So much of traditional Southern home cooking is based on seasonal ingredients, eating food fresh, and preserving for later use. Meats were cured, while fruits and vegetables were canned, dried and pickled. The art of pickling was brought from Europe, and with an abundance of vegetables and fruit, it soon became a popular method of preservation in the South.
Pickling is basically preserving food in vinegar or brine, which act as a good carrier for intense flavors like herbs and spices. Southern pantries and basements often display a beautiful variety of pickled foods including cucumber pickles, pickled beets, beans, peppers, watermelon rind, okra and corn. Vegetables may also be chopped and combined to make pickled relishes.
In many Southern homes you will likely find a jar of pickles or relish on the kitchen table to add a powerful level of flavor to meats and vegetables. The spicy pickle relish with dried peas and beans, also known as chowchow, is a necessity in Southern kitchens.
Homemade condiments are a big part of Southern culture. Jars of pickles and relishes are a prized possession given to a good friend and should be considered a great compliment to the recipient.
Do you make pickles and relishes? What are your favorites and what do you eat them with?