Author Notes: The recipe is adapted from one used by my husband's grandmother and great-grandmother, and the original recipe was exactly as vague as you'd expect from something more memorized than written. Though their recipe called for proper canning, I wanted to make something I was quite sure about, and have adapted the recipe to be stored in the refrigerator. In sterilized, sealed jars, this chow chow should keep well for a month in the back of your fridge.
Cut your vegetables depending on the type of chow-chow you'd like. Use a rough chop for thicker vegetables, and a dice or mince for relish. There's a lot of flexibility in the spicing of chow-chow, so feel free to play around with flavor profiles.
Though based on Mama E and Memaw's recipe, I turned to a couple of my southern food bibles "The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook" by Matt and Ted Lee and "Mama Dips Kitchen" by Mildred Council for reference. —Elizabeth Stark
Makes 3 - 4 pints
- 4 tablespoons sea salt
- 1 quart water
- 3 cups cabbage (roughly half a small cabbage), cut into short, thin ribbons
- 1 cup yellow onion (1 large), diced or minced
- 2 cups tomatillos, green tomatoes, or a mix (about 6 medium tomatillos), chopped or diced
- 4 cups red, yellow, or orange peppers, cored, seeded and diced or minced
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 flavorful dried chili, such as ancho
- 4 allspice berries
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 1 pinch cumin seed
- In a large bowl or stainless steel pot, combine the sea salt and water, and swirl until dissolved. Add the prepared cabbage, onions, tomatillos or green tomatoes, and peppers, and stir. Cover and set in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight.
- Drain the vegetables, discard the brine, and set the vegetables in a bowl.
- In a large non-reactive stock pot, heat the vinegar over medium heat. Add the sugar, dried pepper, and all of the spices, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Heat mixture over medium-low for 10 minutes. To strain out the spices, pour the pickling liquid through a mesh sieve, and then back into the large pot.
- Add the brined vegetables to the vinegar mixture and heat until it is bubbling gently. Cook for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, sterilize your lids and jars in a large pot of boiling water.
- Use a funnel to fill each jar with the vegetables and then top off with the brine, leaving 1/4 inch of head space. Wipe the rim with a hot cloth and seal. Chow-chow will keep well in the fridge for 4 weeks.