I don’t remember a summer that my Grandmother, Tassie Mae, didn’t make this classic Southern relish, fondly known as Chow Chow. I am fortunate to have a copy of her handwritten recipe, stained and faded as it might be. Over the years I’ve made countless jams and jellies from summer’s abundance of fruits and vegetables, but I’d never attempted her Chow Chow recipe. I’ll admit it was partly out of fear that my version would not live up to the memory of her delightful relish.
Summer after summer I’ve pulled out her recipe only to tuck it back into a folder in the fall. Maybe it was nostalgia that came creeping into my kitchen, but I decided this was the summer I would attempt to recreate this wonderful Southern condiment. I made my way to the Farmer’s Market Weatherford, Texas, and found beautiful, large green and slightly ripe tomatoes, cabbage, and sweet peppers, all key components in my Grandmother’s recipe.
If you like a relish, this is a wonderful alternative to the “green pickle” relish lining the grocery store shelf. Chow Chow is perfect on bratwurst, pulled pork, topping a piping hot bowl of pinto beans or adding tang to potato salad or deviled eggs.
I love the way her recipe balances sweet and tangy with just enough spice to enhance the relish and any dish it compliments. A food processor makes the task of finely chopping the peppers and cabbage quick and painless. I scaled back the quantities on her recipe and still ended up with a batch large enough to fill over a dozen half-pint jars. To be fair, she did have eight kids and needed enough food on hand to feed the masses! So find friends or get your canner ready, or both.
This one is for you Tassie Mae! You were a lovely woman who touched many hearts and fed many a soul!
Southern Chow Chow
2 cups onion
4 sweet (green bell) peppers, finely chopped, measuring about 4 cups
3 red peppers, finely chopped, measuring about 3-1/2 to 4 cups
3 cups green tomatoes, diced
2 cups finely chopped cabbage
2-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tablespoon celery seed
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups apple cider vinegar
Combine all ingredients in a large stockpot and cook over low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved.
Raise the heat to medium and bring mixture to a boil; cook for an additional 3-5 minutes.
Ladle the relish into sterilized jars and process in a water bath following manufacturers instructions. Ball® has great canning tips on its website: https://www.freshpreserving.com/