Ripe-Tomato Relish with Peaches & Pears ♥
aka Sharon's Pickle

Today's vegetable recipe: Our old-old family recipe for Ripe-Tomato Relish. It’s a day’s production but there’s nothing the least it “hard” about it either. My mom and I used to make this together, now I manage it alone and it’s so very satisfying, hearing the canning jars go “pop” and storing away jars for later. Not just vegan, "Vegan Done Real".

Ripe-Tomato Relish is almost but not quite as thick as chutney. It's made from perfect summer tomatoes, peaches and pears. Even with fruit and sugar, it’s a savory relish, not a sweet jam.

In my family, we call Ripe-Tomato Relish "Sharon's Pickle" because my cousin Sharon has loved it so much for so long. The recipe comes from her Grandma Miller so it's now in at least the third generation. I need to work on the fourth generation, who are busy bearing babies aka the fifth generation!

Ripe-Tomato Relish is spectacular paired with pork, especially. But I often throw a tablespoon or two into chicken salad or egg salad or with sliced meat in a sandwich instead of ketchup or another spread. It's just one of those specialties that's, well, always special. I make it in pint jars for my own use, in half pints for gifts – it always gets rave reviews.

When my mom was alive, we'd make it together in May with tomatoes she and my dad hauled from Florida on their way north for the summer. It takes lots of chopping – so company does make the job fly by faster. But even working in solitude, it's nice, about two hours of prep work, then a long time on the stove, then quick work to fill and process the jars in a hot water bath.

What is a hot water bath? It's when you carefully place sterilized jars filled with the hot relish into a big vat of boiling water. It seals the jars to lock in flavor and color and destroy microorganisms that cause spoilage. NOTE: I'm the first to process jars of Sharon's Pickle. My mother, my aunts and certainly Grandma Miller never did. But canning specialists do recommend processing home-canned foods in hot water baths, even relishes with high vinegar content like this. And after all the hauling, all the blanching, all the peeling, all the chopping, all the time on the stove, the hot water bath seems like one last safe – and simple – step. And so I do.

If you're new to canning, check out my Practical Home Canning Tips, a sort of "what I wish I'd known beforehand" list I wrote four years ago during the Summer of Obsessive Canning.

And here's a quiz. Besides the lineup of pickles and preserves and jams and jellies, what's the most satisfying moment of home canning? It’s the "POP" that happens when the jars seal. There goes one now!

(in my family, we call it just "SHARON's PICKLE”)

Hands-on time: allow a whole day, about 2 hours for prep work, then several hours stove-time with frequent attention, then about an hour for filling and processing
Makes about 10 pints

6 large peaches
30 medium-size ripe tomatoes (about 14 pounds)
6 medium yellow onions
3 green peppers
2 jalapeño peppers (my addition)
6 pears, peeled and diced
4 cups sugar
1 - 2 cups (or more) white or cider vinegar or a mixture
2 tablespoons table salt
2 tablespoons pickling spices

BLANCH THE PEACHES AND TOMATOES Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil for blanching the peaches and tomatoes. (To “blanch” is to cook quickly, just enough to soften the skins so that they’ll release easily from the fruit.) Wash the peaches and tomatoes well, I usually wash them first, then let soak in cool water to remove any further dirt.

For the peaches, drop the peaches into the water three or four at a time. Blanch for 1 minute until the skin splits, transfer to a colander to drain, then onto a baking sheet to cool. Let the water return to a boil before adding more.

For the tomatoes, cut an X in the skin of the blossom end of each tomato, then four or five at a time, drop into the boiling water. Cover and blanch for 1 - 2 minutes til skin splits, transfer to a colander to drain, then onto a baking sheet to cool.

When cool enough to handle, peel and then chop the peaches and tomatoes, discarding the peels and adding the pieces, juice and seeds and all, to a very large bowl.

PREP THE VEGETABLES In batches chop the onion, green pepper and jalapeno in a food processor and transfer to the bowl. Add the pears, sugar, vinegar and salt. Stir gently to combine.

PICKLING SPICES Wrap the pickling spices in two or three squares of cheesecloth or staple the spices in folded-over coffee filters, you’ll need as many as you have cooking pots.

