Besides being a convenient way to handle the local bounty, relishes are one of the easiest and most forgiving preparations to assemble.

However, if the final destination for your cache of relish is the pantry instead of the refrigerator, there are a few things to keep in mind so that your special concoction remains safe at room temperature:

1. Work with clean, unblemished fruits and vegetables (cut out any bruised spots, and don't use any piece of produce if it has signs of mold or decay.

2. Vinegar must be at least 5 percent acidity; most commercial brands are, but it's important to check.

3. Do not reduce the amount of vinegar or increase the amount of water. Either could result in a relish no longer safe to process by the boiling water bath method. If you suspect your relish is going to be too tart, add sugar to counteract the flavor, but never reduce the vinegar or increase the water.

THE REFRIGERATOR OPTION: No time to can? No problem, just store your homemade relishes in the refrigerator. They will keep for months and months and you will have avoided that final phase of food preserving: the boiling water canner. Just stash the prepared condiments in airtight jars or food-grade plastic containers and put them in your refrigerator.

USING YOUR RELISHES: You've probably noticed that relishes have become increasingly popular over the last few years, particularly among professional chefs. What are some of the less traditional ways to use a fabulous relish? Just a few ideas: They're delicious with cottage cheese or ricotta as a light luncheon or perhaps an appetizer; stirred into mayonnaise a relish becomes a speedy salad dressing or sandwich spread; combined into your favorite meatloaf mixture, it offers an extra boost of sweet-and-sour or hot chile flavor; most complement the flavor of just about any grilled meats, as well as quiches, omelettes and scrambled eggs.

Copley Plaza Chow

The chow is a rich dark color, zestily flavored and intermediate between hot and sweet. Because different varieties of hot peppers and growing conditions of different seasons affect the heat of hot peppers, some judgment is needed.

Yields 12 to 13 pints.

5½ pounds (about 4 quarts) green tomatoes

5½ pounds red tomatoes

3½ pounds sweet peppers

2 to 3 pounds hot peppers

2½ pounds onions

2 cups salt

9 cups dark brown sugar (not packed hard)

2½ quarts cider vinegar

5 tablespoons whole allspice (not Pickling Spice)

Stem cores from tomatoes; seeds and stem ends from peppers. Put all vegetables through food chopper with coarsest cutter (Note: A food processor also works; don't over-process). Add salt and let stand overnight. Rinse and drain thoroughly.

Wash 13 pint jars (if not canning, you can use food-grade plastic). Keep jars hot until needed. Prepare canning lids as manufacturer directs.

Put sugar and vinegar into a large, nonaluminum pot and bring to a boil. Tie allspice into double thickness of cheesecloth and place into syrup. Add drained vegetables and cook about an hour (the relish will thicken), not much longer. Remove allspice.

For storage in refrigerator, place in the clean plastic containers or glass jars, cover with tight-fitting lids and refrigerate.

For long-term storage at room temperature: ladle the hot relish into 1 hot canning jar at a time, leaving ¼-inch head space. Wipe jar rim with a clean, damp cloth. Attach canning lid. Fill and close remaining jars. Process in a boiling-water canner for 15 minutes (20 minutes at 1,000 to 6,000 feet; 25 minutes above 6,000 feet).

— Recipe from Rich Brainerd

Pickled Corn Relish

Yields about 6 or 7 pints.

2 quarts raw corn cut from cob (about 16 ears)

2 cups finely chopped sweet red peppers

2 cups finely chopped celery

1 (16-ounce) jar pickled jalapeno pepper slices, drained and chopped (you will have about 2 cups of jalapeno slices after draining; see note below)

1 cup finely chopped onion

¼ cup pickling salt

2 tablespoons mustard seed

1 tablespoon cumin seed

2 teaspoons whole allspice

1 cup granulated sugar

1 quart distilled or cider vinegar (at least 5 percent acidity)

Combine corn, peppers, celery, pickled jalapenos, onions and salt in large bowl. Tie spices in cheese cloth, add to the corn mixture, along with the sugar and vinegar. Heat the mixture to boiling and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool, then refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours, stirring occasionally and squeezing the bag of spices to release the spicy flavors into the liquid.

