As I sit here devouring my favorite snacks, hot dogs with mustard, relish, and onions on it, I suddenly am reminded by my taste buds why I enjoy eating any relish so much, and why to me at least, there is not enough info out there to please my curiosity or pallet, but yet the masses still flock to buy the common store bought relishes. So because "inquiring minds really want to know" I decided to do a full page hub on relishes. I wanted to know who originally started to make relish privately or corporately, and just how many types of relish are really out there on good old terra firma, any idea? "Input, input" (just like Johnnie 5 used to say) "I need more input", so the more information I googled, the more input I discovered until I had about 10 full pages of input on relish history, contents, types, and countries and where it began, that had to be condensed into this article.
Well lets start at the beginning of the search shall we? What exactly is relish? For the sake of this inquiry we will go with the conventional definition as given by many gourmet chefs and food experts out there (too many to mention). Now for beginners relish got its name from the French word "reles" basically meaning 'something remaining'. Relish is " a condiment which should normally contain vinegar, sugar, and water, and chopped vegetables, and or contain fruit. So typically relishes are pickled which allows for storage for an extended length of time." Now, notice please relish in itself is not a chutney, nor is it a sauce like salsa, but relish can be applied to both sources to enhance their tastes. Apparently relish was discovered because of a basic need. Made in the fall as far back as the early 1700's by french farmers who preserved and pickled relish for those long cold dreary winter months ahead. Remember back then that they had no fresh produce that would have been available during the winter solstice period. It was soon after that, that they imported it to England, New Zealand, the new world to America, Russia, and other countries until it was obvious relish would be around for a long long time. During this period it also became a commercial product that one could buy at ones local grocery store.
So who was the first company to make relish? Here opinions vary, some say it was the Heinz Ketchup Co. as a companion to tomato ketchup, the Englishmen claim that someone named John Osborne's Co first made it, from 1820's and many others still believe that it began in 1700 India or China. In the US and Canada we have been able to buy relish commercially since 1865 (look at the top picture) for some proof of this. So for well over 145 years at least some type has been available for public consumption and depending on whom you chose to believe has been enjoyed by many of our great ancestors too.
Now we can begin to look at the types of relish that one might buy or create according to some connoisseur or chef. I have tried to cover the most popular so if I missed your favorite kind, I do apologize. Let's start with the obvious one SWEET relish. Quest-que ces or what encompasses a sweet relish? Firstly, you need something sweet and this is where your sweet diced pickles come in, then you add pickle spices, assorted chemicals, sugar, vinegar, and water, and finely chopped red onions, and therefore is the most common relish loved by children everywhere, available basically world wide.
Now for something different just by adding ginger, syrup and a heaping of mustard to the above ingredients and suddenly you got, what has become known and sold as "chow-chow" relish,(a Chinese made relish) available from the mid 1800's commercialized in or around 1900, and still on the shelves today. Some companies add hot peppers, cucumbers, corn, beans, carrots and even cauliflower. Food experts believe that a publication dated 1837 refers to this concoction as "Axe Jar" or "Yellow Pickles". I for one think chow-chow is more fitting and easier to remember.
WE shall move on to what is commonly known as green tomato relish. Mostly its store name is "Piccalilli relish" which is a more basically 'sour' tasting relish and requires sour pickles instead of the afore mentioned sweet, green bell peppers, cabbage, green tomatoes, white onions, and celery too. This relish too has its roots in China. By the name I would have said Italian but I would have been 100% wrong. However there is a strong argument to be made that this relish began in England. This relish too, was made to preserve vegetables for a November to March cycle. I guess again its whatever floats your boat or chose to believe. I will say this to end this argument. Who cares? For me its darn good relish! nuff said.
What about "Indian Relish" you might ask? Well this is where you use Indian grown pickles, red bell peppers mostly, a basic chutney (from the East Indian based word chatni) that has assorted fruit and or apples or cider in it,and once you research it will find 352 different Indian chutney/relishes that can be assembled so I'm quite sure your favorite ingredient is in there. Now for time's sake we will discern the basic difference difference between a chutney and a relish. The chutney always involves some kind of fruit, or fruit product as its main ingredient while relish will always have a garden vegetable as its base. Now both words are very territorialized so its depending on whom you ask; prepare yourself for the old proverbial argument which is: any relish is or is not a true relish/chutney and chutney is or is never a relish and for sure they ain't (according to Louisiana people) a doggone salsa or sauce either. I for one don't care what you call it personally, just enjoy it.
