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Homemade Sweet Pickle Relish Canning Recipe

This homemade sweet pickle relish recipe is so good, doesn’t have any food coloring, and uses local water and freshly locally grown regular cucumbers and onions. If you have never canned relish before you will be surprised how easy it is. Once you’ve tried making this homemade relish, your hot dogs and hamburgers will be so darn good, that I doubt you will ever want to buy relish again.

This pickle relish was made with our garden cucumbers, but I have made it numerous times with good-quality fresh cucumbers from the store as well.

Sweet Pickle Relish Recipe Ingredients

6 large fresh cucumbers

3 large onions

2 1/2 tbsp pickling salt

2 pints water

2 – 3 cups white sugar

1 1/2 – 2 cups pickling vinegar

1 1/2 tsp pickling spice

canning jars

Some older recipes call for white vinegar, suppliers change their recipes and now sell a milder white and pickling vinegar.  I prefer pickling vinegar for hot pack relish as it’s stronger with a higher acid content.

Make sure to use pickling salt instead of regular table salt.

The amount of sugar and vinegar you add to the sweet pickle relish is a bit of a judgment call, that depends a bit on your personal preference. If you prefer sweeter use more sugar and less vinegar.  If you prefer tart, less sugar and more vinegar.  I suggest starting with the least amounts of sugar and vinegar, taste-testing it, and then adding more sugar or vinegar if needed. 

This relish recipe consists of two main ingredients, cucumbers and onion.  Start by washing your cucumbers thoroughly in cold water.  Cut off the ends of the cucumbers and peel them as shown with some of the peel left on.  If you remove all the peel the relish has very little colour, if you leave all the rind on I find it makes the relish bitter.  

After the cucumbers are peeled, remove the skins from the onions.

Partially peeled cucumbers for making homemade cucumber relish.

I own a food grinder that is so handy for grating the cucumbers and onions, if you don’t have a food grinder, you can use a food processor, or grate the ingredients by hand.

Grinding cucumbers and onions for making homemade sweet pickle relish.

Grind all the cucumbers and onions into a large bowl. Add the pickling salt, and let sit overnight in the fridge. The next day place the cucumber mixture into a colander over a bowl and set aside to drain for a couple of hours. You will likely see a couple of cups or more of water drain off. Just throw it out.

A large collander filled with a mixture of grated cucumber, relish and pickling salt. The colander is sitting over top of a large bowl, allowing the water to drain out.

When making homemade relish everything has to be very clean. All the work surfaces need to be clean, including all the dishcloths, utensils etc.

While the cucumber mixture is straining, sterilize your jars. There are different ways to sterilize canning jars, but we boiled ours on the stovetop.

Wash and rinse your jars. Take a large stock pot, and fill it with hot (not boiling) water. Place the jars open-side up into the pot. Fill the large pot with enough water to cover the jars plus an inch. If you have room you can place your rings and lids in the same pot, if not place them in a second pot and boil like the canning jars.

Six canning jars with lids and ring being sterilized for canning pickles.

Bring the water to a boil and let boil for ten minutes. Once boiling turn the stove temperature down but make sure the water keeps simmering. This is especially important when making the relish.

Remove your hot jars one at a time as you need them, be cautious not to get scalded. I use rubber-ended tongs and a pot holder, but you can use a jar lifter if you have one.

Cooking and Hot Packing Sweet Pickle Relish

This is a hot pack relish canning recipe, meaning you don’t need to process the jars after filling. (If you feel the need to process the jars after hot packing, process them in a hot water bath canner for 15 minutes.)

In the bottom of a large stockpot (6 to 8 quart size) combine sugar, vinegar, water, and spices over medium heat, and cook until boiling. Then add your grated cucumber and onions. Continue to cook the relish over medium heat until boiling. Stirring regularly, let simmer for at least five minutes before filling your jars.

The amount of natural cucumber water can vary greatly depending on how much moisture is in your cucumbers. While cooking the relish judge how much liquid you have, and spoon off any excess liquid.

A large pot of sweet pickle relish being cooked on the stove for canning.

Being careful not to get burned take a hot jar from the boiling water one at a time

Ladle the hot relish into the hot pint jars leaving a half inch of air space at the top of each jar.

Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean cloth. Immediately add the hot lid and ring to the top of the jar, and twist the jar closed.

Repeat the process with the remaining relish, filling the jars one at a time.

A batch of homemade sweet pickle relish hot pack canned into half pint jars.

Let the jars of sweet relish cool to room temperature, don’t touch the jars while cooling. As the jars cool you will hear them “pop”. Once the jars are cool, push on the lids to test if they are sealed. If the lids push down they aren’t sealed. This can happen for many reasons, maybe the jar wasn’t hot enough, there isn’t quite enough relish inside, etc. If a jar doesn’t seal, I simply store it in the fridge instead of the cupboard and use it right away.

