Chow Chow Recipe

Use late-season green tomatoes to make this classic Southern relish.

Chow Chow

Chow chow relish tops hot dogs, hamburgers, or even pinto beans.

Chow chow relish tops hot dogs, hamburgers, or even pinto beans.

Often the last hurrah of summer canning, chow chow is a vinegar-based relish packed full of produce that may be lingering in the garden as summer turns to fall. Although it is most commonly anchored by green tomatoes, cabbage is a typical ingredient and the melange of produce may include peppers, onions, cauliflower, asparagus or whatever might be left in the garden basket that day. For those last crops harvested, chow chow is a clearinghouse for vegetables when there aren’t enough to can on their own.

Chow chow has its origins in Nova Scotia, but spread through Pennsylvania and then the southern United States as French colonists migrated South to Louisiana (“chou” is French for cabbage, a frequently used ingredient). The ingredients often depend on where it's made and what’s in season.  Generally a blend of sweet and spicy, the spices can also vary wildly and it may be used to accompany everything from hot dogs and hamburgers to biscuits and gravy. I first encountered chow chow in an Alabama barbecue joint where it was served as a topper for pinto beans.

Got a final crop of tomatoes that may be racing to beat the frost date?  No need to lose a single one. Some may be able to ripen indoors, but for those not quite mature enough to make the finish line, chow chow can put them to delectable use.

This basic recipe for green tomato chow chow is one I make every year, but the ingredients may be adjusted depending on what's on hand. Add pickling-friendly produce as desired and adjust spices to taste.

Chow Chow

  • 5 cups green tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 bell peppers (of varying colors)
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 3 teaspoons celery seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 3 tablespoons  mustard seeds

Combine tomatoes, onion, bell peppers, jalapenos and cider vinegar in a large, non-reactive pot and bring to boil 20 minutes.

Drain off liquid and discard.

Add white vinegar, sugar, salt, celery seed, ginger and mustard seeds.

Return to boil 5 minutes.

Pack chow-chow into sterile pint jars and cap with lids and bands

Process in water bath for  10 minutes.

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