April 12, 2021


Just looking at this photo makes my mouth water!  About six years ago, I made this batch of the longtime family favorite we call “Mrs. Isenberg’s Relish.”  When I was about 4, we were moving back to Athens after a brief time in Cleveland and for several months we lived upstairs at Mrs. Isenberg’s boarding house in Athens.  We were waiting for renters to move out of the log house.

While we were there she made this relish and Harriett begged for her recipe.  Harriett began making it once or twice a year, usually in the fall.  She had an old meat grinder that fastened onto a table edge, and she turned the handle until all the vegetables were chopped finely.  To make 1 1/2 gallons required 2 large cabbage heads, 9 sweet peppers (some red and some green), 4 large carrots and 8 medium onions.  

Feeding the prepped vegetables through the small grinder took considerable effort and time!  Harriett was thrilled years later when we could add a little water and use a blender to do the chopping, and then carefully strain off the water.  She wrote a note on my recipe card: “Grind little coarser next time. Lots of this was too finely ground and went down the drain.”  Lesson learned.

Once the veggies are ready, a mixture of vinegar, sugar, salt, celery and mustard seeds, and paprika is added to them in a large enamel roasting pan. This mixture is left to sit out overnight, with occasional stirring. The next day, it’s divided among jars with lids (no sealing necessary)—and stored in the refrigerator. 

Our favorite uses for the relish were putting it on hamburgers and on pinto beans, but it was delicious with almost everything.  Felmont especially loved it and Harriett or Tootsie would make at least a half-gallon just for him.  He claimed to eat it right out of the jar!

Once when Harriett was visiting us In Columbia, we stopped by to pick up Lucy Anderson who was living with the Reynolds family.  J.M. was in the kitchen making this very relish! The aroma was unmistakable. Harriett had never known anyone else with the recipe and she copied his version on an index card. I always like to stick with Mrs. Isenberg’s recipe.  

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