Old Fashioned Chow Chow Recipe


Introduction to Old Fashioned Chow Chow

Old Fashioned Chow Chow is a vibrant, pickled condiment rooted in the culinary traditions of the American South. It’s characterized by its crunchy texture and tangy flavor, derived from a colorful mix of chopped vegetables marinated in vinegar. The origin of Chow Chow is a tapestry of cultural influences, tracing back to early settlers and immigrants who sought to preserve their harvests. Its historical significance lies in its ability to bring together communities through shared meals, acting as a testament to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of those who cultivated it.


Ingredients and Variations

At the heart of Old Fashioned Chow Chow are its ingredients. Traditional recipes call for a vibrant mix of green tomatoes, cabbage, onions, and bell peppers, all brought to life with a tangy vinegar-based dressing. However, regional variations introduce an array of flavors and textures, reflecting the local produce and culinary preferences.

  • Traditional Ingredients:
    • Green tomatoes
    • Cabbage
    • Onions
    • Bell peppers
    • Vinegar
  • Regional Variations:
    • Jalapeños for a spicy kick in the Southwest
    • Sweet red peppers in the Northeast for a sweeter profile

For those interested in the canning and preserving process, the National Center for Home Food Preservation offers a wealth of resources, ensuring that this delicious relish can be enjoyed year-round.

Preparation Techniques

Preparing Old Fashioned Chow Chow is a labor of love. The process involves finely chopping the vegetables, simmering them in a vinegar-based brine, and then canning the mixture for future enjoyment. Here are a few tips to perfect your Chow Chow:

  • Chop vegetables uniformly to ensure even cooking and flavor distribution.
  • Balance your vinegar mixture with sugar and spices to taste, creating a perfect symphony of sweet, tangy, and spicy.

The cultural significance of Chow Chow cannot be overstated. It’s a testament to the ingenuity of early American cooks, making the most of their harvests. The Smithsonian Magazine: Food History provides insights into how Chow Chow and other traditional dishes have shaped American cuisine.

Serving and Pairing Ideas

Old Fashioned Chow Chow shines as a versatile companion to a myriad of dishes. It can be served atop hot dogs and burgers to add a crunchy contrast or alongside beans and cornbread for a tangy complement. In terms of food pairing, its vibrant acidity cuts through the richness of pulled pork or grilled meats, while its texture adds depth to sandwiches and salads. Whether it’s elevating a simple meal or adding a pop of color and flavor to a festive spread, Chow Chow is a beloved staple that celebrates the richness of Southern cuisine.

Health and Nutritional Benefits

Old Fashioned Chow Chow is not just a treat for the taste buds but also offers a range of nutritional benefits. The key ingredients like cabbage and green tomatoes are rich in vitamins C and K, fiber, and antioxidants. These components are essential for boosting the immune system, improving digestion, and reducing inflammation. Regular consumption of Chow Chow can contribute to a balanced diet, thanks to its low-calorie content and healthful nutrients. Moreover, the vinegar in Chow Chow can aid in blood sugar control, making it a beneficial condiment for those monitoring their glucose levels.


Cultural Significance and Traditions

The cultural significance of Old Fashioned Chow Chow extends far beyond its culinary use. It plays a pivotal role in cultural events and festivals, serving as a symbol of Southern hospitality and community. Many families treasure their unique Chow Chow recipes, passing them down through generations as a precious heirloom. These family traditions and stories embody the essence of the dish, reflecting the diverse backgrounds and histories of the people who make and enjoy it. Chow Chow is more than just food; it’s a celebration of heritage and a connector of communities.

Modern Takes on Old Fashioned Chow Chow

In recent years, Old Fashioned Chow Chow has seen a resurgence, with chefs and home cooks alike exploring contemporary adaptations and fusion recipes. These modern takes often involve experimenting with non-traditional ingredients such as exotic spices, fruits, and even global flavor profiles, while still honoring the essence of the original recipe. From Chow Chow-topped tacos to gourmet sandwiches, these innovative creations are introducing this classic Southern condiment to a new generation, proving its versatility and timeless appeal.


What is the difference between Chow Chow and relish?

  • While both Chow Chow and relish are condiments made from chopped vegetables, Chow Chow is a specific type of relish that originates from the American South. It is distinguished by its unique blend of vegetables and spices, which can include green tomatoes, cabbage, and mustard seeds, offering a tangy and sometimes spicy flavor profile.

Can Old Fashioned Chow Chow be canned for long-term storage?

  • Yes, Old Fashioned Chow Chow can be safely canned for long-term storage. The key is to follow proper canning techniques, such as using a water bath canning process and ensuring jars are sterilized. This preservation method allows Chow Chow to be enjoyed year-round, retaining its flavor and nutritional value.

How does the taste of Chow Chow vary by region?

  • The taste of Chow Chow can vary significantly by region due to differences in local ingredients and culinary traditions. In some areas, it may be sweeter, incorporating fruits like apples or pears, while in others, it might have a spicier kick from added jalapeños or other hot peppers. These regional variations reflect the diverse palate of the American South, making each version of Chow Chow uniquely delicious.

Old Fashioned Chow Chow Recipe

This Old Fashioned Chow Chow recipe is a classic Southern condiment that brings a tangy and slightly sweet flavor to any dish. Perfect for pairing with meats, sandwiches, and more, this relish is a delightful way to preserve the end-of-summer harvest.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Canning Time: 10 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Course Condiment
Cuisine American, Southern
Servings 4 pints
Calories 50 kcal


  • Large mixing bowl
  • Large saucepan
  • Canning jars with lids and bands (sterilized)
  • Canning funnel and ladle
  • Water bath canner


  • 2 cups chopped green tomatoes
  • 2 cups chopped cabbage
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric


  • Prepare the Vegetables: In a large mixing bowl, combine the green tomatoes, cabbage, onion, green bell pepper, and red bell pepper. Sprinkle with salt and let stand for about 4 hours. Rinse and drain well.
  • Cook the Mixture: In a large saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, and turmeric. Bring to a boil. Add the drained vegetable mixture and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Can the Chow Chow: Using a canning funnel and ladle, pack the hot Chow Chow into sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Wipe jar rims clean, then cover with lids and screw bands on until fingertip tight.
  • Process the Jars: Place jars in a water bath canner, ensuring they are completely submerged. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove jars and allow to cool completely.
  • Check Seals: After 24 hours, check that the lids have sealed by pressing down in the center. If the lid pops back, it’s not sealed and should be refrigerated immediately.


  • Variations: Feel free to adjust the sugar level to suit your taste or add hot peppers for a spicier version.
  • Storage: Sealed jars can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year. Once opened, refrigerate and consume within 1 month.
  • Serving Suggestions: Enjoy Old Fashioned Chow Chow with beans, sandwiches, or as a vibrant addition to cheese boards.
This comprehensive recipe format provides all the necessary details for anyone looking to create their own batch of Old Fashioned Chow Chow, ensuring a delicious result that celebrates Southern culinary traditions.
Keyword Canning Recipe, Old Fashioned Chow Chow, Pickled Vegetables, Southern Relish