The term “chow” is an informal term that refers to food. Chow-chow (or chowchow, chow chow) also refers to food, specifically, a kind of pickle relish. This is popular in North America, usually served cold. Author Ben-Erik van Wyk, in his 2014 book Culinary Herbs and Spices of the World, wrote: “Chowchow or “chowchow” is an American commercial pickled relish made from a combination of vegetables.”
- Chow chow is one of the ingredients in the Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine’s “seven sweets and seven sours”. The other six ingredients are pickled cucumbers, onions, beets, crabapples, and watermelon rind.
- No one knows the exact origins of the chow-chow. Food historians speculate that the birth of chow-chow was inspired by the presence of relish recipes that the Chinese rail workers brought with them to the US in the 1800s. It is also possible that Indian chutneys may have influenced the creation of the first chow-chow.
Chow-Chow Buying Guide
Here are some things to consider when buying chow-chow.
- If you have the chance, buy homemade chow-chow. You are not only supporting small, local businesses but also, this is your chance to sample local cooking usually influenced by old family recipes.
- If you have time, read the reviews about the brands available in your area. This does not just narrow down your list of what you want to buy based on what they say is great and not so great, but this also gives you the chance to read which you think has the flavor profile that best matches your preferences in a canned relish.
- Read the label and check the ingredients. Not all chow-chow products have the same ingredients so make sure you know what you are getting from the jar especially if you have allergies or food restrictions.
- If you have diet restrictions, look for a chow-chow brand that makes what you can have. For example, there are brands that make gluten-free chow-chow.
- If you are planning on stocking up your pantry with jars of chow-chow, check the label for the expiration date to make sure that the product will last the duration you expect them to keep in the pantry. Or at the very least, you are aware when you should eat them before it goes bad.
- Do not forget your due diligence when out for a grocery run. This means inspecting the quality of the product i.e. looking for damage on the container, broken seals, torn labels, etc that suggest that the item has been compromised and should not be sold.
Chow-Chow Production & Farming in Texas
Chow chow is ubiquitous in Texas. Many Texas-based food manufacturing companies sell canned chow-chow. There are also artisanal, homemade, small-batch chow-chow sold in local farmers markets by small, local businesses. Chow chow is available in Texas all year long. There is no problem producing chow-chow in Texas all year long because the ingredients used to make chow-chow are always available in Texas.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
Many chow-chow brands promise all-natural ingredients on the label. Nonetheless, there are still many brands that use artificial additives in making chow-chow for the sake of improving the taste, flavor, color, and appearance of the final product. Some chow-chow brands that are sweet use artificial sweeteners and other kinds of artificial sugar substitutes. Some use modified corn starch to affect the texture of the product. Some may use additives to prolong shelf life or to make sure the product is shelf-stable for a long period of time.
Chow chow is made in the US and is popular in the US and parts of Canada. In other countries, there are local relish recipes that may share similarities with chow-chow. Because of online shopping, anyone can buy chow-chow even if they are not in the United States.
Chow chow is sold in a glass jar or bottle with a label that contains important consumer information like expiration date, manufacturer, country of origin, ingredients, nutrition data, storage instructions, cooking instructions, etc.
Southern chow-chow is made mostly of green tomatoes with other ingredients, while northern-style chow-chow is made of green and red tomatoes, onions, carrots, beans, asparagus, cauliflower, and peas. This explains why each type of chow-chow has a distinct flavor different from the ones produced in other parts of the country.
Chow chow is commonly eaten as a condiment, to accompany other food and provide complementing flavors. Chow chow is great with fish cakes, mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy, pinto beans, hot dogs, and hamburgers.
Commercial food manufacturers indicate the shelf life of the product if it is stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Homemade chow-chow, on the other hand, will keep for one month in the refrigerator and three months in the freezer. But once you thaw the frozen chow-chow, it will only keep for a month and it is not advisable to freeze it again.
Make your own chow-chow green tomato relish
Chow chow is usually made with cucumbers, onions, cauliflower, green pepper, brine, cider vinegar, mustard seeds, and celery seeds. For this recipe, the main ingredients are green tomatoes, cabbage, onion, and bell pepper. This will require 60 minutes of prep time and 20 minutes of cooking time. This food is very tasty and healthy too!
This recipe yields 64 servings
- Green tomatoes, 5 cups, coarsely chopped
- Cabbage, 5 cups, coarsely chopped
- Onion, 1 1/2 cups, finely chopped
- Bell pepper, 2 cups, coarsely chopped
- Pickling and canning salt, 1/3 cup
- Cider vinegar, 2 1/2 cups
- Light brown sugar, 1 cup
- Yellow mustard seeds, 1 tablespoon
- Garlic, 2 cloves, finely minced
- Celery seed, 1 teaspoon
Step 1. Combine all the chopped vegetables
Step 2. Add salt and refrigerate overnight
Step 3. Drain and rinse thoroughly
Step 4. Mix the vinegar, sugar, seeds, and spices. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes
Step 5. Add the vegetables and simmer for 10 minutes in low heat.
Step 6. Transfer in a glass jar.