It is eaten in small quantities with a blander main dish to pique the appetite by its contrasting texture and spicy or piquant taste.
Relishes are frequently finely cut vegetables or fruit in sour, sweet-sour, or spicy sauce.
In the United States, the most common commercially available relishes are made from pickled cucumbers and are known in the food trade as pickle relishes. Pickle relish is one of the most commonly used spreads in the U.S. Two variants of this are hamburger relish (pickle relish in a ketchup base or sauce) and hot dog relish (pickle relish in a mustard base or sauce).
Heinz, Vlasic, and Claussen are well known in the U.S. as producers of pickled cucumbers and pickle relishes.
Corn relish is traditionally prepared in the Southern United States. Although there are numerous variations and family recipes, the relish is usually prepared with a combination of corn, bell peppers, onions, sugar, and vinegar. Once cooked, the concoction is placed into sterilized jars and sealed.
In the Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine of the United States, “seven sweets and seven sours” traditionally were served, among them many that are favourites throughout the country: pickled cucumbers, onions, beets, crabapples, watermelon rind, and mixtures of chopped vegetables such as piccalilli and chow chow.
Ajvar is a pepper-based condiment made principally from red bell peppers and oil. Ajvar is used in the Balkans especially in Serbia. Ajvar can be consumed as a bread spread or as a side dish.
Ljutenica is a spicy vegetable relish. In recent years, industrial production of ljutenica and ajvar has flourished. The ingredients include peppers, aubergines, carrots, garlic, vegetable oil, sugar, salt, and tomatoes. Large-scale production of both relishes has popularized them outside the Balkans.
In India no meal is complete without the flavorful chutneys – India’s national condiments. These fresh homemade relishes consist of pickled or stewed fruit and vegetables that are cut into small chunks, then delicately seasoned with a variety of spices such as cumin, cardamom, tamarind, ginger, and turmeric.
Lombardy in Italy specializes in mostarda di frutta, a melange of fruits preserved in a sweet syrup, sharp with mustard.
Often described as something between a relish, a chutney, and a pickle, Italian mostarda is a sweet and spicy fruit preserve that is traditionally served with meats, especially poultry and game. In Northern Italy, it is also an essential accompaniment to an assortment of boiled cuts of meat called bollito misto.
A relish is one of the world’s largest selling condiments.