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Vintage Recipes: The Relish Tray and Cinnamon Apple Rings

I have been nostalgic for the food made by my grandmothers and my mom lately.  My Grammie made everything taste wonderful and always had the most wonderful dishes.  I remember eating the Watergate Salad, the Circus Peanut Jello Salad, and Cucumbers and Onions in Brine at her house.  My Grandma Holt made fantastic rolls, mashed potatoes, and homemade grape jelly.  My mom made Homemade Potato Soup differently from anyone I have met.  So when it was time to think of a vintage recipe for this post, I had lots of choices.  What stood out for me was that little dish of pickled veggies, The Relish Tray.

Now, to be honest, I wasn't a fan of most of the items on these trays, except for the olives and the cream cheese-stuffed celery (and only if the strings were removed!)  So I went to my Facebook friends and ask them to tell me their stories and their favorites, and here's what I learned!

From my friend Nikki:  We always had a relish tray at Thanksgiving and Christmas! The only thing I cared about was the watermelon pickles-- very sweet, spiced pickles made from watermelon rind. I never ate them any other time of the year, so the taste reminds me of the holidays.

Christine:  My Mom always served nice relish trays (as you mentioned, crystal platters with divided sections, various dimensions and shapes) plus a celery vase. She served the celery stalks after carefully removing the "strings" in a way that did not disfigure them. Usually, black olives, green olives, sweet gherkin midget pickles, bread and butter pickles, sometimes dill pickles, fresh radishes in season, sometimes carrot sticks, etc.

Courtney:  I have crystal and silver platters used for relish trays. Black/green olives, spiced apple rings, pickled beets, cheese cubes, celery, many varieties of pickles. Sometimes carrots......sat between the goose and duck on one end while all the other sides sat by the ham or turkey. LOVED holidays with my Grands and Greats!!!

Teri:  Relish trays were big during the holidays when we were growing up. We would have varieties of olives and pickles. I remember sneaking some off the tray before dinner and I wasn't the only one. After dinner, during the cleanup, if there were black olives left, they ultimately ended up on someone's fingers. I think I have at least one of the 2 crystal relish dishes we used to use packed away. Now I need to go and check a couple of boxes. Great memories!

Gayle:  Oh my this brings back such nice memories...I have several of those pieces...I think it brings such an elegance to the table setting and reminds me of a time when families truly savored their meals and slowed down to live in the moment and enjoy family and friends. We always did a ton of canning growing up and had a nice variety of pickles to adorn our dishes...you would always find sweet pickled beets (my favorite), crispy, chilled to perfection, sweet pickle, watermelon rind pickle, and Christmas pickles (dyed with red or green food coloring of course)...not to mention, chow-chow (think early version of salsa), marinated veggies were frequently served too...Some of our deviled egg plates had a place in the center with the dividers where we would put the eggs on the outer edges in the little indentations and in the center you would place pickles with the special pickle fork (much smaller than a salad fork)...and of course in the South, if you served deviled eggs, you almost certainly sprinkled paprika on the tops of the eggs in my part of the South...Thanks for the memories.

The stories continued on and on!  I was so happy to have so many wonderful memories shared with me.

A Relish Tray is a very individualized dish.  Over time Grandmas and Moms learned what their families liked and stocked the tray accordingly.  To make a traditional Relish tray, you should have a divided dish, an artistic eye, and focus on produce, but leave the fresh to the Vegetable Tray!  Look for brined, pickled, and preserved for the Relish Tray.

Here are some of the vegetables and recipes I found from around the internet that would make a delicious Relish Tray for the upcoming holidays.  Depending on the size of your platter, you can mix these up to suit your needs.

  • Radish Roses
  • Black olives
  • Olives stuffed with blue cheese, pimento, or garlic
  • Pickled Beets
  • Candied Apple Slices
  • Celery Stuffed with Cream Cheese and Walnuts
  • Pickled Watermelon Rinds
  • Bread and Butter Pickles
  • Pickled Cauliflower
  • Celery Stuffed with Pimento Cheese
Candied Apple Slices are super easy.  We make the red hot ones, they have a beautiful color.  Enjoy!

Vintage Recipes

Would you like to comment?

  1. It's so funny that you posted this today Terri. Last night a friend gave me a relish tray that belonged to her mother. A very special gift indeed.

  2. I'm totally making those apples. I haven't had them in probably 25 years and I used to love them!

  3. I do remember these from the 50s and 60s! I used to put the black olives on my fingers!

  4. The relish trays were right next to the Antipasto with the salad course at every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner growing up. I think the one difference is our celery was stuffed with pimento cheese.

  5. Totally love relish trays and I have more than a few, too. Those spiced apples look amazing

  6. This definitely brings back fond memories - variations of pickles and olives were always our go-to's

  7. Relish trays just make me feel happy! And your pictures are perfect!


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