So, I did this whole post featuring a story about one of my "grannies" Maw Maw Tiller, (it really does take a village to raise a kid) along with some rambly musings regarding the gift of Southern cooking and its innate ability to help us preserve traditions, recipes, and most importantly, our recollections.
What I failed to include is a recipe, one that captures why the preservation of heirloom recipes and the "oldways" is more important than ever. We can't lose this, and I think canning a mess of chow chow relish succeeds in encompassing this sentiment. Chow chow is pure Appalachia. Canning and preservation in general lies in the hearts of so many country cooks, but it's chow chow (a.k.a. chow-chow, chowchow or piccalilli) that truly speaks to me.
My mom taught me to make this piquant and sweet relish, which is one that contains cabbage (some recipes don't), and one of my fondest memories is that glorious Sunday afternoon we spent canning jars upon jars of it. While chow chow is delightful enough to eat with a spoon (or on top of a hot dog, yum), it's really made to grace a big bowl of slow cooked brown beans cooked in fatback.
Chow Chow Relish
Makes about 8 pints
2 cups chopped sweet red peppers
2 cups chopped green peppers
4 cups chopped cabbage
2 cups chopped sweet onions
2 hot peppers, chopped (such as jalapenos)
5 cucumbers, chopped
4 cups chopped, cored green tomatoes
3 tablespoons pickling salt
4 tablespoons mustard seed
2 tablespoons celery seed
1 cup sugar
2 cups vinegar
Chop up vegetables into a medium dice. Sprinkle with pickling salt; cover and refrigerate overnight. Lightly rinse veggies and drain well.
Put the remaining ingredients in a large pot, and bring to a boil. Add the vegetable mixture and cook for about 10 minutes. Pack into sterilized canning jars, leaving about 1/2-inch headspace. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe jar rims and seal at once according to canning manufacturer's directions. If you don't have any canning materials handy, you can store relish in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator for up to a month.
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