CSA Cooking: Zucchini, Fennel, and Green Pepper Relish

July 30, 2015(updated on August 30, 2021)

fennel zucchini pepper relish

Relish is one of those condiments that doesn’t get as much love as it should. Most people associate it with hot dogs and not much else. However, I find that a mixed relish like this one has much to offer.

During the glut of the summer growing season, it can be pressed into service as a catch-all for produce that would otherwise go unloved. And once in jars, it brings welcome crunch and pucker to cheese boards, sandwiches, burgers, and salmon cakes.

This particular batch absorbed the green peppers and onion from my July Philly Foodworks share, along with two heft zucchini and some young, sweet fennel bulbs. It left our apartment smelling like the most delicious sandwich shop ever for at least 24 hours, and while I’ve not yet cracked open a jar, I have grand plans for it once the weather starts to cool.

I’m curious. How many of you out there are relish lovers? If you haven’t tried it, what’s stopping you?

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Zucchini, Fennel, and Green Pepper Relish


  • 2 small fennel bulbs about 1 pound
  • 1 medium zucchini about 1 pound
  • 3-4 green peppers seeded
  • 1 medium yellow onion halved
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon


  • Prepare a boiling water bath canner and and enough jars to hold 4 pints worth of product.
  • Fit a food processor with a grating blade and use it to break down the fennel, zucchini, green peppers, and onion. If you don't have a food processor, pull out your trusty box grater and get to work.
  • Combine fennel, zucchini, pepper, and onion shred with the vinegar, brown sugar, mustard seeds, salt, fennel seeds, and red chili flakes in a large pot and bring to a boil.
  • Cook the relish at a boil for 2 to 3 minutes, until the liquid has reduced some.
  • Add lemon zest and juice and stir to combine.
  • Remove relish from the heat and funnel it into prepared jars, leaving approximately 1/2 inch headspace.
  • Bubble jars well. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings, and process jars in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.
  • When time is up, remove jars from canner and place them on a folded kitchen towel to cool.

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26 thoughts on "CSA Cooking: Zucchini, Fennel, and Green Pepper Relish"

  • Do I have to add the fennel to this? Its not my favorite taste and I have all the other ingredients but fennel.

      1. Can you suggest another veggie to add? I do not have fennel outside of fennel seeds ( spice) and I really need to use up these rather large Zucchini’s quickly! Or do you have other recipe’s for Zucchini’s that can be canned? Thanks!

        1. Use more zucchini in place of the fennel. It’s really as simple as that. As far as more zucchini recipes, search the archives. There are more recipes here.

  • I don’t know that I’d call myself a relish “lover”, but I did make a batch of sweet relish from the Ball Canning book last summer. It is delicious! Beyond topping hot dogs and brats, I use it to make tarter sauce and salad dressing (Thousand Island – mayo, ketchup, relish, lemon juice if on hand, salt and pepper). I’ve also used it in a hot Reuben dip (a la the Thousand Island component).

  • I was wondering if I have to add the fennel. Its not my favorite flavor and well I have everything else to make this. Thank you.

  • We can smell the fennel just reading this recipe! What a terrific use of some of our favorite vegetables. If we make a big batch, how long does it typically keep in jars?

  • 22 jars of zucchini relish are currently sitting on my table…just in time as we just finished the last jar from 2014. It’s a great way of using up the huge zucchini that seem to appear overnight. I use the Ball book’s recipe (and usually quadruple it). Love it on both hot dogs and salmon cakes.

  • One of the things that stops me from doing more relishes and pickling is realizing that I and my family don’t like vinegar that much. I’ve often pickled a few jars of Brussels sprouts or some asparagus, only to discover that we never eat them. However, I never seem to have enough tomatillo salsa, and I put up hot peppers in a vinegar brine every year – those we use. I’m going to try some more savory, less vinegar-y things this year.

  • LOVE LOVE the idea of adding fennel to relish!! I would gladly admit to being a relish “lover”. My husband may go as far as to say relish”freak”. He has since learned to stop asking “what’s in this [dish]”–translate by the tone of delivery: “this is really good but I’m not sure what I’m eating”. I learned many moons ago relishes are one of the easiest and versatile ways to use up the overflow and odd-ball bits from the garden and refrigerator. More so than pickling whole bits. While I attempt to write down the recipes, I have found it more enjoyable to take a free-formed approach to what each season or year provides. I use my small batch relishes in everything from grilled meat toppers, to salmon/fish/tuna croquettes, potato salad, coleslaws, and salad dressings, and the special ingredient in casseroles. Afterall, a relish in the blender easily becomes a new secret sauce. Seems every summer there is always room for a few additional pints on the pantry shelves. Just don’t ask for the same dish next time year!

  • I make lots of Zucchini Relish for use in tartar sauce, thousand island dressing as well as the normal burgers and hot dogs, sausage etc. P,S. love the Ardell’s Apple sausage from Costco. I serve it with Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage.
    I also make Old Fashioned Chilli Sauce too. I plan to try new recipes for Pineapple Chutney and a Zucchini Jam recipe that has Jello in it….. anyone tried that?

  • Hmm, I wonder how this would taste with celery instead of fennel? I don’t have fennel, but I always have celery, when I need two or three stalks for a recipe and wind up with a whole bunch wrapped in foil in the fridge.
    I was kind of shying away from zucchini relish, thinking it would be boring, or worse, mushy. I may have to try this, especially since I have some “Gold Rush” zucchini this year, and it will give a lovely yellow rather than green color.
    Marisa, should I squeeze out the water before using the zukes?

    1. I’m afraid that the celery might be too unsubstantial to work well in this relish. No need to squeeze the water if of the zucchini, though. The liquid it adds helps prevent the finished relish from being too astringent.

      1. Drat. Well, I guess I will have to find some fennel…!
        Thanks for the recipes, I have enjoyed a lot of them!

  • “Bubble jars well.” Do you mean running a chopstick or other item around the inside of the jar to get rid of air bubbles?
    I love your books and recipes. Whenever someone asks how to start with canning recipes, I suggest your first book.
    Here’s a recipe you might enjoy, Green Tomato & Lime Chutney, invented by long-time NYT garden writer, Leslie Land. Sadly, she died in 2013, but her husband has kept her wonderful blog up as a tribute to her life. The chutney is spectacular and unusual and a great way to use up green tomatoes. I’ve found that if I use Juliet tomatoes (a largish grape tomato), the recipe makes considerably more than Leslie suggests.

      1. Woo hoo! Glad someone asked this question because that’s what I was coming here to find out. Thank you!

  • We made small batches (three 4oz jars each) of sweet and dill cucumber relish last year, and we hope to do that again, although slightly more, since it didn’t quite last until this year’s cucumbers were ripe 🙂

  • Do you think half-pint and pint jars work equally well?
    I have loads of zucchini and fennel coming out of the garden now and love the flavour combination here!

    1. Half pints and pints do work equally well. It just depends on how quickly you think you can go through a jar.