Place the tomatoes in a bowl and cover with hot, boiled water straight from the kettle.
Wait one minute and fish the tomatoes out with a slotted spoon. Allow them to rest for a few minutes and you can peel the skin off quite easily. Remove the core and discard. Chop the tomatoes and add to the pot.
BELL PEPPERS, JALAPENOS, AND ONIONS
It’s important to keep in mind that the peppers and jalapenos will cook down a little bit, but not too much. So, it is recommended to take the time to chop them properly. I like to cut the peppers into a small dice. I remove the stem, membrane, and seeds.
For the jalapenos, the same rules apply. Dice them very finely. Remove and discard the seeds if you wish. I did not add the seeds to mine, because the seeds are the spicy/hot part of the jalapeno. If I were making Southern Corn Relish for myself, I’d make it spicy. But, not everyone likes spicy food.
The onions are easy. Peel them and chop them finely. I like to see little bits of onion floating around in the relish. In fact, I want all of the veggies to be noticeable. Otherwise, I’d toss them all into a food processor and take the easy way out!
CANNING – DO NOT TAKE ANY SHORTCUTS
I’m a huge fan of the water bath canning method. It’s so much easier than using a pressure canner. Generally speaking, water bath canning should be used for recipes that are highly acidic or sweet. Some canning experts state that to eliminate the risk of getting sick from improperly processed jars, it’s best to use a pressure canner.
Until just recently, I’ve only ever used water bath canning. With extra time on my hands in 2020, which means more time for canning, I have invested in a pressure canner. I will get to that in a future post. This particular recipe was processed in a water bath canner.
Southern Corn Relish certainly has enough acid and sugar to warrant safe canning results. Yes, we have a bit of sugar, but the tomatoes and vinegar will certainly provide more than enough acid.
Whether you decide to use the water bath canning method or the pressure canning method, do not take any shortcuts. Every step is important and will help to not only ensure a longer shelf life, but will also prevent you from getting sick.
HOW TO WATER BATH CAN
STEP 1: PREPARING THE JARS
Some canners say that if you need to boil the jars longer than 10 minutes, then you don’t need to sterilize the jars. I say no! Canning is not as simple and cheap as frying an egg. It takes time, and an investment if you don’t already have the equipment. Eliminate any risk whatsoever by always sterilizing your jars. It’s easy to do and your Southern Corn Relish will thank you! Wash the jars in hot, soapy water. Rinse the jars well under running water to get rid of any soap residue.
Transfer the jars to a large pot of water. Bring to a boil and boil for 2-3 minutes. Using a jar wrench/lifter, lift the jars out of the water, tilting to pour out the water. Be careful; it’s hot! Stand the jar up onto a baking sheet. Once all of the jars are on the baking sheet, place them into your preheated oven at 200 degrees F. This will keep them hot and away from any contamination.
STEP 2: PREPARING THE SEALS AND RINGS
Mason jars are equipped with three parts. The first is the jar. The second and third parts combine to form the lid. The flat disc with the rubber ring on the bottom is the seal. Finally, the circular part that actually screws onto the jar is called a screw band. Depending on the brand or the recipe you’re reading, the names of these things can vary. But, they all do the same thing.
The screw bands never come in contact with the food, so they do not need to be washed or sterilized. But, because I want to eliminate any risk of contamination, I make sure they’re clean. After all, they have been sitting in a warehouse before they got to the store, and then finally, to me. That’s too many germs for my comfort level! I wash them in hot, soapy water, rinse them well, and transfer them to a bowl until I need them. The sealing disk/sealing ring needs a little more consideration.
If you look at the bottom of the lid, you will see a reddish-brown rubber ring. It’s attached to the lid. This ring has a huge job! It is pretty much in charge of keeping your food safe for long-term storage. Place the lids into a glass bowl. I like to separate them so that they are not all stacked. When I’m ready to ladle the food into the jars, I pour a kettle of boiling water over the lids so that they are sterile and the rubber band softens. That’s it. You have now prepared your jars. Next, we need to get the canner ready!
STEP 3: PREPARING THE CANNER
You can buy a canning pot, but you don’t have to do that. Any stock pot will do just fine. Be sure that the pot is tall enough to hold enough water so that your jars are covered by at least an inch of water. Fill the canning pot accordingly. Also, be sure to insert a canning rack or mat into the bottom of your pot. If you buy a canning pot it will come with one. Otherwise, you can buy them for any pot size. Never let your jars touch the bottom of the pot when boiling. They could easily break and your Southern Corn Relish will be lost. Once you’ve done this, bring the water to a full boil.
In most cases, if you’re new to canning, you might notice some white residue on the jars after all is said and done. This can easily be cleaned off once the jars are cool. A few tablespoons of white vinegar in the boiling water helps to eliminate most of it. I use it every single time.
Lastly, it’s always a good idea to keep a kettle of boiling water close by. Depending on how many jars you need to process, you might have to boil them in batches. You will be surprised at how quickly rapidly boiling water can evaporate. Having a kettle of boiling water will allow you to easily top up the canning pot without altering the temperature of the water.
