(Preface: this recipe can be made using crunchy or mushy pickles!)
Do you just hate losing your pickles to the mush monster? Pickles going mushy on you, during the fermentation or pickling process, or as a result of natural softening over time, is a problem just about all of us pickle lovers face at one point or another.
Although it’s frustrating, it can also be an opportunity to review your process and see what could have been done better. For some of my biggest tips to keeping a crunchy pickle, check out my video here.
By the way, if you’re not sure how to make ferment pickles, you can check out the recipe on this site and/or also check out my garlic dill pickle video. You might prefer to eat those than turn them into relish, but this recipe is so tasty, you might want to make extra! If you’re already a pro and making consistently crunchy pickles, you can also still use this recipe for non-mushy pickles!
On our Facebook group and in other forums, I sometimes see the inevitable comment: “Oh no! My pickles are mushy. What can I do with them? Do I just toss?” And the answer – assuming that there’s no issues like off smell or flavor, or mold of course – should be a resounding, “no!”
For one thing, the brine and pickles can be used in delicious Polish pickle soup. They can be worked into pickle hot sauce. The brine can be used as an amazing marinade and meat tenderizer, added to dressings, simply used for probiotic “gut shots,” and much more.
This may be welcome news for you, because this recipe separates out the ferment brine from the pickles and lets you do whatever you want with the brine. This recipe will utilize whatever pickles you have – garlic dill, spicy, bread & butter, really, whatever you have on hand that’s mushy (or not). You will create a vinegar syrup which is allowed to cool, and then added to your chopped pickles. Why do this?
One reason is to give your relish a flavor and sweetness close to that of traditional pickle relish. Another reason for using a cooled brine is to avoid heat further softening your pickles.
And last but not least, vinegar will help reduce your ferment to a lower pH. This means you will keep the healthy probiotics of ferment pickles intact while eliminating any worry about a vigorously re-activated ferment due to the sugar added. (It’s an overstatement to say “vinegar kills the bacteria.” The bacteria surviving at the end of your ferments is already the kind that tolerates a low pH, though they will largely go dormant in vinegar’s even lower pH.) In other words, though there may be a b it of ongoing fermentation, you won’t run into issues with your jar pressurizing.
BUT. If you’d rather use your ferment brine instead of the vinegar and follow this recipe in all other respects, you can do it! (Bear in mind, the brine will still be cooked with sugar to make the syrup, but the pickles themselves will still have their probiotic bacteria.) You won’t lower the pH as you would with vinegar, so make sure to use the relish periodically or at least loosen the cap every so often. Stored in the fridge, there won’t be much to worry about anyway.
And… if you are using vinegar pickles, you can still follow this recipe, and simply use the vinegar pickle brine you already have to make the syrup. Just be aware vinegar pickles are not probiotic (which also means you don’t really need to worry about letting the vinegar syrup cool, though you may want to wait a while anyway to prevent further softening through exposing your pickles to steaming hot syrup).
Whichever of these paths you choose, I think you’re gonna love it. This recipe is amazing on dogs, sausage and burgers of course. But you should also try it in chicken, tuna, and egg salad, and anywhere else you like to use relish.
So let’s do this!
Yield: 1 quart relish
You will need:
- Quart jar
- Large mixing bowl
- Small saucepan & stirring spoon
- Knife & cutting board (or food processor)
- Measuring cups & spoons
- Canning funnel (optional)
- 1.75 – 2 lbs. ferment pickles (or vinegar pickles), finely chopped or food processor until consistency of corn kernels
- 2 TBSP pickle ferment brine
- 1 cup white distilled vinegar
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp celery seed
1.) Strain your pickles of brine, reserve 2 TBSP of the brine, and finely chop the pickles. Place them in colander and allow to drain for another 10 minutes or so. Then place them in the large mixing bowl; suggested to store in refrigerator.
2.) Meanwhile, in saucepan combine the vinegar, reserved pickle brine, sugar, turmeric and celery seed. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat to medium-low. Allow to simmer (or low boil), uncovered, for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to come to room temperature (this may take several hours).
3.) Once cooled, add the vinegar syrup to the chopped pickles and mix evenly. Then transfer to quart jar (suggested: using canning funnel). Seal tightly and store in the refrigerator. Wait overnight or 24 hours for the flavors to meld before using.
Shelf life: in the fridge, you can expect this to last at least six months. Some further softening may occur over time