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Chow Chow Recipe: Green Tomato Relish for the Pantry

This green tomato relish is excellent as a condiment for meats, on hamburgers, and even as an appetizer with crackers. Passed down through generations, my family’s favorite chow chow recipe is a fantastic way to preserve end of the season green tomatoes.

If you have an abundance of unripe tomatoes, try these fried green tomatoes, too!

half pint canning jars filled with green tomato relish

Homemade chow chow recipe for canning

So many people pull their tomato plants at the end of the season, tossing the green tomatoes into the compost pile, right along with the rest of the plant. Staaaahhp! If there are still lots of green tomatoes on the vine as the first frost approaches, harvest those tomatoes! It’s time to make this vintage green tomato relish!

This was one of my mom’s go-to recipes during the summertime canning season. Since it utilizes those end-of-season green tomatoes, I’m sure it appealed to her frugal nature.

hand crank grinder laying flat on a beige countertop

There’s a bit of sentimentality for me in making this, as I remember helping to turn the crank on the hand grinder! These days I use a food processor to make the process a bit shorter, but a hand grinder is still a perfectly viable method.

loose peppers, hot peppers, yellow onions, and green tomatoes

Ingredients: What is chow chow made of?

The recipe that I grew up with consists of green tomatoes, onions, sweet bell peppers, hot peppers, vinegar, and seasonings. Other chow chow recipes can include ingredients like cabbage, zucchini, carrots, or cauliflower. Each family seems to have their own favorite recipe, but this is mine!

Green tomatoes – At the end of the season, be sure to harvest the unripe green tomatoes left on the vine. Choose fruit that is unblemished and still very green. Adding a few that are just starting to blush is okay, but the bulk of the tomatoes should be green. 

Sweet bell peppers – Choose large green bell peppers and remove the seeds and stem. 

Hot peppers – I use jalapeno peppers most of the time, as these are readily available. If you’re growing a different variety of hot peppers, by all means, use those. 

Onions – Use yellow, red, or white onions, whichever you prefer. 

Salt – Use sea salt or another non-iodized salt for this canning recipe.

Vinegar – Apple cider vinegar is the best choice for this recipe, flavor-wise. If you prefer, you can substitute white vinegar, but be mindful of this.

Sugar – Use granulated sugar for this recipe. I prefer to use an organic cane sugar to avoid genetically modified ingredients, but your favorite brand will be just fine.

silver bowl of chopped veggies: green tomatoes, peppers, onions

Preparing the vegetables

This part of the recipe is done a day before you plan to make and can the chow chow recipe so plan ahead! The chopped and salted vegetables need to sit in the fridge overnight to draw out the moisture.

Cut vegetables in large chunks, then transfer to a food processor or old-fashioned grinder.

green tomato quartered on a cutting board

As I mentioned, I use a food processor to make quick work of the chopping. Use the metal blade with a pulsing technique to chop the vegetables into pieces that are about 1/8″ – 1/4″ across. 

Work in batches, transferring chopped veggies to a very large bowl or stock pot. Once the tomatoes, onions, and two kinds of peppers are chopped, use your hands to toss them with the salt. 

If you feel any over-large pieces of vegetable, now’s your chance to pull them out and chop them smaller. 

liquid visible in uncooked chow chow recipe

Transfer the mixture to the refrigerator and allow to sit for 8 hours or overnight, then drain off any liquid. I do this by placing a colander over a stock pot to catch the juices. 

This recipe makes a large batch and you’ll end up with about two colanders full of drained vegetables. If you feel like that’s more than you need, feel free to halve the recipe.

uncooked chow chow ingredients in a colander

Canning Safety

Canning is an excellent way to preserve food for the pantry, but there are some important safety considerations to keep in mind. 

  • Know the difference between water bath canning and pressure canning. Low acid items must be pressure canned for safety. 
  • Altering ingredients may change the recipe’s pH, posing a safety issue. I highly recommend investing in pH paper to test your products for acidity level when canning. Note: The Hawaii Master Food Preservers suggest a pH of 4.2 or lower in the tropics. In other regions, the recommended pH is 4.6 or lower.
  • Use the proper jars and lids. Never reuse lids, with the exception of the Tattler lids that are intended for such a purpose.
  • For more on canning equipment, please go here
  • The recipes on this site have been made following safe canning procedures by a certified Master Food Preserver.

Canning chow chow for the pantry

This recipe is a “hot pack” canning recipe, which means you’ll need to bring the chopped and drained vegetables along with the remaining ingredients to boiling before transferring to canning jars.

scooping chow chow into a glass jar through a silver canning funnel

I have a canning funnel for this purpose, that makes it easier to transfer the chow chow into the jars without a lot of mess. Fill as many jars as you can fit in your canner at once. If you have more chow chow, keep it warm until you’re ready to process a second batch.

jars of chow chow before processing

Use a damp cloth to wipe the rim of each jar; a little bit of food on the jar rim can prevent the lids from sealing properly. Set the lids in place and screw the bands on firmly tight (but not too tight). Use a jar lifter to transfer jars into the gently boiling water. The water in the pot should cover the jars by about an inch. If necessary add more water to the canner.

