Summer Harvest - Chow-Chow Relish

Ever since I was a little girl, July and August meant putting things up in jars and freezing vegetables from the garden. I come from a family of women who canned lots of pickles, preserves, conserves, jams, and jellies. My granny, Gladys Smith, was known for taking sugar on a camping outing so she could make jam and jelly while they were out in the forests using wild-picked berries. She also made a living making really good preserves and conserves and selling them to visitors to the Smokies of North Carolina.  

Granny was an incredibly interesting woman having come over to America from England as a companion to a wealthy woman when she was 17 or 18. She married a man much older than she shortly thereafter. They lived in New York City and New Jersey until the war broke out, when they moved to Cashiers, North Carolina in the early 40's. There are family tales of her bringing liquor back over the Canadian border in the knees of her knickers (pants that ended just below her knees) during Prohibition. Nevertheless, she passed on a love of all things canned and pickled to my mother.

The continuation of family cooking knowledge is one of the special things that we can do in our lives, and I love how that happened for me.

So this week I made chow-chow. This was not in the family repertoire of canned pickles and relishes, but came as a result of being married to a southerner who loved pinto beans and rice for dinner. This was something new to me, but I found that I liked it very much when I also ate plenty of chow-chow with it. Chow-chow is very similar to Pepper Hash, which was a relish my mother made all of the time. It was made solely from red and green peppers and white onions.

The beauty of chow-chow is that it is usually made near the end of the season and you basically use what you have in the garden to make it. You have to have onions in it, and you have to have peppers in it. The relish I make uses green tomatoes, cauliflower and cabbage as well.

These are the basics, but you can change some of these around based on what you have available in your garden or from the farmer's market.

Chow-Chow Relish

8-12 cups of green tomatoes

6 large white onions

4-6 green peppers

4-6 red peppers

1/2 large head of cabbage

1 head of cauliflower

1/2 c salt

12 cups of white vinegar

4 cups of sugar

2 tbsp dry mustard

2 tsp powdered ginger

1/2 tsp turmeric

2 tbsp mustard seed

1/2 tsp (or more) crushed red pepper

Run first four vegetables through a food grinder (I use my KitchenAid, a hand-grinder works well.)  I generally chop the cabbage and cauliflower by hand in 1/4 inch bits and pieces. Combine all vegetables in a large stockpot and stir salt in. Let stand overnight. Drain while making vinegar mixture the next day.

Combine vinegar, sugar, dry mustard, ginger, turmeric, mustard seed, and red pepper in a large stockpot. Bring liquid to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add vegetables and return to simmer for  before spooning into hot sterilized jars; seal. Let sit for at least 2 weeks before using on beans or with meat dishes.

If you have an excess of zucchini or yellow squash available, these would work as well. I have made this in the winter when I did not have green tomatoes available, and used plenty of cabbage and cauliflower in its place.



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Alexandra Howarth

Oh how I wish I had appreciated my dear Grandmother’s Chow Chow! She was so proud of it, and served it often. It was beyond my palate at the time. Just reading about it makes my mouth water and eyes moist thinking of her wonderful home, warm kitchen and warmer heart. Her table truly runneth over; and we were spoiled by it. Thank you for sharing!

Jeannie Giberson

I remember the smells and the warmth in the kitchen. Mom sure liked red pepper hash, tomato juice, and bread and butter pickles – to name just a few of the foods she canned. Thanks for the memory!


Thank you!


I always wanted to learn how to can!


I always wanted to learn how to can!


Yum. Just finished peach jam and the last of the summer tomato sauce. The chow is a great idea before cabbage and sauerkraut. So worth it during those long winter days with a Miss Babs shawl to keep me warm in front of the fire, a knitting project on my lap, dogs keeping my feet warm AND chow, beans and rice for dinner. Heaven. Thanks!

Janet Herbert

Aaaawwww! You remind me of making pickles and relishes with my Mom and grandmother. Happy childhood memories! Better get busy myself in case its a long winter! Happy Labor Day to you too!

Miss Babs

Response to Ginny’s and Linda’s questions: I don’t simmer the vegetables for long after they come back to a boil/bubble, I start jarring right away, since the ones at the end will be overdone if I don’t.

How many jars…Probably about 15-18 pints. The amount of vegetables always seems to vary and sometimes I reduce the vinegar and spices for a smaller amount of veges. I put mine up in 1/2 pints and pints this time, so I used a dozen 1/2 pints and about 9-10 pints, if I remember correctly.

Mary Lynn

Great timing for this recipe. I have an extra long weekend with having Friday off, so this gives me a chance to use those green tomatoes. We haven’t had much of a summer in Pennsylvania this year, so I am ready for fall. Thanks for the helpful questions, Ginny and Linda. I was planning on finishing my knitting, this weekend, before the next tour starts. Glad I brought it to work with me today. Happy Labor Day to all.

Ginny Acocella

Sounds great. How long to simmer the vegetables before jarring?


WOW – this looks great! Thank you for sharing the recipe. My only question is, how much does it make? (I need to make sure I have enough canning jars on hand.)

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