Having been born and raised in the South, I was familiar with the idea of pickled relishes like Chow-Chow. It's one of the thrifty things, meant to use up the last of the season's vegetables. And, since I have a table full of the last of the green 'maters from the garden in my garage, I figured it was time to get my Chow-Chow on.
The origins of the Chow-Chow relish are debatable. I didn't realize that it, most likely, originated in the Canadian Maritime Provinces (raised eyebrow here!). But, I wasn't surprised that it made its' way into Southern cuisine via the Acadian migration southward. That said, the relish - in all its' myriad regional variations - is similar to many Indian (the subcontinent) preparations. It can include almost every vegetable you can imagine - so don't let my rough sketch of a 'recipe' hold you back. The very idea of Chow-Chow is to use up what you have.
Chow-Chow - and similar relishes - aren't difficult to make. You don't need any special knowledge or equipment. The ingredients tend to be pretty basic. The 'active time' for this recipe only takes about an hour (+/-) of active time on your part. The rest of the time is for letting the chopped up vegetables sit in a salt brine. This pulls off excess moisture from the vegetables - and begins to soften them.
For equipment, all you really need is a big bowl for the chopped, salted vegetables, then a pot to boil the vinegar and sugar, and a big skillet to toast your spices and cook the whole thing for a bit before putting the Chow-Chow into jars.
You can 'bottle' the Chow-Chow so that it's 'shelf stable' and put it into your pantry. Once the jars are filled, wipe the rims, and put them in a hot-water bath. It's never worth doing for me, since we eat it so fast! Time-wise, plan to prep your vegetables early in the day, and actually cook it in the afternoon. I like to let my chopped vegetables sit in the salt for three to four hours. You can actually leave them overnight (eight hours).
The finished relish should be chilled thoroughly before eating. Restrain yourself. It's good right outta the pan, but better if it's chilled for a day or two. Trust me.
Here's the process:
1- Chop all your vegetables. Toss them with salt, in a non-reactive pan. Let that sit for a few hours.
2- Rinse them after a few hours, and press most of the water out in a colander.
3- Have all your spices, vinegar and such measured and ready.
4- Boil the vinegar and sugar, reduce the heat.
5- Toast the spices in the skillet, over medium heat.
6- Add the boiled vinegar/sugar to the skillet, and then the drained vegetables.
7- Cook on medium-high for about 15 minutes. You want al dente vegetables. Don't overcook them. Err on the side of too little.
8- With a slotted spoon, put the vegetables in jars.
9- Continue to boil - over medium-high heat- the vinegar/sugar cooking liquid for about another 10 minutes to reduce it some.
10- Pour that liquid over the vegetables. Wipe the jar rim. Put the lids on. Refrigerate.
If you've never had Chow-Chow on sandwiches and burgers, you're in for a real treat. It's amazing with any Indian curry. Killer on rice. The 'juice' is wonderful drizzled over salads or cooked vegetables (it's pretty much 'pickle juice'). You're only limited by your imagination.
Basic Chow-Chow Recipe
1 small head of green cabbage, chopped into ½ inch pieces. About 8-10 cups.
2-5 green tomatoes, chopped into similar sized pieces.
1 large sweet onion, chopped up.
Peppers - I used about 10 of those mini-peppers, one Pasilla and one Anaheim. But, that's what I had in the fridge. You can use any combination that pleases you.
3 tablespoons of Kosher salt for 'brining'
½ cup each, Apple Cider and White Distilled vinegar
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon ground yellow mustard
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
4 minced cloves of fresh garlic
Several grinds of pepper
Here are some optional vegetables you can add/substitute:
Whole small onions
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