The Civil War Connections Blog

Marvelous Monitor Relish!

Hungry for history? Here’s a little recipe that was over 150 years in the making. A bottle of relish found on the USS Monitor provides the basis for this tasty treat.

In 1979, divers working for NOAA recovered a relish bottle from the area just forward of the midships bulkhead on the wreck of the USS Monitor.  A sample of the contents was sent to the National Food Processors Association in Washington D.C. for analysis.  The NFPA discovered that the pickle relish contained cucumber, onion, mushroom, mustard seed, pepper seed, peppercorn and clove.  They also discovered that it was highly contaminated with lead – likely a result of how it was prepared back in 1862.[1]

relish found on the Monitor

Mmmm! Doesn’t that look tasty? (by the way – this is not the original bottle)


Marvelous Monitor Relish – An Ironclad Promise of Tastiness (2013-Style)


1 cup chopped cucumber

½ cup chopped mushroom

½ cup chopped onion

¼ tbs salt


Mix together and let stand 2 hours, then drain through colander.


In a saucepan, mix:


1 cup vinegar

up to 1 cup sugar (to taste)

½ tsp mustard seed

½ tsp pepper seed (crushed red pepper works if you like a nice kick)

½ tsp peppercorns

dash of ground clove (to taste)


Add relish mixture and simmer ½ hour.


If desired, place in sterilized jar and seal immediately.  Keeps for approximately 117 years if stored 16 miles off the coast of North Carolina at a depth of 240 feet.[2]


Or – you can let it cool, place in a covered plastic container and chill.  Keeps nicely in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.  Great fresh, but the flavor benefits from standing overnight.

[1] We have omitted the lead content in our recipe.

[2] If stored in this fashion we recommend that you refrain from actually eating the relish.