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Food For Thought: Homemade Chicago-style relish

Nance and I compare homemade relishes. Mine is SO much greener.

Don't settle for anything less than neon green in a hot dog relish. Dick Stein tells how to make your own in this encore Food for Thought.

As I told Nancy Leson in this week's Food for Thought outing, "It's all just too sweet and slimy." 

I've been unhappy with the supermarket selection of hot dog relish for some time now. But I do like that neon green Chicago-style stuff. I never see it for sale in actual stores around here so I was driven to the web. 

"$14.95 for a jar of relish? Are you [expletive deleted] KIDDING me?"  I inquired mildly. I knew I could make the stuff myself for a lot less. How hard could it be?

Not hard at all, actually.

After looking through several recipes I took what I liked from each and synthesized my own Chi-style relish. "Green enough," I told Nancy "to cripple a superhero." Here's what I did:

Dick's Chi-Style Relish

4-5 Kirby cucumbers (usually available year round in Asian markets) 1/2 cup minced onion 1 cup white vinegar 1/3 Cup white sugar 2 teaspoons mustard seed 2 teaspoons celery seed 1 tablespoon salt 2-1/2 cups water 1 Tablespoon water & 1 Tablespoon cornstarch Blue -- yes blue -- food coloring Split the cucumbers lengthwise, scoop out the slimy stuff with seeds and either throw it away or give it to your cat for a little joke. Mince up the cukes and onions to relish-size bits. Cover with a brine made from the water and salt and refrigerate overnight. Next day drain and rinse the mixture, then wring it out in a dish towel (don't use terrycloth). Bring vinegar and sugar to a boil and add the veg mix. Add mustard and celery seeds, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Pour off excess liquid and stir in the cornstarch a little at a time till the mix achieves relish viscosity. Remember it'll thicken up some more when it cools. Now for the fun! Add the blue food coloring drop by drop until you've got something that will make Superman cry just like a little girl. Let cool to room temp, put in a jar and refrigerate.

I gave a jar of this stuff to Nancy to take home to her husband Mac, a Chicago native who has pronounced it good.

Credit Nancy Leson
Ask your doctor if Stein's Chi-Style relish is right for you. Side effects may include...

"Stein's Chicago-style relish has the right amount of sweetness and a great crunchy texture. The color is otherworldly  as it should be. It would taste great on a Vienna Red Hot resting on a poppy seed bun dressed with mustard, onions, tomatoes, sport peppers and celery salt: the only way to serve a hot dog." Mac

I am validated.  Next case!

I'll make the King Arthur Flour Chicago style poppy seed hot dog buns, invite Leson and Mac, and lay in plenty of her favorite franks. Ready? "I love those Costco hotdogs. I always get one when I'm there and wonder if anyone will see me and ask 'Is that Nancy Leson eating a $1.50 Costco dog?' I sure am."

"Nobody, I mean nobody puts ketchup on a hotdog" – Dirty Harry Callahan

Dick Stein joined KNKX in January 1992. He retired in 2020 after three decades on air. During his storied radio career, he hosted the morning jazz show, co-hosted and produced "Food for Thought" with Nancy Leson and wrote and directed the Jimmy Jazzoid live radio musical comedies and 100 episodes of Jazz Kitchen.