translate old recipe

cateyanneAugust 16, 2014

Hi! I have an abundance of tomatoes and would like to use my great grandmothers recipe book to make Tomato Relish. Problem is a lot of her wording is unfamiliar to me. Can any more knowledgeable person translate this recipe?
Here are my questions:
1. How many tomatoes in a pk. (peck?)
2. Do you really think she means 3 bunches of celery? Bunches and Pecks which is what I'm assuming she means for the tomato quantity are kind of subjective, aren't they?
3. What does she mean by, (drain in bag overnight?) what kind of bag?
4. grind onions, celery, peppers and horseradish. (does this mean an actual grinder? won't that make it very mushy?
5. What type of vinegar would be your best guess.
6. If there is no cooking, how long will it keep?

Here's the recipe as written.

Tomato Relish
1pk Ripe tomatoes chopped
1 cup horseradish
1cup salt
3 bunches celery
12 large onions
3 red peppers
2oz. mustard seed
2# brown sugar
5 cups vinegar
Scald, peel and chop tomatoes, add salt. let drain in bag overnight. grind celery, onions, peppers and horseradish. Stir this in tomatoes. Then add mustard seed, sugar and vinegar. put in jars, no cooking required.

p.s. there is also a great recipe for "booze" that when finished, you bury it in the yard! lol!

Thank you so much for your time and interest.

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A peck is 1/4 of a bushel, which is generally measured in a basket, and it is also equivalent to two gallons, but it might be difficult to measure unchopped tomatoes in gallon containers. If you have a 5 gallon bucket, you can fill it 2/5 full. I do not think that three bunches of celery is too much, but then I love celery. Personally, I would never add that much sugar, however, although with 5 cups of vinegar, it might be okay.

I would use colanders instead of a bag for allowing the tomatoes to drain.

This is a huge recipe - do you have containers to store this much?


    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 3:45PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

We take so much for granted these days. I think vinegar is a preservative, but not sure. I know when we made olives, we brined them for weeks in salty water changed often. The finish was red wine vinegar. That was 4 years ago. We didn't cook them. We aint ded yet!!

Please post the booze recipe!


    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 4:15PM
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I use my old fashioned manual grinder when I make green tomato relish. The texture is like the relish you would get in the store. I do think the horseradish in your recipe is probably horseradish root since it is to be ground.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 4:32PM
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It probably does mean three bunches of celery, but they were probably a lot smaller. Three trimmed bunches, like they put in packages at Trader Joe's, would be more like it. Or about one and a half large bunches.

There is a U.S. commercial standard that a bushel of tomatoes weighs 53 lbs. One U.S. bushel equals four pecks. That would give you around 13.25 lbs. of tomatoes. I'm sure your great-grandmother didn't adhere to commerical standards however. Is it a peck piled above the brim or up to the brim? The answer is, it doesn't matter. It's a general amount, like "this many". Make it to suit yourself. It'll be fine, a tomato more or less.

A bag would be a coarse cloth bag, and would be tied to a hook to get it out of the way and let it drain. Or tied to the shaft of a heavy wooden spoon, and hung inside a stockpot. The cloth also keeps the critters out. Those probably aren't concerns, so a colander or strainer would work fine, perhaps with some cans raising the handles above the basin you're draining into. If the holes are big, line the colander with cheesecloth. Or spread out a large piece or two (two if it's thin or has big holes) of cheesecloth, put the tomatoes in the middle, gather up the edges and tie with string, and you have a bag.

The vinegar, if it was boughten, would be cider or white, but it might be whatever grew from old wine at home. My tendency on the first time doing the recipe, would be to use distilled white vinegar because it's anonymous. See what it tastes like, and do it to suit yourself next time.

A food grinder is a common old-time kitchen tool, which is still used by many. A meat grinder with a crank. If you don't have one you can mince by hand, or use the knife on a food processor very delicately, or use a grater or FP grater disk. It's basically use whatever the easiest means you have for cutting them up really small without making them into puree.

Since it says to grind the horseraddish, and it's going in a pickle, I assume that means peeled and chunked horseraddish root, not prepared mince horseraddish in vinegar that comes in a bottle in the deli case. :)

Cut small x's in the skin at blossom ends of the tomatoes before you scald them and they'll be easier to peel.

It should keep a good long while in the fridge. If you want to can it, however, check with some canning experts and make sure you do it safely. Your recipe is very similar to many others, so there might be a version that is known to be safe for canning.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 5:07PM
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Katey, if this is your great-grandmothers recipe, chances are it originated when vinegar was commonly more acidic than the 5% of today. I don't know that its a concern if you are refrigerating this, it might be if you are canning it.

I have trouble visualizing those quantities of vegetables to guess if 5 Cups 5% vinegar would bring it to an acceptable ph to can and not too dense....;)

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 5:43PM
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And if you are grinding the horse radish do yourself a huge favor and do it outside!!!!!!! I can not stress this enough!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 10:03PM
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Thank you everyone for posting all the helpful info.
As far as quantity goes, I wasn't sure of the amount of tomatoes in a peck. so I was just going to see how much it was then pare it down if needed. I do have a food scale, so I will just weigh mine to get an approximate and work backwards from there.
Mom had an old fashioned meat grinder, so I will just borrow that for the veggies.