STEP 4: FILLING THE JARS
Depending on the recipe, filling the jars is quite easy. Having some inexpensive equipment on hand can make this process much easier. Invest in a canning funnel. It will help you ladle the food into the jars without making a mess. Remember to pay attention to the recipe’s recommended headspace. This is the amount of empty space from the top of the food to the very top of the jar. Also, it’s imperative to keep the rim of the jar clean to ensure a good seal. You will also need a bubble remover. You can buy these, but I’m not a fan of them. A clean wooden chopstick does the same thing. Removing bubbles will prevent mold from growing.
Lastly, you will need a magnetic lid lifter. Remember how I said the flat sealing lids will be submerged into a bowl of boiling water? Well, you can’t just pick them up with your hands. First of all, it’s hot! Secondly, you will want to eliminate the risk of any contamination. Do not touch the underside of the lid. Period! Using a magnetic lid lifter will allow you to pick up the lid and position it right onto the rim of the jar without ever touching it.
Finally, you will need to screw on the metal screw bands. In most cases, the food in the jars is scalding hot, so you can’t touch the jars to tighten the lids. But, that’s a good thing! You should never over tighten the lids. Place the screw band over the jar and tighten it with one hand. It should be snug, not tight. Now, that’s it! You’re ready to boil these jars!
STEP 5: BOILING THE JARS OF FOOD
Carefully lift the jars of Southern Corn Relish straight up using a jar wrench/lifter. Lower the jar into the pot of boiling water. Fill the canning pot with jars in this manner. Don’t jam the jars in; leave a little bit of space between the jars. I aim for about a centimeter or a finger’s width. Remember, you can process the jars in batches.
Once the canning pot is loaded, place a lid on the pot, and start your timer according to the recipe you are following. If the water is not at a full boil, do not start timing until it is! When the time is up, use the jar wrench to lift the jars straight up out of the water. Transfer the jars to a flat surface that has been lined with a few layers of kitchen towels. Allow the jars to fully cool – at least 24 hours! Finally, wipe the jars down, label them with contents and date, and store them into a cool, dark cupboard or pantry.
Some people remove the screw bands after the jars have cooled for 24 hours. I remove them just to check if there is a good seal. I put them back on once I’ve checked. It’s up to you if you want to leave them off. If you notice that a jar has not sealed, you can either discard it, or refrigerate it for immediate consumption. Only do so if you are 100% sure the food has not been compromised and that it is safe to eat.
Canning food takes patience, but the results are worth the effort. I love having a pantry full of canned goods that will last up to twelve months. In times like we are living in now, it’s always good to have a supply of food on hand that do not require refrigeration.
Once you get a taste of this corn relish, you’ll understand why I love it so much. It’s delicious on cold sliced roast beef! Top your burgers and hot dogs with this and nothing else! Try mixing a jar with cooled, cooked pasta for a great pasta salad too!
Southern Corn Relish
- 8 500 ml mason jars with screw bands and new, unused sealing discs.
- Water Bath Canner with Jar Rack
- Jar Wrench/Lifter
- Canning Funnel
- Non-metallic Bubble Remover
- Magnetic Lid Lifter
- 3 pounds roma tomatoes
- 10 cups frozen corn
- 2 large green bell peppers, seeds discarded, finely diced
- 2 large red bell peppers, seeds discarded, finely chopped
- 2 large white onions, finely diced
- 6 large jalapeno peppers, finely diced (remove and discard seeds for non-spicy option)
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon pickling salt
- 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
- Read through the post to learn how to properly set up your canning jars, pots, water, etc., before you start – especially if you are new to canning!
To Prepare Recipe:
- Wash the tomatoes well and just slightly score the bottom of each tomato making an X with your knife. Don't cut too deep – the point is to just slice the skin.place in a bowl. Cover with hot, boiled water. Allow to rest for one minute. Using a slotted spoon, remove the tomatoes and let rest for a minute or two to cool. You will notice that the bottom of each tomato has opened up. You can now use your finger to peel the skin off, placing the peeled tomato into a clean bowl. Once done, chop the tomatoes, removing and discarding the core.
- Place the chopped tomatoes and all of the other ingredients into a large sauce pan or pot. Bring to a full boil over medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring often.
- In the meantime, fill your water bath canner to the halfway mark with water and add the jar rack. Bring to a full boil.
- Ladle the relish into prepared mason jars using a funnel to prevent the mixture from touching the rim of the jars.
- Use the non-metallic bubble remover to remove any air bubbles.
- Wipe down the rim of each jar with a damp paper towel to ensure none of the relish has come in contact with the rim.
- Carefully remove the sealing discs from the hot water with a magnetic lid lifter. Position the sealing disc directly onto the lid of the jars. Do not touch the underside of the lid.
- Screw on the screw bands until firm – do not apply pressure! Just use your fingertips to tighten the screw bands.
- Using the jar lifter, place the jars into the water bath canner with the boiling water. Do not place the lid on the canner.
- Boil for 20 minutes. Carefully remove each jar from the canner using the jar lifter. Try not to tilt the jars. Place jars onto a wire cooling rack that has been covered with a clean kitchen towel.
- Leave the jars to cool for a minimum of 12 hours. Once cooled, wipe the jars of any residue that might have been transferred to the outside of the jar during the boiling process. Label the jars and store in a dark, cool cabinet for up to one year.