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Homemade Chow Chow Relish

In this post I’ll be sharing a simple Homemade Chow Chow Relish recipe with you. You will love this Southern chow chow! It has been a Southern pantry staple…well for centuries. It’s a delicious way of preserving food to make the most of the summer garden harvest.

Y’all, I am so happy to be sharing this chow chow relish with you. It has been on my list of dishes that I want to share on the blog for a while now. A new subscriber made a request that I share a chow chow recipe and I’m happy to be finally checking that one off the list.

If you’ve never heard of chow chow food (not the dog breed) then you must be wondering what on earth it is. It is a type of relish that is made from a variety of vegetables, rather than just cucumber like a pickle relish.

This old fashioned vegetable relish was first published in a 1700’s South Carolina book of receipts. It’s been a Southern favorite for over 250 years. Other cultures also have their own variations of this preserved relish too.

This delicious relish is great on hot dogs, bratwurst, beans, greens, meats, served over cream cheese as an appetizer and more. 

Chow Chow Relish

Homemade chow chow relish made with garden vegetables

The stories that have been handed down through generations tell that it was the end of summer and there was just a few vegetables left in the garden. A bit of this and a little of that. The variety of vegetables was put together to make chow chow relish.

Why is is called chow chow? It seems to be derived from the French word, Chau, which means cabbage. 

If you don’t grow your own vegetables, no worries. You can easily pick up everything that you need to make a batch of this sweet and spicy relish at your local grocery store, farmer’s market or Wal Mart.

More about chow chow recipes

What is Southern chow chow? The Southern version starts with green cabbage and green tomatoes as the main components. 

A variety of vegetables are included, some relishes are sweeter and some are sweet and spicy. We prefer a hot style chow chow. It’s not overly hot but has a nice kick to it.

What is Tennessee chow chow? The Tennessee style is pretty similar to the South Carolina version except apple cider vinegar is used.

Our Southern vegetable relish is very similar to the British version as well, called Piccalilli. Piccalilli includes cauliflower, veggies and has more mustard flavor in the finished relish. 

What is Amish chow chow? The Amish variations include cauliflower, beans, carrots and other vegetables also in a sweet vinegar brine with spices.

So there’s really no right or wrong way to make a batch of chow chow relish. You need veggies, spices and vinegar with a bit of sugar. The vinegar-sugar-spice mixture gives the relish the incredible flavor that we love.

Southern Chow Chow

Vegetable ingredients for chow chow

What is Southern Chow Chow made of?

  • Green Tomatoes – add a tanginess to the relish. 
  • Cabbage – a staple ingredient in Southern chow chow relish recipes.
  • Onion – for flavor.
  • Green Bell Peppers and Red Bell Peppers – for variety and color.
  • Jalapeno Peppers – for a bit of heat. If you have other hot peppers to use then use those instead.
  • Pickling & Canning Salt -pickling salt or Kosher salt may be used. This adds flavor and helps preserve the relish. Never use table iodized salt.
  • Granulated Sugar – for sweetness and preservation.
  • Spices for Seasoning – as well as added flavor including prepared mustard, mustard seed, pickling spice, turmeric and red pepper flakes.
  • White Vinegar – for brining and preservation.

A lot of folks also like to include celery seed in their spice mix but I’m not fond of it. Perhaps it is my taste buds but celery seed has a bitter reaction with my taste buds. If you like it then feel free to add it in.

To preserve your relish you have two options. You can water bath process the canned relish to make shelf stable or you can keep your relish in the refrigerator for a few months.

Canning Supplies Needed:

  • Sterilized Canning Jars – I used the pint size.
  • Lids and Bands – to seal the jars.
  • Canning funnel – to ladle the relish into the jars.
  • Bubble Popper – tool to remove air bubbles and pack veggies into jars.
  • Jar Lifter – to safely handle the hot jars.
  • Water Bath – a water bath canner pot, a steam canner or a large pot of boiling water.

Prepping the Vegetables

Chopped vegetables in a large mixing bowl

Begin by prepping the vegetables. Chopping can be done by hand with a knife if you prefer a chunkier finished product or use a food processor for a finer relish.

I chopped all of my vegetables by hand because that is how my great-grandmother did it and to show you don’t need fancy equipment. The chopping by hand took me a solid hour and I got a tiny blister under my index finger when it was said and done.

Next time I will opt for using the food processor instead. Depending on which method that you use to prep the vegetables will determine the amount of vegetables needed for your relish.

To fill a large bowl ( I used a 6 quart mixing bowl) it will take a few more vegetables to fill if you chop with the food processor. 

Once my bowl if full, I stop adding vegetables.

Homemade Chow Chow Relish

Homemade chow chow relish combined with pickling salt

To make it easier to mix the vegetables I tend to alternate which vegetables I chop to add as I go along so that there are layers of everything throughout.

Cover your chopped vegetables with the canning/pickling salt (or Kosher salt) and use a spoon or clean hands to combine and distribute the salt throughout.

Next, cover your mixing bowl with plastic wrap, place it into the refrigerator, and allow it to refrigerate overnight.

How to Prepare Chow Chow

Reduced vegetables from sitting overnight in fridge with salt

The next day, remove the bowl from the refrigerator. You will notice that the vegetables have released water and have reduced by about a third in the bowl. That is what you want.

Drain off the liquid. Don’t rinse the vegetable mixture. Just drain the released water. I drain as much as I can then transfer the vegetables to a large colander and place it back over the mixing bowl to finish draining off the liquid.

Before processing your homemade chow chow relish, you will want everything set up and ready to go at your canning station. 

The jars should be sterilized. Have your clean canning tools handy along with the flat lids with wax seal and ring screw bands.