Unlike pickles, you can eat relish right away, although it tastes better after about a week when the flavors have had a chance to blend

This is a good easy pickle relish recipe with simple ingredients, free of alum, horrible tartrazine, or other food colorings, and you know the water used is clean.

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How to Store Canned Relish

Place the cooled jars of relish in a cool dark place between 40 and 70 F. When stored properly canned relish will keep for about a year. If you have unsealed jars, treat them like you would fresh, and keep them in the fridge.

pretty DIY home pin it logo with a house icon.
Jars of homemade sweet pickle relish, from a old fashioned recipe.

Other Pickle Recipes to Try

Homemade Dill Pickles

Everyone loves dill pickles and this crunchy dill pickle recipe with pickling cucumber and fresh dill is the standard recipe for dill pickles everyone recognizes and enjoys.

Pickled Dilled Beans and Carrots

You will often see recipes for dilled beans or dilled carrots. I prefer to can them together instead. You get a choice of pickle in one just, and the colors of the pickled dilled beans and carrots are attractive when served together.

A batch of homemade sweet pickle relish hot pack canned into half pint jars.

Homemade Sweet Pickle Relish a Favorite Old Fashioned Canning Recipe

Simple old fashioned sweet pickle relish. This relish has no extra ingredients and no alum or food colouring.
Print Recipe
Prep Time:30 minutes
Cook Time:20 minutes
20 minutes
Total Time:1 hour 10 minutes


  • 6 large cucumbers Or 5 lbs
  • 3 onions
  • 2 ½ tbsp pickling salt (don’t substitute)
  • 2 pints water
  • 2 – 3 cups sugar to taste
  • 1 1/2- 2 cups pickling vinegar to taste
  • 1 ½ tsp pickling spice


  • Wash, trim, and peel most of the skin off of the cucumbers. Cut and peel onions.
    Partially peeled cucumbers with the ends trimmed off, sitting on a cutting board before being processed into relish.
  • Place the cucumbers and onions through a grinder or a food processor. Add the pickling salt and stir well. Cover and place in the fridge overnight.
  • Place the relish in a colander and let drain for 2-3 hours.
    A large collander filled with a mixture of grated cucumber, relish and pickling salt. The colander is sitting over top of a large bowl, allowing the water to drain out.
  • To a very large 6 to 8 quart stainless steel pot, combine the sugar, vinegar, water, and spices over medium heat, cook until boiling then add your cucumber and onion mixture.
  • Continue to cook the relish over medium heat until boiling. Stirring regularly, let simmer for at least five minutes before filling your jars.
    A large pot of sweet pickle relish being cooked on the stove for canning.
  • Make sure your jars are sterile and hot, ladle the hot relish into the jar. Wipe the jar rim and rings with a clean damp cloth. Quickly add the lid and ring.
  • Set the jars aside while they cool. Sealed jars will “pop” when cooling. If the jars don’t seal simply place the relish in the fridge.
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American, Canadian
Servings: 4 pints
Cost: $6


  1. Kathy Alexander says:

    Don’t you rinse the salt off the cucumbers and onions after overnight? All my other pickle recipes say to rinse salt off. Just wondering if it will be salty?


    1. Take a look at the other recipes, I bet they have more salt to start with. I don’t rinse mine, but if your concerned about the saltiness you can use less salt. Hope this helps.

  2. I’m making this right now and it seems to be very liquidy. Does that seem right or after boiling to I strain it.

    1. That’s too bad, some cucumbers have more water content. I would skim off some of the water before jarring but I wouldn’t recommend sifting it.

  3. Is this shelf safe without water bathing it

    1. Yes. It’s a very old recipe that I literally made for 45 years. Its called hot packing, as long as the seal snaps down on the lid its good. If your concerned you can water bath it for ten minutes, while the jars are still hot, but I never have. I hope that helps Julie.

    2. Patti Bird says:

      I’m going to place mine in water bath for 10 more minutes to make sure it is shelf safe

  4. Cynthia Burell says:

    I added a red and orange sweet pepper (diced to the first boil)

  5. Leslie Watkins says:

    There appears to be a bit of red in this relish…is that from spice?

    1. Hi Leslie. Its likely my photo taking skills lol. There is nothing red in the recipe at all.

  6. I’ve been looking at things I could pickle as I purhased loads of jars for this reason. I’ve made pickles before but they never tasted, flavoursome! Maybe I am missing the pickling spices. Going to give this a go and add a few more spices as I love it spicy!

    1. If you like spicy, maybe you could add some fresh jalapenos? The great thing about this recipe is you can play with it to suit your taste buds.

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