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Preserving Tradition: Embracing the Sweetness in Great-Grandmother's Spicy Pepper Relish

Preserving Tradition: Embracing the Sweetness in Great-Grandmother's Spicy Pepper Relish

I've had conversations with many of our customers when I sample in our retailers and I've found many like to pick up bottles of our relishes and read the nutritional panel and ingredient list.

Our spicy pepper relishes are made with fresh ingredients, like my great-grandmother used, and we slow cook it like she did. Making it to her standards and keeping it authentic is important to me. It's a culinary tradition in my family.

But one ingredient that frequently falls under scrutiny is sugar.

The majority of the feedback I hear about the sugar content in our relishes is, 'it's not that much' or "that's not bad", but then there are other consumers who don't eat sugar at all and/or have suggested I make a relish without sugar or use a sugar substitute.

Let me just say here, relish is made with three ingredients - a vegetable, vinegar and sugar. This threesome is the 'humble beginnings' of any relish. (Think Holy Trinity, Mirepoix, soffritto, etc.) Sugar is an essential ingredient to any relish. It plays a crucial role in balancing the tangy, sweet and spicy flavors, ultimately pleasing your palate.

So this blog post outlines why I will continue to use sugar in our spicy pepper relishes.

Honoring the Past: My great-grandmother's spicy pepper relish has been a beloved staple in our family table for generations. This heirloom recipe connects me with my ancestors and preserves the flavors of a bygone era that still delights me today. Every time a fresh batch is cooked, I am amazed at how I still love the flavor with its spicy zing and I thank my ancestors who passed this down to me.

Achieving the Perfect Balance: The magic of great-grandmother's recipe lies in its ability to strike a harmonious balance between fiery spiciness of chiles, the tanginess of apple cider vinegar and a subtle sweetness of sugar. Sugar plays a pivotal role in achieving this triangle of balance, as it blends these distinct and bold flavors.

Enhancing Flavors: Sugar acts as a flavor enhancer - that's why it's in practically in all of the modern manufactured food you eat. But I'm not trying to get you addicted to our product by incorporating unnecessary sugar. It's just one of the essential ingredients for an authentic, heirloom relish. (See above - Achieving the Perfect Balance)

Preservation: Sugar has long been used as a preservative in culinary practices, helping to extend the shelf life of various food items. In the case of our spicy pepper relish, sugar aids in absorbing the water of the fresh vegetables and along with vinegar keeps all the bad bacteria and molds away. Sugar substitutes don't have this quality when canning so a manufactured additive might have to be used when making relish with something other than sugar.

Balancing Acidity: Chile peppers often possess natural acidity and by incorporating sugar into this timeless recipe, it acts as a natural acidity regulator, neutralizing the sharpness of the peppers and vinegar and allows sweetness to shine in forefront, opening the palate for a delightful bite. This balance not only makes the relish more 'relicious' but also allows all of the ingredients' flavors to shine through.

Cultural Significance: It's crucial to remember all family recipes carry cultural significance serving as tangible links to shared history. Altering these recipes too drastically might compromise the essence of their heritage. I consider our embracing and loving the sugar in our spicy pepper relish a testament to honoring canning knowledge passed down through the generations and honoring this tradition.

And finally, Moderation is Key: What? In this day and age? Isn't MORE better?* While it's good to explain and understand the role of sugar in the condiment of relish, it's equally important to exercise moderation in our consumption of sweetened foods, as we mentioned above, sugar is in most manufactured food (see ketchup). Our spicy pepper relish uses carefully measured amounts of sugar (remember the feedback, "that's not bad" when reading the nutritional panel). The inclusion of this essential ingredient, keeps it authentic and true.

And as we use fresh ingredients, there is no sodium on our nutritional panel - a real bonus. You are hard pressed to find another NO added Sodium relish on the market.

My great-grandmother's spicy pepper relish will always be on my table to enjoy and I don't plan on changing her recipe. As I've mentioned, using sugar is what makes it technically a 'Relish' so its a crucial ingredient that contributes to its exceptional taste. I will always embrace this culinary tradition and respect its cultural significance on my table.

I will continue to savor the sweetness of my family's heirloom and cherish how it continues to connect me to my ancestors not only through blood, but food as well.

* I just read the book 'The Story of More' by Hope Jahren and would highly recommend it to everyone!

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