Chow Chow

Also called Indian pickle in certain areas of the South, chow chow supposedly originated in California with Chinese immigrant laborers in the nineteenth century. John Egerton, however, in his authoritative Southern Food, traces the complex relish as far back as a late-eighteenth-century recipe in South Carolina. In any case, today chow chow is as Southern as watermelon rind pickles, and every home cook has his or her special combination of ingredients and seasonings. Typically, the relish is served on elaborate buffets or, at the family table, with roasted meats, fried chicken, and, as one lady I know in Kentucky says, “everything but ice cream.” And chow chow is always made in large quantities.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups chopped green cabbage
  • 3 cups chopped green tomatoes
  • ½ cup salt
  • 3 cups seeded and chopped green bell peppers
  • 3 cups seeded and chopped red bell peppers
  • 3 cups chopped onions
  • 1 large head celery, chopped
  • ½ medium head cauliflower, chopped
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • One 16-ounce box light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • tablespoons dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • teaspoons water

Method

In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, tomatoes, and salt, add enough cold water to cover, and let soak overnight.

Drain the mixture thoroughly and transfer to a large stainless-steel or enameled pot. Add the two peppers, the onions, celery, cauliflower, vinegar, and brown sugar and bring almost to a boil. In a small bowl, combine the flour, dry mustard, and turmeric, add the water, mix well to make a paste, and add the paste to the pot. Gradually bring the liquid to a roaring boil, stirring constantly. Remove the pot from the heat, spoon the chow chow into eight 1-pint sterilized jars to within ¼ inch of the tops, seal, and store for at least 1 month at room temperature before serving.