Where do you purchase whole horseradish root? I am sure I have never seen it in the stores around here. just the pre-minced stuff--that won't work? Very unsure of grinding it myself. probably the only way of getting the right flavor though?

Good point about the celery being smaller then, It is true so many food items today are so much larger than our grandparents were used to, I will have to keep that in mind when doing any of these old recipes.

And desertdance, here's the recipe for "Booze"


1 quart of ground corn
2 lbs sugar
2 gals Rain Water (this was in larger, bolder print and underlined!) I take it to be very important :)
Cork and bury in the yard for 6 weeks

Sorry there are not any more details. I kind of want to do this just to see what I get. Very few ingredients, I don't know anything about making alcohol but this could be just the beginning of a recipe and she just took for granted anyone would know what to do after you unearth it. I don't know why you would bury it, they had a cellar to keep things cool. Maybe it was during prohibition and the burying was to keep it cool and HIDDEN? lol

    Bookmark   August 17, 2014 at 2:02PM
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Cathy, you can substitute reverse osmosis ("purified" on the label) or distilled water for rain water. The very important part, in the recipe, is that rain water is pure water plus a little of whatever it comes into contact with as it's gathered. Well water can be very heavy with minerals or even briny, and not appropriate for making beverages out of. OTOH, if you try it, make sure you know what your local home alcohol laws are. :)

Most grocery stores where I live have horseraddish root. Some only have a very small number since there isn't a high demand, and it's often tucked away because those who want it will find it. Ask at the store you go to that has the most diverse produce section. Try ethnic markets, too. You can also try health food stores, hippie co-ops, and that kind of place. People are using a lot of pungent roots such as horseraddish, ginger and turmeric more than ever, both as flavorings, and as home remedies. Since you said "stores", I'm thinking you might have luck if you go looking for it. If you were in the 200 miles from anywhere club, maybe not.

Amazon has horseraddish plants you can grow, dried horseraddish and horseraddish powder. One of the ready to plant options is roots, but I don't know how fresh they'd be for eating. If local options don't work out, you could ask. The plants ship bare root. It'll grow just about anywhere except desert, but it spreads so a big pot would be better than letting it loose in your garden. The dried or powder is mostly for those remedies I was talking about, but you can use it for food. If you do, reconstitute it outside, and use a LOT of water. It tends to be way too strong when dried.

Once you have your roots, however, just peel them lightly like a carrot, and cut into chunks that'll fit nicely in your grinder. Maybe an inch. If you have onion goggles, wear them! And the suggestion to do it outdoors is a good one.

Prepared horseraddish in the jar won't work. It's like substituting relish for cucumbers. When I was unsure of the ingredient above, I hadn't noted where it instructs you to grind it. It definitely calls for fresh horseraddish root.

The nearest analog I can think of, that you might have tasted if you haven't had the tomato relish, is shrimp cocktail sauce. Your relish won't be like that, but cocktail sauce has tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, aromatics and horseraddish, so it'll be in the same family. The relish is probably more of a sweet and sour flavor with a kick.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2014 at 4:29PM
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Thank you! I'm definitely going to try this relish. off to find the horseradish root!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 12:38PM
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Pickling vinegar is 7%, I believe...can you buy this in the States?

I would probably make half the recipe, try it and make adjustments if needed...

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 4:06PM
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I think the vinegar must have been much stronger - I know it was back in the old days. There is a similar recipe on NCHFP that uses cabbage (you can leave it out), green as well as ripe tomatoes, no horseradish but you can change the dried spices. It calls for 2 quarts of 5% vinegar for 8 pints of relish. And it does need to be processed to keep on the shelf - I don't think you want to store vast quantities in your refrigerator!

Here is a link that might be useful: NCHFP Rummage Relish

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 4:28PM
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Donna, I don't know about the 7% acidic vinegar, I will look into that. all I ever see around here is 5% and I really believe a lot of these old recipes don't taste right because the vinegar is not acidic enough. thanks

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 12:46PM
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Here vinegar can range from 4% (which I don't buy because it's not good for canning) to 7% or 8%. I typically use apple cider vinegar, 5% acidity. Some of the wine vinegars are higher, check your label.

I make Grandma's old relish recipe and I just use the grating blade on the food processor, I no longer "grind" the vegetables. The consistency is much the same.

Grandma's "bag" would have been cheesecloth. I just have an old pillowcase that I've boiled and sanitized, and I use that for making jelly or draining vegetables. Put your broom over the backs of two chairs and hang the bag from that with a pan below it to catch the drips. Works fine.

You already know what a peck is, and I get horseradish root at my farmer's market, although I'll have my own this fall. I'd use the ground horseradish I get at the store, it's just like my homemade horseradish, only horseradish and vinegar. In fact, I'm making some sweet horseradish pickles and I'm using the jarred stuff, but read your ingredients and make sure it's just horseradish, not a dressing.


    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 5:01PM
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