Updated: Oct 8, 2019
Growing up, I was never really a picky eater, especially if you measured me by my six-year-old son's penchant for selective eating (that's the PC way to label picky eating these days). However, I would not have categorized myself as overly adventurous either. That is, unless you sent me chez ma grandmère in the country. My dad's family hails from Union parish Louisiana, a sparsely populated farming community on the Arkansas border. My grandmother, Evelyn Barrett, lived in an old house down the road from our ferme for most of my formative years. Visiting her was always a welcome departure from life as I knew it. I can vividly remember the bacon grease she kept on the kitchen counter in an old coffee can, shelling peas on her front porch in the heat, and the cases of bottled coke she kept in her pantry.
To tell you the truth, I am not certain how she got me to try purple hull peas with her tomato relish, exactly. Although my guess is that it probably involved one of the aforementioned bottled cokes, ice cold from what she called the "icebox." Regardless, I am sure glad I tried it because (as she might say) HOT DAMN it was delicious. I've been a fan of my grandma's tomato relish ever since, and I think you will be too.
The below recipe I have tweaked just a little, which would probably make my grandma mad as a hatter. I think, though, the changes are good. There is less sucre, a smidge more heat and more color with the subbing of a yellow pepper for the original green pepper.
Evelyn's tomato relish can be canned/preserved for longer storage or kept in an air-tight container in the fridge for about a week. It is excellent with peas of any sort, but also makes an amazing topping for eggs as well as the perfect condiment for a sandwich. Voilà! Enjoy!
French lesson du jour:
Grandmère - grandmother
Ferme - farm
Sucre - sugar
Evelyn's Tomato Relish
5 tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped (see below for instructions)
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 small yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 banana pepper, seeded and diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1 T kosher salt
Black pepper to taste
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup white vinegar
5 whole allspice
Makes about 3 cups.
To prep the tomatoes, bring a big pot to a boil and prep a larger bowl with ice water. Cut a small x on the bottom of the tomato. Gently drop the tomatoes one at a time in the boiling water. Boil for 30-60 seconds until the tomato skins start to split. Carefully remove the tomatoes with a slotted spoon and place directly into the ice bath. Once cool, peel the skin off, cut into quarters, remove an tough spots around the stem and then roughly chop. Set aside with juices.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the onion and peppers. Sauté for 5 minutes until soft. Add chopped tomatoes with their juices, salt, pepper, sugar, vinegar and allspice. Bring to a rolling boil over medium high heat. Allow it to boil like this for 20-25 minutes, stirring about every 5 minutes or so and breaking down the tomatoes with your spoon. Once the liquid is almost gone, you can turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for another 5-10 minutes until the consistency is more like jam. Allow the tomato relish to cool and then either serve immediately or place in an air-tight container for a week. It's outstanding with peas, on eggs, and in sandwiches. This will no doubt become your go-to summer condiment. Enjoy!