Was ever a condiment so appropriately named? In Canada you are most likely to see relish right alongside mustard and ketchup as one of the three favourite toppings for a hamburger or hot dog. Not so in the States, where relish is a little harder to find at fast food joints, and requesting it might elicit confused looks similar to the ones you get when asking for mayonnaise or white vinegar for your French fries. In many States you are likely to get pickles on your burger or hot dog, but here in Canada, we like our pickles minced up.
The most common relishes are hot dog relish, which is essentially chopped dill pickles in a mustard based sauce, or sweet relish- alarmingly green sweet pickles chopped fine in a sugary vinegar base.
There is also “hamburger relish” which is like the aforementioned varieties, but has a ketchup base. Growing up we soundly mocked kids who put hamburger relish on hot dogs, and vice versa. Couldn’t they read? Maybe they were rebels, who knows.
Looking at the label for a major brand of all three of these, we see that sugar weighs in as the second ingredient, along with modified corn starch, calcium carbonate and other ingredients that seem to have bonded together in their fall from the periodic table to the picnic table.
One brand that goes easy on the sugar is McClure’s Pickles, this family owned company makes some of the finest pickles and relish you can buy. Using fresh ingredients and letting their natural flavours shine, the way it should be done.
Now don’t get me wrong, I like my sweets just as much as anyone else. But I usually save that sensation for the end of the meal, I don’t know, call me crazy, I call it dessert. Seriously, are we that conditioned towards sugar that we have to have it as the number two ingredient in so many things? I always thought a hamburger or hot dog ought to be on the savoury side of the taste spectrum, but on a burger with a tablespoon of relish and the same amount of ketchup you are adding almost two teaspoons of sugar. Throw in a pop and ice cream for dessert and spend of the rest of the summer dealing with a fat little monster who will have you reaching for another Skinny-Girl Margarita.
Perhaps it’s time to experiment with your own recipe and cut down on the sugar a bit. If you are serious about re-conditioning your- or your kids’-tastebuds, maybe cut it down gradually. And if you want to fool the little darlings, put your homemade ketchup or relish in a fun dispenser, like a ketchup kritter or mustard monster, or maybe better yet, a used jar of their favourite brand. It’s worth a try.
We like this recipe from Bobby Flay:
Homemade Pickle Relish:
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 tablespoons sugar
8 large dill pickles (sour, not half-sour), finely diced
1 small red pepper, grilled, peeled, seeded, and finely diced
1 small yellow pepper, grilled, peeled, seeded, and finely diced
1 small white onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Bring vinegar, mustard seeds, and coriander seeds to a boil in a medium non-reactive saucepan on the grates of the grill; cook until reduced by half and slightly syrupy. Remove from the heat, add the remaining ingredients, and gently toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving