Summertime in Toronto may almost be over, but I’ve still got a few items on my checklist.
I’ve already taken care of most of my summer bucket list so far – evening walks for gelato, early Saturday morning jaunts to the farmers market, a long bike ride or two on the waterfront trail, eating under the stars at Diner en Blanc, the annual ferry ride to the Toronto Islands with my old college classmates, after-work pints on a sunny patio, and catching an outdoor concert or two.
But no matter how many things I managed to check off that list, though, my summer still won’t feel complete until I’ve wolfed down a proper Toronto-style street dog.
I know we’re hardly the only city in the world to claim the humble hot dog vendor as one of its symbols, but I like to think that Toronto’s vendors are a cut above the rest, mostly because they cook their sausages over a hot gas grill until they’re gloriously crisp and browned all over.
And if that wasn’t enough, they nestle those perfectly grilled dogs into sweet egg buns dotted with poppy seeds, and deck their carts with a vast array of condiments for customers to finish off their dogs as they please. Sorry, New York and Montreal, but your dirty water dogs and steamies ain’t got nothing on our street meat.
Over the years, I’ve perfected my topping combination for the ultimate blend of sweet and spicy and salty: a row of pickle slices, a scattering of briny green olives, a spoonful of diced raw onion, a stripe of spicy mustard, a dab of sriracha sauce, and most important of all, a generous slathering of sweet-and-tangy corn relish. Woe be on the vendor who doesn’t have that all-important condiment on hand.
I’ve always felt like the store-bought version could use a little spicy zip, though, so this year I set out to make my own.
As it turns out, it’s surprisingly easy – I’m pretty sure it took me longer to dig up a bandage to deal with a minor corn shucking incident than it did to whip up a full jar of bright yellow corn relish that strikes a perfect balance between sweet, sour and subtly spicy. It’s delicious with hot dogs and sausages, obviously, but it’s equally good on burgers (as shown here) or with grilled meats.
Since our 90-year- old semi-detached home doesn’t exactly have loads of pantry space (or storage space in general, for that matter), I’ve scaled this recipe down to make a small batch just big enough for a couple of 500ml mason jars – one for you, and one for a good friend.
It’ll keep for about a month in the fridge, which is just enough time to get those last few items on the summertime bucket list checked off before fall well and truly settles in… starting with a big juicy grilled hot dog, natch.
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 4 cups fresh corn kernels (about 4 ears)
- 1 cup finely diced red pepper
- 1 small jalapeno pepper, finely minced
- ½ cup finely chopped onion (about 1 small)
- 1 tbsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp celery seeds
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- In a large saucepan set over medium-high heat, combine the vinegar, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil, then stir in the corn, red pepper, jalapeno, onion, mustard seeds, celery seeds and turmeric. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the corn is tender.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the water and cornstarch. Stir into the corn mixture, and turn the heat up to medium. Simmer for 3-5 minutes or until the relish starts to thicken up.
- Ladle the hot relish into clean mason jars, leaving ½” headspace. Let cool to room temperature before transferring to the refrigerator. The finished relish will keep for up to one month.