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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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!

Alexandra Howarth

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!

Jeannie Giberson

Thank you!


I always wanted to learn how to can!


I always wanted to learn how to can!


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