Thursday, 22 October 2009

Green Tomato Chow Chow

Okay, I am probably done with the green tomatoes for this year. There are still a good few rather small ones left, but at this point the compost calls. Enough is enough.

Chow-chow is a very old-fashioned sort of relish, although it is still very popular on the east coast, especially in Nova Scotia. It seems to have died out to some degree in Ontario, although it was once ubiquitous here too. Old cook books are full of recipes for it. The vegetables in it varied somewhat and it went by a huge number of names; Chopped Pickle, French Pickle, East India Pickle, German Pickles, Queen of Pickles, Green Tomato Salad, Green Tomato Pickle, Spanish Pickle, Variety Pickle, Chow Chow, Jim Jam, Picalli* (sic), English Relish, Indian Relish, Queen's Relish, Bordeaux Sauce, Baltimore Sauce, Deacon Sauce, Governor Sauce, Indian Sauce, Novelty Sauce, Priscilla Sauce, Green Tomato Sauce, and Winter Sauce. I found all these recipes in the Canadian Farm Cook Book (1911) . Now, they were not all identical. Some of them called for cauliflower, cabbage or cucumbers, but if it consisted substantially of green tomatoes and onions in a turmeric and mustard based sauce, more or less spiced, I listed it above.

As you see there was no agreement on where it came from. My own suspicion is it developed out of tradition British pickling methods, with a good whack of Indian influence and a whole lot of ending the harvest with a sad but fairly substantial pile of under-ripe produce. Into the pickle it went... waste not, want not, as they used to say before we had an economy pretty much entirely based on wastage and obsolescence.

Edited Oct 9, 2011 because it needed more turmeric.

7 250-ml jars
1 1/2 hours - 1 hour prep time, does not include draining time

Chow Chow Relish
Start the Chow-Chow:
8 cups chopped green tomatoes
4 cups chopped onions (3 to 4 large)
pickling salt

Wash and chop the tomatoes, peel and chop the onion. Layer them in a strainer with salt scattered amongst them; about 2 or 3 tablespoons but don't worry about it too much, most of it will drain out. Cover and let drain for 3 or 4 hours to overnight.

Finish the Chow-Chow:
2 cups chopped celery
1 or 2 cups chopped green peppers
1 1/2 cups vinegar
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons celery seed
4 tablespoons mustard seed
4 teaspoons ground turmeric

Wash and chop the celery. Wash, de-stem and de-seed the peppers, and chop them fairly finely. You can use whatever kind you like, although I would avoid anything too crazily hot. I used JalapeƱos. Use the larger amount if your peppers are very mild, the smaller amount if use something rather hottish, like the JalapeƱos.

Put the canning jars on to boil in a large canner, covered with water to at least an inch above their tops.

Put the vinegar, sugar and spices in a preserving kettle or very large pot. Bring to a boil, and add the celery and pepper, and the drained tomatoes and onions. Bring to a boil, and simmer until the jars in a canner come to a boil and boil for 10 minutes.

Fill the jars, wipe the rims with a bit of paper towel dampened in the boiling water, and seal them with lids and rings prepared as usual; boiled for 5 minutes. Back into the boiling water bath the closed jars go for 20 minutes. Let cool, check for seals, and label them.

Refrigerate once open. Traditionally served with fish, especially fish cakes, and with baked beans, but also good with chicken, eggs or pork.

Last year at this time I made Potato & Feta Cheese Bake, and Raw Beets with Sour Cream.

*Piccalilli is the more usual term.


Jill said...

Have you ever thought about creating a cookbook? Just that several years ago, I thought about creating a ontario only seasonal cooking cook book that helps new cooks learn (of my generation) learn how to cook in season. From your bio you look like you have the ability to create this.

Ferdzy said...

Oo, Jill; can of worms, LOL.

I've been thinking idly about it for years,and now that I'm accumulating a fair collection of recipes on this blog, I'm thinking more seriously about it than ever. Whether anything happens, is of course, another question.