Relish - Types, History, Recipes

bowl filled with relish

The Condiment

In the U.S. vocabulary the word relish refers to condiment which normally contains vinegar, salt and sugar. The condiment might also contain chopped fruits or vegetables such as a "pickle relish". The word "relish" first appeared in English in 1798 and comes from the word "reles" which means in Old French, "something remaining".

To the British the term relish refers to a thick pickle or sauce which includes vinegar.

Relishes probably came about out of a desire to preserve vegetables from the home garden for use during the winter months when no fresh produce was available.

Condiment v.s. Relish

Technically a relish is a "highly flavored condiment" (Alan Davidson). Although the distinction can be slim a condiment is normally taken in a small amount such as mustard on a hot dog. A relish on the other hand may be eaten by the mouthful in conjunction with a a main food such as chutney with a meat. It is unlikely that someone would be inclined to eat a spoonful of mustard.

Types Of Relish

  • Chow-chow - An American term first used in the mid 19th century and refers to a mixture of pickled mixed vegetables in mustard. The origins are Chinese and the relish was a combination of orange peel, ginger combined along with assorted other ingredients put up in a syrup. One publication from 1837 suggests the original recipe was for "Yellow Pickle, or Axe-Jar".
  • Piccalilli - Distinguished as a 'sour pickle relish' usually made with sour pickles and other vegetables such as cabbage, onions, green peppers, green tomatoes, celery, sugar, seasonings and vinegar. This was obviously a recipe for using and preserving garden vegetables. 
  • Chutney - from the Hindu word catni, was thought to have been introduced to America by schooner captains plying the spice trade. (American Heritage Cookbook) 
  • Pickle Relish - Frequently made with sweet pickles, bell peppers, onion but sometimes found in dill versions. Probably the most commonly found commercial relish in the U.S.
 Chow Chow
 Piccalilli  Chutney  Pickle Relish
 chow-chow relish  piccalilli relish  chutney  pickle-relish

The piccalilli and chow-chow images are from Blyers Relish House. These traditional hand made relishes are available online at Blyers Relish House.

What Relish To Serve With What?

Here are some tips on matching the right relish with the right food.

 Chow Chow
 Piccalilli  Chutney  Pickle Relish
  • Use this relish the same way you would use American Pickle Relish.
  • In the Southern U.S. you'd eat it with pinto beans or black eyed-peas.
  • Serve it alongside lamb kabobs.
  • Top  your green fried tomatoes with chow chow.
  • Add to sour cream to make a quick, tangy dip.
  • The Brits use  Piccalilli alongside ham or with a meat terrine.
  • Serve it with cold chicken.
  • Piccalilli pairs well with a good aged cheddar cheese.
  • Top your hotdog or hamburger with this relish.
  • Chutney has a myriad of uses so here are a few. 
  • You can slather chutney on a sandwich (goes very well with chicken). 
  • Serve it on your cheese board.
  • Serve chutney alongside a good Indian Curry dish.
  • American pickle relish is used to top burgers and hotdogs.
  • You can use it in salad dressing like Thousand Island.
  • Add to potato salad. 
  • Add it your tuna salad.
  • Filipinos use it in a dish called Embutido. You can mix pickle relish with deviled ham to make a sandwich spread.
  • Many people add pickle relish to egg salad.

 

Fun Fact about Relish - Types, History, Recipes

Top 5 Condiments In The U.S.

  1. Mayonnaise
  2. Salsa
  3. Ketchup
  4. Mustard
  5. Tabasco Sauce
  • dijon mustard
  • Kimchi
  • heinz ketchup
  • best foods mayonnaise
author

Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of GourmetSleuth.com she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.