So far we have seen sweet, pickled, chow-chow, piccalilli and Indian made relishes. Let us now take a look at "English relish" shall we? Instead of a mixture of ingredients as we have covered so far now we are moving on to an anchovy based paste type relish. Very hot and spicy as a whole. Commonly called Gentleman's relish or "Patum Pepperium". AS noted before it gets its start early, around 1828 and was discovered by Sir John Osborn himself an Englishman. This type or particular relish is a fish-based, smelly (salted anchovies usually close to 60% of the whole relish), some herbs and spices and butter. His original creation relish recipe is a well kept family secret in the British Isles and is known privately but to few. The kicker is that commercially still only one company, Elsenham Quality Foods of Elsenham England has the license to make it. Unlike the relishes we use as a garnish, this one spreads (like peanut butter) onto your toast or roll or bun and can be accompanied by a cucumber, cress or in some cases mustard to add flavor. As the Brits are famous for their Shepherd's Pie this patum peperium/relish can be added to the cooked mince meat (preferred over hamburger) to enhance the flavor considerably. I have even heard that you can put the PP directly into scrambled eggs or croquettes, but I think I will pass on that one. The Brits also use it to top their own jacket potatoes.
Fruit relishes like "Cranberry-Apple" spiced or sweet can be a real delicacy to tease your taste buds when you take the sweet green relish add some raisins, cinnamon, with your favorite apple, and then toss in some fresh cranberry too, not the store bought kind. I used to enjoy my Mom's recipe a lot but you can purchase this type of relish, but it is rare. IF you are a cook, make your own, but keep in mind you cannot put this one in a mason jar for very long. This spiced type will spoil after 3 days even when kept in the fridge according to the experts. As for the sweet variety again we are told 7 days max. This relish is extremely good on any glazed cooked or uncooked ham, and is most often associated with the holiday seasons and times world wide.
Last but not least is "rhubarb relish" extremely hard to find commercially but when homemade, is often paired with grilled chicken, turkey and cold roast beef. This relish is made from diced rhubarb, cinnamon, chopped onions (any variety), brown sugar, cider vinegar, cloves, allspice flavoring, and good old salt and pepper. Again as before each geographical territory has its own pleasing ingredients, so depending on where you are be prepared to get your host''s favorite.
Maybe you have tried zucchini relish or polish relish or a squash variety relish but I never have, so I'm going to leave well enough alone and not attempt to ruin these relishes for you. So whether your favorite is the common sweet relish, Patum Peperium, Indian relish, French Relish or wanna argue that a relish is a chutney why not just go and enjoy the vegetables and fruits of your labors. TO relish lovers world wide Good Eating Folks!!
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Mary on November 09, 2016:
PALATE is the word, not pallet.
Bondan on December 23, 2014:
I appreciate your kind and geonreus advice a lot!. I have been trying it hardly and did not get those amazing results!. It is nice to see that you got my comment in a good way!God bless you!VA:F [1.9.10_1130]please wait VA:F [1.9.10_1130](from 0 votes)
TLCrazy7 on June 16, 2013:
I am also looking for a "Yum Yum Relish" recipe to replace the long lost Bick's Yum Yum Relish from my childhood. It was a sweet, yellow pickle relish and they only sold it in the summertime. I looked forward to it every year!
Powerful Pierre (author) from Abbotsford BC on July 23, 2012:
Thank you Joanne for your commentary. Now don't quote me, but I seem to remember that "yum-yum relish" is just a sweet relish variety, but online at Google (or your own personal search engine) type in yum yum relish and you should be able to find a recipe for it or, in the least whether my hypothesis is right. Best of luck P.
Joanne on July 23, 2012:
I was wondering if you had ever heard of the name "Yum-Yum relish"
I am looking for the receipe ..
By the way I loved your site .I am a baker and Pickler.
Powerful Pierre (author) from Abbotsford BC on October 24, 2011:
Hot dogs without relish is the last straw for me too. ty for your comment. GBU
stessily on October 23, 2011:
Powerful Pierre: I cannot imagine hot dogs without relish. Thanks for this journey through the history and many variations of relish. Ginger adds an interesting flavor to many relishes, so it's nice to see it mentioned.
Powerful Pierre (author) from Abbotsford BC on September 30, 2010:
who knows d. thanks for your input and it's in my list of things to do, so if I find the idea has not been used yet you might see it some day. thanks
d.william from Somewhere in the south on September 30, 2010:
You obviously did your homework on relish research. Good hub.. informative. I too am a (used to be) an avid relish user, until they started adding partially hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup and other junk to it. It has lost its original flavor for me. I have to settle for the plain old dill pickle relish without all the additives in it. Until the day they manage to ruin that one too. You should do a hub with a couple of relish recipes so we can make our own at home.
Powerful Pierre (author) from Abbotsford BC on September 23, 2010:
I do Sweetheart relish you 2
Flo Belanger from British Columbia, Canada on September 23, 2010:
I learned something new from your article today--the difference between chutney and relish. Thanks! Relish your relish my dear :)