The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Chow-Chow Recipe for Sweet Southern Style Relish

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1999

Online: January, 1999

Click here for more info.In the south, and particularly in the mountains where they grow huge heads of crisp cabbage, chow-chow is a favorite relish to be eaten with a bowl of pinto beans. It's also great on hot dogs. There are many variations to the recipe, but the one below is tried and true. The recipe below is sweet, but there are also hot varieties.

There is a canning "mystique." People who have never canned have a picture in their heads of elderly grandmothers living on a large farm with a kitchen full of mysterious equipment and getting up hours before daylight and toiling at the task until bedtime. Not so. Anyone can make pickles, preserves and other canned goods in their own kitchen with a minimum of time, effort and equipment. Grandma might have had to "put up" 40 bushels of cucumbers, but you don't have to. You can buy the produce instead of growing it. You can just make a few pints or quarts at a time. And you can finish the entire project in one weekend afternoon. No big deal. But, oh the compliments you will get when you serve it and then, to the uninitiated - you will be a part of the canning mystique!

The beauty of this recipe is that you can make it with ingredients bought at a produce stand (or grocery store) and no canning equipment is required except canning jars, rings and lids - which can be bought any grocery store. The amount of time required to make it is minimum and could easily be a Saturday project from start to finish. You will love the result because it's so much better than "store bought" and it makes a great gift to astonished friends and family who will take one taste and exclaim, "You really made this yourself?"


2 quarts shredded cabbage (about one medium head). I use the same grater to shred the cabbage that I do to make slaw.
1/2 cup sweet onions chopped fine
1/2 cup chopped green or red bell peppers (optional)
2 Tablespoons salt

Combine chopped vegetables and sprinkle with salt. Let stand 4 to 6 hours in the refrigerator. Drain well.

Combine the following ingredients and simmer 10 minutes. Use a pot large enough to put the vegetable mix in later.

2 cups vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons celery seeds
2 teaspoons mustard seed

Add vegetables to vinegar-sugar-spice mixture and simmer another 10 minutes. Bring to a boil. Then pack, boiling hot, into clean, heated canning jars, leaving only a 1/8 inch head space. Place canning lids and rings on jars and tighten. I usually turn the jars upside down so that all the heat is on the seals. I don't turn them back upright until the jars are completely cool.

This recipe doesn't have to sit before it's ready to eat. After it cools, you can start tasting it. You won't be able to tell where the cabbage starts and the onions end. The flavors blend together perfectly.