Sweet-and-Sour Tomato Relish

Recipe: Constance Gray

In a bygone era before kitchens had freezers, vegetables from the family garden that couldn’t be eaten fresh were often jarred as relish.  During the winter months, these relishes were enjoyed as lively side dishes to complement roasts and other main courses.  Today, relishes like the one below can be frozen rather than jarred.

To make this relish, use red-ripe tomatoes when they are in season.  To peel the tomatoes, drop them into boiling vinegar for 10 to 15 seconds, then lift them out and peel.

When cooked and cooled, this relish should be sweet, sour and thick as honey.  This recipe makes about 2 and ½ cups.


6 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 ½ cups red wine vinegar
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 lbs. of fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeded
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
¼ tsp. fennel seeds
¼ tsp. cumin seeds
¼ tsp. brown mustard seeds
1 ½ tsps. salt
1/8 to ½ tsp. cayenne pepper, according to your preference
3 T golden raisins


STEP 1: Begin by dropping in season, red-ripe tomatoes into boiling vinegar for 10 to 15 seconds, then lift them out and peel.

STEP 2: Put the garlic and ½ cup of the vinegar into a blender and blend at high speed until smooth.

STEP 3: Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the mustard seeds.  As soon as they start to pop—this takes just a few seconds–add the cumin and fennel. Stir once quickly and add the paste from the blender.  Stir the paste for one minute and add the tomatoes along with the rest of the vinegar, the sugar, salt and cayenne pepper.

STEP 4: Bring to a boil.  Lower heat a bit and cook, uncovered, over medium heat at first and then, as the relish thickens, over increasingly lower heat for about 1 ½ to two hours, or until the relish becomes thick.  A film should cling to a spoon dipped in it.  Stir occasionally at first and more frequently as it thickens.  Add the raisins.  Simmer, stirring, another 5 minutes.

STEP 5: Turn off the heat and allow to cool.  Pour the relish into bottles or jars.  Refrigerate what you will be able to use during the next two weeks.  Freeze the remainder for up to several months.