Your water bath should be ready for the jars, or steam canner if you’re using. Once all of that is ready to go then it is time to make the brine and chow chow relish, which doesn’t take long at this point.

Start the brine by adding the white vinegar to a large pot over medium heat along with the granulated white sugar. Bring to a simmer and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

The Spices

Spices for chow chow relish

Let’s take a look at the spices and flavorings that we are adding to the brine.

Top left is mustard seed, bottom left is turmeric, top right is pickling spice, middle right is red pepper flakes and bottom right is prepared mustard.

Add them all to the brine mixture and stir to combine.

The Sweet Spicy Brine Mixture

Vinegar, sugar and spices brine

This is how the brine mixture will look after adding the spices. Bring the liquid back to a simmer and carefully add the chopped vegetables to the pot.

Stir to combine everything together, return to a simmer and allow it to gently cook for about fifteen to twenty minutes. The vegetables should still have a slight crunch once they’ve simmered and absorbed the flavorings of the brine.

If you would prefer the vegetables to be softer then let it simmer a little longer. This is your chow chow relish so make it how you will enjoy it most.

Canning the Chow Chow Relish

Add chow chow relish to sterilized canning jars

Next it is time to ladle your chow-chow relish into the jars. Take a jar and place the canning funnel over top and ladle in some of your chow chow relish making sure to leave about an inch head space from the top. Use the air bubble tool or back of a wooden spoon to ensure that there are no air bubbles in the jars.

Repeat until all of the jars are filled then take a clean dampened cloth and wipe the rims of the jars to ensure nothing spilled on them that would prevent sealing and that it is clean.

Place the lids on the jars and secure with the ring band. Place the filled jars into your water bath, making sure the simmering water covers the jars and allow to process for ten minutes.

When the processing time is finished, use the canning jar lifter to transfer the jars to a towel lined surface and allow them to cool to room temperature. It shouldn’t take long before you hear the pinging of the lids letting you know that the jars have sealed properly. This is a proud moment for any home canner.

Homemade Chow Chow Relish

Homemade chow chow relish served on a hot dog

After I allowed the jars to cool for 24 hours, I couldn’t wait to open one up and taste the chow chow on a hot dog. Oh my stars! That is good eating y’all!

I snapped a photo and sent it to Daddy and he replied that he was looking forward to enjoying some chow chow with a bowl of pinto beans with a side of cornbread and with pork sandwiches.

Since I got sever pints out of this batch, of course I have to share some of them. That gives me a lot of joy to be able to share my kitchen creations with others. It is a great gift made with love.

A few tips:

  • Store your processed Southern chow chow relish in a cool place, such as a pantry, for up to a year. If you did not process the relish, keep it refrigerated up to six months.
  • Pickled Food is a great way to preserve some of the seasons fresh vegetables to enjoy throughout the year. Many pickled foods are good for you too.
  • Always follow the latest safe home canning methods for preserving food. An old recipe from your great-great grandmother could be outdated by today’s standards and science for safe preservation of foods. No offense, Granny!

Full Printable Recipe Card

Yield: 8 Pints

Homemade Chow Chow Relish

Homemade Chow Chow Relish - preserving food recipe

Hot Southern Chow Chow Relish recipe is a great way of preserving food and making a delicious relish to enjoy as a side, on beans, hot dogs and more.

Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes

Ingredients

The Chow Chow Relish

  • 2½ pound Cabbage, chopped (may use up to 3 pound cabbage)
  • 4 Medium Onions, chopped
  • 5 Green Bell Peppers, chopped
  • 4 Red Bell Peppers, chopped
  • 4 Medium to Large Green Tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 3 Jalapeno Peppers, seeded and chopped
  • ½ cup Canning and Pickling Salt (or use Kosher Salt)
  • 5 cups Granulated White Sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of Prepared Mustard (I used French's)
  • 1 tablespoon Mustard Seed
  • 2 tablespoons Pickling Spice
  • ½ tablespoon Turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon Red Pepper Flakes
  • 2 quarts White Vinegar (8 cups)

Other

  • 8 Pint Size Sterilized Canning Jars with Lids and Bands
  • Canning Tools - jar handler, funnel, air bubble remover, and a damp cloth
  • Water Bath or Steam Canner for processing (See Notes)

Instructions

  1. Add the chopped vegetables to a large bowl (6 quarts) and cover with the salt. Gently mix then cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Next, drain the liquid from the vegetables (do not rinse). Set aside.
  3. In a large pot over medium heat; combine the vinegar, sugar, mustard, and spices then bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
  4. Next, add the vegetables to the brine and return to a simmer then cook 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Pack the chow chow relish in sterile jars leaving ½ inch of head space; cover with lids and secure the lids with bands.
  6. Process in a water bath or steam canner for 10 minutes.
  7. Carefully transfer the hot jars to a towel lined countertop and allow to cool overnight. You should hear jar lids ping letting you know that they are properly sealed. (See Notes)

Notes

Read full post for more detailed explanation and variations for making chow chow relish.

If you do not wish to process the jars, keep them refrigerated.

Once you open a sealed jar, refrigerate.

If any jars do not seal properly, keep them refrigerated and use first.

Processed chow chow is shelf stable for a year. The chow chow relish will last up to 6 months refrigerated.

Always follow the latest safe practices for preserving foods.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

256

Serving Size:

1 Tablespoon

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 20Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 5mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 0gSugar: 4gProtein: 0g

What to Serve with Chow Chow Relish?

Chow chow relish is delicious with beans, as a side to pork or chicken, turkey burgers and great on hot dogs or bratwursts.

More Side Dishes at Julia’s Simply Southern

Thank you so much for stopping by! I hope that you enjoy this chow chow relish just as much as my family has for generations.

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