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Mayhaw Man

The Relish Tray

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With the exception of a year in Mexico, one year at Mr. B's (due to the miraculous events surrounding Tulane's one and only undefeated season) and one Thanksgiving Day that I spent at The Fairgrounds, I have spent every major holiday meal of my life sitting at a table in The Delta of North Louisiana. The folks around the table have changed over the years, what with death, birth, divorce, war, peace, and myriad other factors-but the one thing that has not changed a lick is the relish tray.

It would seem that both of my grandmothers, my mother, my mother in law, and I (although never officially used on a holiday, as we never can convince them that they should come to our house) all have the same kind of cut glass (not crystal, GLASS) tray (this is regardless to what the other china/crystal happens to be, some of these women have enough of that stuff to have a state dinner) And the other thing that they all have in common is what goes in it.

Celery stalks lined with homemade pimento cheese shot out of a Rival squirt gun (they all have the same one, aluminum with copper colored top and bottom-the one that used to come with the now extinct and highly valued "cheese straw star")

Canned, pitted, large black olives

Green olives with pimientos (sometimes with something other than pimientos-but this departure is often met with suspicion)

Pickled Okra

Sliced dill pickles (sliced length wise)

Little, tiny, pickled gherkins

Bread and butter pickles

Cocktail Onions (lately the kind in balsamic, a popular decision after initial resistance from the rut bound diners)

All of this is usually served along side of a tray full of deviled eggs.

So, my question is, do you and your family have a tradition of this kind and if you do, what goes on the tray?

Is this a "Southern Thing" primarily and if it's not, what do our Yankee brethren have in the middle of their table or at the left end of their buffet?

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Yes! The Relish tray!!!! We had one too!!! Dusted off for every major holiday. Same exact stuff included too! I never asked why - but it's always there without fail. We like to nibble on the various in between going back for seconds or thirds - kind of like a palate cleanser and digestif in one.

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From my in-laws: Tuscan simplicity: raw finocchio and black olives. No more, no less.

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How funny! We had the same relish trays...the cut GLASS (I've inherited them :biggrin: ) and the same basic ingredients. We never had dill pickles, but we had radishes instead I guess and green onions...I could never figure that one out, b/c I dont' think anyone ever ate the green onions. But the black olives were ALWAYS gone (usually one on each finger on every child there). Oh, and we had sliced up carrot sticks too....and sometimes green olives stuffed with anchovies. Only if it was a good year tho :unsure:

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Yes to the carrot batons and celery sticks, lots of olives, occasional gherkin sneaks in .. but nevah evah to the okra, Mayhaw ... verboten to the tenth power!!

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Yes to the carrot batons and celery sticks, lots of olives, occasional gherkin sneaks in .. but nevah evah to the okra, Mayhaw ... verboten to the tenth power!!

But it's Pickled Okra! It tastes like, well, Pickles-only better.

You really should get out more, Melissa. There's a brave new world waiting for you, just outside of your door. Turn the handle and step out into it! :raz:

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Yankee here! Same relish tray with the addition of radishes. We stuff the celery with a combination of blue cheese and cream cheese and sprinkle paprika on the top. Other than that, it's all the same and I bet we all have the same tray! :smile:

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But it's Pickled Okra! It tastes like, well, Pickles-only better.

You really should get out more, Melissa. There's a brave new world waiting for you, just outside of your door. Turn the handle and step out into it!  :raz:

Ach, vell Herr Doctor Freud, I am already "out" ..

:blush:

and I know a slimy green pod when I see one ... and nestled snugly in the bottom of my Waterford crystal relish tray on Thanksgiving ain't where I want to discover that pod .. lurking .. hiding behind the celery and trying to "blend" in ... :laugh:

Okay, Mayhaw, I'll double the meds and see how I feel then ... :blink: even okra paranoids are sometimes right ... :hmmm:

Other than that, it's all the same and I bet we all have the same tray!

Melissa

and, apparently, the same name, Toasted! :laugh:

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I'm just a little surprised that Mayhaw man hasn't found a little space on that tray to pile some grits on. :biggrin:

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I'm just a little surprised that Mayhaw man hasn't found a little space on that tray to pile some grits on. :biggrin:

He doesn't care as much about the grits, I'll venture, as that okra he loves to rhapsodize about ... :hmmm:

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Hah! We have grits at just about every holiday meal. And I just had a fabulous new kind of cheese grits that are even mo bettah than the old tried and true version I always love (new kind served at the lunch after my aunt's funeral last week, I have a whole post about the food that showed up at my Mom's house when I get to it-ya wanna talk Southern? You shoulda seen it. Too bad somebody has to die to get it together like that-and even more luckily, The Synagogue two doors down from my mom's house was having their annual corn beef sandwich and bake sale on the same day as the funeral-the corn beef sandwiches, thin and spindly-but the cakes? Oh Boy! What a bake sale! Delta Jewish Women may be a disappearing breed (really), but man, the ones that are left? They can bake like crazy!). Sadly, I will have to find somewhere to put the recipe around here, maybe I'll go find an old thread.

A finer demise for a grit never existed. But not on the relish tray. That would be tacky, not to mention messy.

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I think I may be giving birth to a Southern girl from reading too many of Mayhaw Man and Vartmit's posts. All I've craved through this whole pregnancy is cheese grits! Ok, so not on the relish tray but I'm bringing a big mess of them in a pot to give those yankee relatives of mine a taste of something good. :smile:

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Having lived the majority of my life in the Burbs of Philadelphia i find our Relish tray eerily resembling

Celery stuffed with cream cheese(dusted with paprika,come to think of it hell all potato,macaroni,cole slaw was also :wink: )

green olives with pimiento

black olives(pitted)

Baby Gherkins

bread and butter pickles

Deviled Eggs(again with the damn paprika)

Pickled eggs(left whole in vinegar,sliced onions,bbeet juice,very purple!)

