The Art of Chow-Chow

Terri Slicing Green Tomatoes

Chuck is my father-in-law and lives in Northwest Arkansas with his wife Marian. He’s an amazing cook and I’ve enjoyed countless fantastic meals made by him. One of my favorite accompaniments that he makes is chow-chow.

For folks unfamiliar with chow-chow, it’s the southern version of green tomato relish, and Chuck’s version is very southern and very spicy. We add it to all kinds of bean dishes, chili, and anything at all that needs a little spicing up.  We spent most of this last weekend together and Chuck was so gracious to share his chow-chow legacy with Terri and me. We really wanted to know how it was made. So, he sent the list of ingredients and we brought as much as we could find. These included 2 large heads of cabbage, 50 jalapeno peppers, 6 onions, 8 green tomatoes, turmeric (raw or dried), mustard seed, and more.

Chuck at the Food Processor

Chuck makes the most amazing chow-chow of all time. I’ve been eating it so long (since I was 15) that you can say I’ve grown up with it. He patiently led Terri through every detailed step while I took notes and grabbed some pictures of the process. Here are the basic steps to making the best chow-chow on earth.

Terri Slicing Jalapenos

The most important ingredients include cabbage, firm green tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, various other hot yellow & orange peppers (for color), bell peppers, onions, turmeric, mustard seeds, and red wine vinegar. The hardest thing may be to find fresh green tomatoes. We checked out a number of places and they were just not available, even in early July. We finally found about a dozen, mostly green tomatoes at a well-stocked off-the-road vegetable stand. All the ingredients are necessary, and you definitely cannot make chow-chow without green tomatoes.

Veggies are chopped

Starting with the cabbage, they cut and food-processed all the vegetables and poured into a large port. Terri cut the vegetables in smaller portions and handed off to Chuck who worked the food processor. Once all the vegetables were sliced & diced, some picking salt was poured over the top. The mixture was covered and left overnight.

Chuck and Marian Tasting the Chow-Chow

The next morning, the salted veggies were thoroughly washed and strained. Then the red wine vinegar, sugar, turmeric and mustard seed were combined together in another pot and brought to a boil. The chopped veggies were then combined with the vinegar and spices and brought to a boil. The empty pint jars and lids were boiled in another pot. to sterilize.

Filling up the Jars

And then the hot chow-chow was spooned into the hot jars, sealed and tightened. From start to finish, it was about 6 hours for 2 people. We did the veggies Friday evening, and added the vinegar and spices on Saturday morning. The total output was 28 pints.

Chuck Tightens the Seals

This was truly an amazing time when Chuck passed on a bit of his legacy and I got to record the whole thing. Very cool. Thanks Terri & Chuck!

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