A relish of beets and ginger can brighten up a dish. - MCT

Relish the thought

If salsa is the United States' most popular condiment, it only stands to reason that relish would have a renaissance.

"A relish and a salsa are basically the same thing," says Jackie Greer, certified master food preserver and Jackson County Family Food Education volunteer.

Whereas salsas typically contain a handful of quintessential components — fiery chilies, pungent onions and sweet tomatoes — relishes use a more diverse palette of fruits and vegetables. They range from hot and spicy to subtly savory. Their cooked cousins, chutneys, are inherently sweet-sour.

"They're such a great way to add flavor and spice to your meals and to get veggies in," says Greer, who plans to teach preparation of the condiments during an October class at Ashland Food Co-op.

"I just love the blending of colors and flavors."

Blending late-season produce, relishes and chutneys can make unique holiday gifts, particularly if preserved by water-bath canning with proven recipes relying on acid from vinegar. Relishes and chutneys also can be frozen for several months or refrigerated for several weeks, says Greer.

Greer will demonstrate the canning process, along with two recipes: pear chutney and chow-chow relish, the latter an Amish approach to putting up the year's final yields.

"It's kind of an end-of-the-garden thing," says Greer, adding that the Oct. 9 class roughly coincides with the end of abundant, local produce.

But the class is among those marking new beginnings at the Co-op, which installed its community kitchen over the summer at an existing building on Pioneer Street. Cooking classes were suspended for several months during construction.

Larger than the former classroom in a rented A Street space, the new kitchen incorporates numerous eco-friendly features, such as PaperStone counter tops and Marmoleum flooring, says Mary Shaw, Co-op culinary educator. The Co-op also reused moldings, wood flooring, lumber and insulation whenever possible, says Shaw. The project cost about $140,000, she adds.

Although not vastly larger than its predecessor, the kitchen does provide a bit more room for hands-on cooking classes, although registration still will be limited to 15 participants, says Shaw.

Family Food educators for the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center have been working to make more connections at the Co-op over the past two years to reach a different segment of the community, says Greer. At the Co-op, she says, classes that typically would be presented at SOREC in Central Point are framed in the context of eating more locally grown, seasonal foods.

Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or e-mail

Share This Story