There is no one, and I mean no one, who is more sorry than I to see summer, and the growing season, fade away. I am a warm weather, beachy kind of girl. While the worst childhood memories of most people I know involve some sort of adolescent embarrassment, mine is of being bundled into a snowsuit and turned out into a yard three-feet deep in snow. I remember standing stock still, chest-high and crying in the cold white torture chamber, while my siblings, all of whom had the measles, pressed their faces jealously up against the window pane. My mother considered me ungrateful: after all, I seemed to be immune to childhood diseases, and could go outside while my sisters and brother were trapped indoors. Ah, but we are not all alike, are we? Winter, for me, was and still is something to survive, a time of counting days (and months) until the snow cover is gone and crocuses appear again.
But even though fall is to me a warning to steel myself for cold toes, ears screaming with pain from the wind, and that ultimate dread, stingy daylight and long, dark nights, I have to admit it contains some remarkable reminders, and harbingers, of exactly what winter is to me: survival. Fall is, counter-intuitively, full of surprising life. Despite quite cold nights and shorter days, the ground keeps pouring forth its amazing gifts: bigger, rounder, more bumptious, as if code for “put me by because this can’t last forever, you know.” So of course, we do. Because alas, we know.
Cool weather crops like cucumbers have grown, in many cases, to the size of salamis, but something about the weather has allowed the plants to continue to bloom with fetching new offspring while their ancestors continue to grow fat and undesirable. I found some baby cukes, many literally gherkin-size, at the farmers market. Perhaps also because of the warm, sunny days, the red peppers are beautiful too. Feeling lazy, I put them together in a quick relish, a little different from the red pepper relish I posted here late last summer.
Lazy Fall Day Relish
Although I usually chop by hand for relish, I simply threw everything into the food processor and went for a finer texture than usual. This makes it suitable not only for hot dogs, sausages, and burgers, but also as a spread for ham and grilled chicken sandwiches, or for a crostini-based appetizer. Makes about 3 cups.
5 small cucumbers, about 4” long and 1” thick (about 10 oz)
2 large very red peppers (about 18 oz)
1 medium large sweet onion (about 10 oz)
½ cup white balsamic vinegar or cider vinegar
¾ cup white sugar
¼ cup dark brown sugar
¾ tea kosher salt
1 small Serrano pepper, seeded
¼ tea dry mustard
¼ tea celery seed
½ tea dried orange peel
Trim the unpeeled cukes and cut them into thirds. Core the peppers and cut each into about eight pieces. Cut the onion into quarters. Put all the vegetables and the vinegar into a food processor with the metal blade and pulse repeatedly, about 30 times, until finely chopped but not mushy.
Transfer the chopped vegetables and vinegar to a 3-qt saucepan, preferably a chef’s pan with sloped sides. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat somewhat so it is still boiling but not wildly, and cook for about 30-40 minutes, until it is lightly gelled and excess liquid has evaporated.