Jalapeño adds zip to this tangy side dish
Have a hankering for some old-fashioned corn relish? But forgot to preserve any fresh corn when it was in season? No problem. We’ve got you covered with this easy refrigerator corn relish.
This recipe uses frozen corn, which is generally high quality. It’s also available year round, so you can make this relish whenever the mood strikes. The entire process takes only a few minutes. And the flavor improves over time as the ingredients mingle, so you can mix it up days (or even weeks) before you plan to serve it.
The perfect make-ahead recipe for a big dinner, wouldn’t you say? It’s especially good when you have lots of other last-minute dishes to juggle. Like Thanksgiving, for instance.
Recipe: Quick Corn Relish
Although this dish tastes great immediately after you make it, the flavor really does improve if you give it at least a couple of days in the refrigerator. It’s also a recipe for which exact measurements aren’t critical—so you can adjust quantities or substitute ingredients to make this dish your own.
We like to serve this as a side dish, but it also makes a dandy appetizer. For years we made it in November, then served it at both Thanksgiving and Christmas. It dropped off the menu for a while as we tried other dishes. But now that we’ve made it again, you can bet this is one tradition we’re reviving!
This recipe is lightly adapted from one we found (decades ago) in the August 1978 issue of Bon Appétit magazine. It takes about 20 minutes to prepare, but the flavor is better if you allow it to chill for at least an hour before serving.
The yield is a bit under 2 cups (enough for 6 to 8 side-dish servings—the flavor of this relish is intense, so a little goes a long way). You can easily scale up this recipe if you’re feeding a crowd or just want to keep it on hand as a refrigerator staple for a month or two—it keeps in an airtight container in the fridge for weeks.
- 1½ cups frozen corn (may substitute fresh cooked corn or canned corn)
- 1 tablespoon water (for cooking corn)
- ½ cup apple-cider vinegar (may substitute white vinegar)
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 1 heaping teaspoon Kosher salt (about half that amount if using regular table salt; see Notes)
- ½ teaspoon celery seed (see Notes)
- ½ teaspoon yellow mustard seed (see Notes)
- ¼ teaspoon Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce (or to taste; optional)
- 1 large jalapeño pepper (about 2 tablespoons chopped; may substitute green bell pepper if you prefer)
- 1 or 2 green onions (scallions; you want about 2 tablespoons, chopped)
- ~2 tablespoons diced pimento (I use jarred pimento; see Notes for substitution)
- jalapeño pepper slices for garnish (very optional)
- Place the frozen corn and a tablespoon of water in a microwave-safe covered dish and microwave until done (about 5 minutes for my microwave; your mileage may vary). When done, drain, and pour the corn into a small mixing bowl.
- Meanwhile, combine the vinegar, sugar, Kosher salt, celery seed, yellow mustard seed, and hot pepper sauce (if using) in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer on medium stovetop heat. Simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- While the vinegar mixture is cooling, wash the jalapeño peppers and cut them lengthwise. Use a teaspoon to scoop out the ribs and seeds (be careful, the oil on these is hot; keep fingers away from your eyes). Chop the peppers into very small dice (or use a mini food processor). You want about 2 tablespoons, but measurements needn’t be exact. Add the peppers to the mixing bowl with the corn, then wash your hands with soap and water to remove the hot jalapeño oil from your skin.
- Wash the green onions, peel off the outer skins, and chop off the root ends. Dice the onions finely until you have about 2 tablespoons (measurement needn’t be exact) and add to the mixing bowl with the corn. Then add the diced pimento to the bowl.
- Add the cooled vinegar mixture to the mixing bowl with the corn and stir briefly to combine. Pour the relish into an airtight container. Refrigerate until ready to serve. I often like to garnish with a slice of jalapeño pepper when serving.
- We’ve made this recipe with both frozen and canned corn (the original called for canned corn—use one 15-ounce can; drain and rinse corn before using). I prefer the dish with frozen corn, but canned works OK. And of course if you have fresh cooked corn available, that’s ideal.
- We like to use Kosher salt in most recipes. But if you don’t have that on hand, you can use plain table salt (though I’d reduce the amount by about half since table salt is finer and more “condensed” than Kosher).
- Although ½ teaspoon each of celery seed and yellow mustard seed works well in this recipe, you can increase the quantities of both by ¼ teaspoon or so and still have a well-balanced dish.
- Yellow mustard seed is the variety that’s most widely available in the US. You may also see black and brown mustard seed in your market. I haven’t tried them in this dish (and their flavors are different), but they might make an interesting substitution.
- This recipe cries out for spice experimentation. Cumin and coriander might substitute well for the spices we recommend (though we haven't tried them in this dish).
- I generally use diced pimento for this recipe (the kind you find in jars at the supermarket), but you can substitute red bell pepper if you prefer. Just clean the pepper as you normally would, and cut into dice. The flavor will be better if you roast the pepper first, then peel off its skin.
Just Like Old Times
“Wow, this dish brings back memories,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “I remember when we first made this.”
“Yeah, I think we had it for Thanksgiving the first year we were together,” I said.
“Did we even have a microwave then?” she asked.
“No, we had to use the stovetop for everything,” I replied.
“There was no Google to look up substitutions either,” I added.
“And we had to walk to the grocery store,” she said. “Uphill both ways!”
“Of course, we still walk to the grocery store most of the time,” I pointed out. “Old timers like us need the exercise.”
“Yes, but remember—then there was a foot of snow every day,” she smiled. “Even in July!”
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