Cleaned Radish

The Mixed Nut Bowl/Walnut had it,s own bowl with the crackers and picks)

Beer and whiskey for the men

Punch of some sort for the women

Soda for the kids

always had tomato juice too

:smile: Dave s

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Is this a "Southern Thing" primarily and if it's not, what do our Yankee brethren have in the middle of their table or at the left end of their buffet?

It may be a Southern thing, but it's a Northern thing too. My Massachusettes born and raised mother always set out a similar tray - minus the okra and pimento cheese. :wink: Black Olives, green pimento stuffed olives, gherkins, celery, carrot sticks, nuts, deviled eggs, and always a bowl of homemade cranberry-orange relish on the table.

We'll be hosting family and some friends this year and I was just mulling over the relish tray yesterday. :smile:

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We'll be hosting family and some friends this year and I was just mulling over the relish tray yesterday.  :smile:

Might I be the first to reccomend some pimento cheese and some okra. You can learn all about it here on eGullet! Your source for the better things in life.

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And some sort of relish....chow chow, corn relish, green tomato relish, piled in the center.

Or "Not Just Cottage Cheese"

1 lb cottage cheese

1 C chopped fresh spinach

1/2 C chopped green onions

1 T bleu cheese dressing

1 T Italian dressing

1 T dill weed, or basil

1 T seasoned salt

additional salt, black pepper, Tabasco or other hot sauce to taste.

Combine all ingredients and chill. Serve with crudites, or crackers, or stuffed into tomatoes or cucumber boats.

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We'll be hosting family and some friends this year and I was just mulling over the relish tray yesterday.  :smile:

Might I be the first to reccomend some pimento cheese and some okra. You can learn all about it here on eGullet! Your source for the better things in life.

My husband grew up in New Orleans, so he knows pimento cheese and okra. I am canning this weekend, so maybe I will try pickling my own. Got a recipe, Brooks?

Jaymes, that dip sounds good. Might be a nice change from the Roquefort dip we always have.

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Lawdy. My land. I do believe y'all are stirrin' up a regular feast!

Fried okra with cucumber pickles. Hushpuppies with relish mayonnaise (cousins call this tartar sauce). Celery stalks braised with pepper, settled in vinegar. Fatback and onions. Warm circuit hash. Cheese straws (they ain't straws -- they're cookies!)

I'm hungry,

Squeat

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Jaymes, that dip sounds good.  Might be a nice change from the Roquefort dip we always have.

It is good....but I don't know that I'd exactly call it a dip. You don't blend it. It's really just sorta like seasoned cottage cheese.

And, how about Pickled Watermelon Rind, y'all?

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Ah, the relish tray! I do adore it. The physical tray I use is a 4-compartment one from a glass pattern called Candlewick, which was about 25 cents a piece when my mother bought it in the '40s and now sells for untold sums on Ebay. My mother used only canned black olives, green olives and her homemade bread and butter pickles. My grandmother included stuffed celery with a cream cheese and onion mixture, those red pickled apple slices and, my favorite, her homemade pickled peaches. Dill pickles were considered Nawthern in my North Carolina area.

I make my own pickled okra for The Tray (try it, it is really good and would make someone look twice as a sub for an olive in a martini) and purchase at the farmers market bread-and-butters, pickled watermelon rind and whatever looks interesting. My great tragedy this year is my favorite market vendor had no pickled peaches, and I didn't have time to make my own this summer. Sob!

Debbie

Raleigh NC

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Yankee New England version (CT) that my mom always has made--(in the cut crystal dishes):

celery sticks filled w/a cottage cheese/horseradish mix; paprika on top

olives (pimento-stuffed)

radishes

pickles

My Dad has always insisted on the relish tray; not sure where he picked it up; his parents were European immigrants... he nor they had any contact w/the South. In New England it seems that T-day is one of the last places that many people often still serve relishes with the meal. Looking in my older N.England cookbooks, I suspect it was more common a few generations back.

I haven't had relish trays at my own Thanksgivings, but I think I will start (next year; this year we're visiting).

The pickled okra sounds very good. I usually make Southern-inspired apps beforehand (pepper jelly on cream cheese crackers, cheese straws, shrimp paste or pickled shrimp) so I think a tray of nice southerny-type relishes with the meal would be great!


Edited by ludja (log)

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Here's my Grandma's recipe for pickled okra:

For each pint of okra pickles, you'll need:

1c. vinegar

1t. celery seed

1t. salt

1 clove garlic

1 small red pepper

1 head of dill

Put dill, then okra in hot pint jars. Bring vinegar and salt to a boil. Add spices, garlic and pepper to jar. Pour boiling vinegar over and seal.

These are really easy and good.

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Here's my Grandma's recipe for pickled okra:

...

These are really easy and good.

Thanks Dana; I've bookmarked this thread for when fresh new okra are available!

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my in-laws, who are decidedly not southern, introduced me to this very odd concept. i don't know what they put on it ('cept for celery, olives, and perhaps radishes), as i rarely pay much attention to it. nobody does. it just sits there looking all perdy. the dish is about 12 generations old it seems. the choices never change. it's just tradition. a weird one.

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The relish tray as a concept: is this to replace the salad which rarely is part of a Thanksgiving dinner?

or is it such a 'tradition' that it is de rigeur and, as such, can never be among the missing?

or is it simply to keep people nibbling until dinner is ready? :hmmm:

did olive canners insist that any meal without an olive is somehow "incomplete"? :rolleyes:

obviously, it is tres chic to relish one's relish tray .. :laugh:

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