Wash 6 or 7 pint jars (if not canning, you can use food-grade plastic). Keep canning jars hot until needed. Prepare canning lids as manufacturer directs. Bring the relish to a boil, simmering for 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

For storage in refrigerator: ladle into the clean plastic containers or glass jars, cover with tight-fitting lids and refrigerate.

For long-term storage at room temperature: ladle the hot relish into 1 hot canning jar at a time, leaving ½-inch head space. Wipe jar rim with a clean, damp cloth. Attach lid. Fill and close remaining jars. Process in a boiling-water canner for 15 minutes (20 minutes at 1,000 to 6,000 feet; 25 minutes above 6,000 feet).

NOTE ON PICKLED JALAPENOS: For a slightly tamer relish, substitute 1 jar of Mezzetta brand Deli-Sliced “tamed” Jalapeno Peppers.

Zucchini Hot Dog Relish With Horseradish

Yields about 4 pints.

8 packed cups grated zucchini

2 cups chopped onions

4 jalapeno peppers, finely minced

2 tablespoons canning salt

2 cups distilled vinegar (at least 5 percent acidity)

3 tablespoons prepared horseradish

¼ cup honey

1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds

1 teaspoon mace

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 tablespoons cornstarch

½ cup water

Wash 4 pint or 8 half-pint jars (if not canning, you can use food-grade plastic). Keep canning jars hot until needed. Prepare canning lids as manufacturer directs.

In a large bowl, combine the zucchini, onions, peppers and salt. Mix well. Cover with cold water. Let stand overnight.

Rinse the vegetables well and drain in a colander. Weight the vegetables with a heavy plate and allow to drain for at least 30 minutes.

In a large kettle, combine the vinegar, horseradish, honey, mustard seeds, mace and turmeric. Bring to a boil. Add the vegetables. Return to a boil. While the vegetables heat, combine the cornstarch and water. Stir to form a smooth paste, then add the cornstarch to the vegetables. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes; do not overcook.

For storage in refrigerator: ladle into the clean plastic containers or glass jars, cover with tight-fitting lids and refrigerate.

For long-term storage at room temperature: ladle the hot relish into 1 hot jar at a time, leaving ½-inch head space. Wipe jar rim with a clean, damp cloth. Attach lid. Fill and close remaining jars. Process in a boiling-water canner for 10 minutes (15 minutes at 1,000 to 6,000 feet; 20 minutes above 6,000 feet).

— Adapted from "Summer In A Jar," by Andrea Chesman.

Blueberry Chutney

Makes about 4 pints.

I’ve adapted a wonderful condiment developed by Greg Higgins, owner/chef of Higgins, a popular downtown Portland restaurant. It’s fabulous over grilled salmon, Ahi tuna, poultry and pork. You can start with fresh blueberries for this first go-around, then dip into your frozen cache later in the year.

After making this chutney, simply ladle it into jars and refrigerate. It’s not a candidate for boiling water canning, because I think its acid level may not be high enough to be sealed and stored safely at room temperature.

4 cups fresh (or frozen) blueberries

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

½ cup red or white wine vinegar

1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/3 cup dried cherries

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root

2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic

2 tablespoons good-quality curry powder (preferably Madras)

2 teaspoons yellow or brown mustard seeds

½ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Wash 4 half-pint jars and lids. (Note: because this chutney will be stored in the refrigerator, you don’t have to use canning jars.) Set aside until needed.

In a heavy-bottomed, medium-sized pot, combine the blueberries, onion, vinegar, brown sugar, dried cherries, ginger, garlic curry powder, mustard seeds and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the onions are very tender and the chutney has thickened (about 20 to 25 minutes). Stir often to avoid scorching. Remove from heat and let cool before adding the mint.

Spoon the mixture into the clean jars. Attach lids. Refrigerate. Will keep, refrigerated, for at least 8 weeks.

— Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist, and author of “Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit,” and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at janrd@proaxis.com, or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at www.janrd.com.