COOK DOWN-DOWN-DOWN Fill two or three large, heavy pots about 2/3 full. Leave the covers off, bring the pots to a boil and let simmer until the liquid cooks off. Especially at the beginning and near the end, stir ever 15 minutes to monitor the temperature. My notes from other years say this takes 2 - 5 hours. My last couple of batches had so much liquid, it took nearly 9 hours to cook. Three pots make a difference, it’s easier for low heat to reach into the deep mixture. At some point, you will want to combine the pots, however, so that there is just “one” flavor mixture.

TASTE FOR VINEGAR A couple of hours in, taste the mixture. It needs to have a strong vinegar component, if it doesn't, add vinegar. Keep tasting throughout the cooking process as it cooks down, add vinegar along the way as needed. (My mom and I made a very unsuccessful batch one year, we realized too late it was because we didn't use enough vinegar.)

WHEN IS IT DONE? It's done with the liquid is cooked off and the whole mixture has turned a beautiful shade of reddish mahogany-brown. There are two ways to “hold” the mixture overnight – say if it's time for bed and you don't have the energy to fill and process the jars right then. The first is to refrigerate. The second is to cover and place in a 190F oven. (I actually “held” the mixture overnight in the oven twice in 2013, it worked just fine.) In the morning, return the mixture to a boil but be careful, once it's fully cooked, it's easy to accidentally burn the bottom.

FILL & PROCESS THE JARS IN A HOT WATER BATH Fill sterilized hot canning jars with the hot mixture and top with sterilized hot lids and rims. Immediately drop into boiling water and process for 10 minutes. Need more information on how to do this? Practical Home Canning Tips may help!

HOW LONG DOES IT KEEP? Use Ripe-Tomato Relish within a year or two.

TOMATOES It’s important that the tomatoes be really ripe. This means that the tomatoes might be a little bruised. Once the skins come off, they may be fine but be sure to cut off any actual bruised part.
PEARS Because pears aren't in season at the same time as peaches and tomatoes, I use three 15-ounces cans of pears in light syrup, including the syrup, the fruit diced small.
POT SIZES This recipe makes a lot! That means big pots are needed. I collect the chopped peaches, tomatoes and vegetables in a my mother's old bread bowl which holds 5 quarts and even it's not enough. For cooking, I use either a very large stockpot and two Dutch ovens or more recently, the very large stockpot and a large LeCreuset Dutch oven.

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Still Hungry?

~ Homemade Zucchini Relish ~
~ Tomato Ginger Jam ~
~ Green Pepper Jelly ~
from A Veggie Venture

~ How to Make Rhubarb Jam & Rhubarb Jelly ~
~ Slow-Roasted Tomatoes ~
~ Cranberry Chutney ~
from Kitchen Parade

A Veggie Venture is home of the Veggie Evangelist Alanna Kellogg and vegetable inspiration from Asparagus to Zucchini. © Copyright 2007
Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Wow - this sounds really delicious. I've recently found my love for canning and this looks like a great recipe to try!

  2. Yum! I've never tried canning. Maybe once my living situation changes I'll have enough room for such an undertaking.

  3. I like these kinds of sides that can be added to just about anything.

  4. Sounds like a great addition to my holiday gift giving. I enjoy canning apple butter every year. For those new to canning... I encourage you to give it a try. I won't do preserves any other way now. Thanks for the new recipe.

  5. Fiber ~ Sharon's Pickle is a work of love but definitely worth adding to one's canning projects.

    Kelly ~ It does take equipment, for sure.

    Cynthia ~ Did I mention it's great straight on a spoon, too? :-)

    Stacey ~ Just make sure you make enough for yourself! But yes, this makes for a special gift.

  6. How do you find the time? I keep wanting to do some canning and have several projects just waiting for me to get to them. Right now I'm playing catch up as our trip found us in a great hotel with and mostly off very little on internet
    This does look like it would be spectacular.

  7. What a GREAT post Alanna! The recipe looks wonderful and thanks for the link to the Ball site. I've just looked over your canning tips, and they're spot on. I might just have to put up some tomatoes this year, so I'm really happy you wrote this.


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna