Leena Cooks: n Cans Onion Apple Ale Relish

By on Mar 15, 2010 in Canning, Condiments, Leena Cooks | 4 comments

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From allium to onion apple ale relish. My entry for Tigress's Can Jam March.

Click for tigress can jam food blog challenge

Once upon a time, there was a particularly awesome blogger that liked to can named Tigress who threw a can jam. Being that I am a particularly awesome blogger who also likes to can, I joined along.

In January, the theme was citrus, and I responded with a blood orange port marmalade.

In February, the theme was carrots, and I rocked out Indian-style with my gajar ki chutney with caramelized onions.

In this fine month of March, the theme is alliums, or onions, garlic, shallot, etc. I threw down by canning an onion apple ale relish, which was soon followed by the birth of the most kick-ass grilled ham and cheese sandwich the planet has ever seen.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I really wanted to can caramelized onion jam something fierce because I love it. So much, in fact, I would eat a squirrel if it was slathered in the jam, but after much research, I discovered a pressure canner was needed for the recipe because it does not contain enough acid. Pressure canners are against the can jam rules (and out of my budget), so I had to search for another recipe. It looked like pickles, relishes and chutneys were the best bet for hot water bath canning alliums.

Onions. So many onions.

After raping the local Borders for all the canning books it’s good for, I came across an onion, apple and ale relish recipe in Jennfier MacKenzie’s book, The Complete Book of Pickling.

Chopped onions for the recipe. The kicker is you have to let them soak with salt for two hours before starting the recipe.

It was a pretty straight forward recipe, but I’m not gonna lie. Even with the windows open and the kitchen fan on, even after ten years of cutting onions, these bitches made me cry. I’m talking snotty-nosed, eyes-pouring so much, I could barely see what I was doing and I’m pretty sure my elderly neighbor saw me wipe my nose on my sleeve, but it was FOR THE ONIONS, PEOPLE. Better on my sleeve than in my cans.

The soft apples for the relish.

This was so damn easy, I don’t really have much else to tell you about the recipe itself, but I do have a lot of photos that can show you how easy it was it make.

Draining the onions before cooking the relish. Who knew they had so much water in them?!

Simmering the pickling ingredients together: brown sugar, yellow mustard seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cider vinegar.

The recipe called for a dark ale, and after consulting with my gastro gal Cari, who is currently training to be a beer master or something crazy like that, there are two main kinds of beer: lagers and ales. Stouts fall into the ales category, and they are dark, so I knew the beer I had on hand would work well.

The ale I used for the recipe: a dark stout that I first thought came from Mendocino, CA because I don't like to read things thoroughly. It really comes from NY!

I added it, along with the soft apples and onions, and cooked them down until they were soft. Then I added the tart apples and cooked them until they were just soft, but not falling apart.

The finished onion, apple and ale relish!

The finished relish had thickened a bit, but wasn’t entirely dry. A relish is more of a pickle than a chutney, after all.

Leena's kick-ass onion, apple and ale relish.

The entire recipe took me around 30 minutes to make. The only thing I might play around with a bit next time are the seasonings…I  might add a little crushed red pepper or cayenne for some heat, and maybe a bit of Chinese five spice because I believe it is perfect in a lot of canning recipes.

Wait a minute...are you checking out my cans? Nice, huh?

Oh, and guess what I made with my relish? The ultimate ham and cheese sandwich—smoked black forest ham, super sharp cheddar cheese, the onion, apple & ale relish, and a two cheese baguette from Whole Foods…hot damn. Sort of wishing I made more relish!

The beginnings of mouth magic.

The finished ultimate ham n cheese with my relish.

Recipe: Onion, Apple & Ale Relish from The Complete Book of Pickling

Summary: This recipe is from Jennifer MacKenzie’s book, The Complete Book of Pickling, on page 244. It is great with sandwiches, cheese platters, burgers, sausages and hot dogs.


  • 4 cups finely chopped onions (I used two 10 oz. yellow onions)
  • 2 TB pickling salt
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 TB mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 cups peeled, finely chopped tart soft apples
  • 1 cup dark ale
  • 4 cups peeled, finely chopped tart apples


  1. In a non-reactive bowl, cover onions with salt and let them sit for two hours. Drain them, squeezing as much liquid out of them as you can, then let them sit in a colander until you need them next.
  2. Place the brown sugar, mustard seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cider vinegar in a medium pot over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally.
  3. Increase heat to medium high and add the onions, soft apples and ale. Bring to a boil, stirring often, then reduce heat and boil gently, stirring often, until the apples break down and mix is thickened, roughly ten minutes.
  4. Stir in the tart apples, bring to a boil and simmer until the apples are soft but not broken down.
  5. Process in half-pint jars or 4 oz jelly jars for 10 minutes.

Quick Notes

Yields 6 half pint jars

Microformatting by hRecipe.

The steps of making the relish.


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  1. meg

    25 Mar ’10

    Post a Reply

    Wow. Wow. Wow. This sounds awesome….I can't wait to make it! And even more, I can't wait to eat it on a grilled cheese! Thanks!

  2. briggs

    27 Mar ’10

    Post a Reply

    Hey, I almost made this! I made something else from her book though because I didn't have any apples. I'm glad to hear it turned out. I have ham and cheese in the house right now and I'm jealous–I wish I had this to slather on to my sandwich. Good job!

  3. briggs

    27 Mar ’10

    Post a Reply

    Hey, I almost made this! I made something else from her book though because I didn't have any apples. I'm glad to hear it turned out. I have ham and cheese in the house right now and I'm jealous–I wish I had this to slather on to my sandwich. Good job!

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