Hot tip: Boil some extra water in a saucepan or electric kettle as you’re working. If you need to top off the water in the canner, you won’t cool down the water too much.

Process jars for the recommended time. (See below.) When time is up, use the jar lifter to transfer jars to a flat surface that’s padded with a kitchen towel. Allow jars to cool completely. As they cool, you’ll begin to hear a canner’s favorite sound: That lovely little tink! that indicates a successful seal.

Once the jars of chow chow are thoroughly cooled, check the seal on all of the jars. The lid should be concave and solid. If it flexes at all, it’s not sealed. (Place any jars of chow chow that didn’t seal in the refrigerator and use them first. They are not shelf stable.)

Remove bands from cooled jars and rinse the jars. Store sealed jars without the bands.

Go here for more on canning tomatoes.

green relish in a white bowl, with jars of chow chow behind

★ Did you love this recipe? Be sure to give it a star rating below! ★

half pint canning jars filled with green tomato relish

Green Tomato Chow Chow Recipe

Yield: 16 pints
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Processing Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 25 minutes

This green tomato relish is excellent as a condiment for meats, on hamburgers, and even as an appetizer with crackers. Note that you'll need to let the chopped veggies sit overnight, so plan ahead.

Ingredients

  • 12 pounds green tomatoes
  • 8 large onions
  • 10 green bell peppers
  • 3 tablespoons sea salt
  • 6 hot peppers (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 quart apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons dry mustard
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar

Instructions

MAKING THE CHOW CHOW RECIPE

  1. Cut tomatoes and hot peppers in quarters; bell peppers and onions in eighths. Transfer in batches to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until vegetables are chopped into small pieces. Transfer each batch into a very large bowl or stock pot.
  2. Sprinkle with the salt onto the vegetables and mix well with your hands. (If you feel any large pieces, remove those from the mixture and chop smaller.)
  3. Refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
  4. Remove from the refrigerator and transfer vegetable mixture to a colander to drain off liquid.
  5. Put drained vegetables into a large stock pot.
  6. Stir in vinegar, mustard, and sugar. Bring to a slow boil; continue boiling -- stirring frequently -- until tender (about 15 minutes). The tomatoes and peppers will lose their bright green tinge, becoming less vibrant.


CANNING THE RELISH:

  1. While the chow chow is cooking, fill a canning pot with water, set the lid in place, and heat on high heat until boiling.
  2. Ladle hot relish into pint or half-pint jars, leaving 1/2" head space. A canning funnel makes this easy.
  3. Wipe jar rims to remove any relish that may have spilled. A clean rim is essential to a good seal.
  4. Set jar lids in place. Screw bands on finger tight, firmly, but don't crank the rings on.
  5. Use a jar lifter to gently submerge jars into hot water in canning pot. Water should cover the top of the jars by an inch. The water will cool somewhat in reaction to the addition of the jars. Return the water to a simmer and set the timer.
  6. Process for pint or half-pint jars for 10 minutes 0-1,000 feet altitude; 15 minutes over 1,001 to 6,000 feet, 20 minutes over 6,000 feet.
  7. Allow jars to cool overnight.
  8. Check for seal: the lids should feel solid and slightly indented. If they flex, they are not shelf stable and should be refrigerated and used first.
  9. Wash jars, remove rings, and store in a cool, dry place for up to a year.

Notes

This chow chow recipe makes about 16 pints -- a BIG batch. You can safely halve the recipe if that's more than you need.

The finished product tests at 3.5 pH.

**Adapted from the Ball Blue Book of Food Preserving.

**For more information about safe canning, contact your local cooperative extension office.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 128 Serving Size: 1/4 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 29Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 6mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 1gSugar: 5gProtein: 1g

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60 comments… add one
  • Krista Hirseland Aug 17, 2021 @ 13:29

    If I use quart jars, do I boil the jars for double the time?

    • Kris Bordessa Sep 18, 2021 @ 8:12

      Recipes have been tested using the jar size listed. Heat penetration takes longer with larger jars (but how MUCH longer?) so it’s not recommended that you use a larger jar size. You can always use *smaller jars, though.

  • DGibbs Aug 4, 2021 @ 10:43

    Thanks for the recipe, my Mom made it all the time, I don’t eat it, my family loves it and I enjoy making it for them and my neighbors.

    • Kris Bordessa Aug 6, 2021 @ 14:12

      I hope they love it!

    • James Mitcham Sep 26, 2021 @ 2:20

      Hi DGIBBS, I have a cousin that lives in Tennessee. She is a retired school teacher and married to a former football player.

  • Nancy Jul 10, 2021 @ 9:39

    My grandma made Green tomato Chow Chow with green tomatoes and onions and it was real sweet but I don’t remember it looking like a relish

    • Kris Bordessa Jul 12, 2021 @ 15:14

      I think every family has a different “chow chow” recipe!

  • John Henry Dec 5, 2020 @ 13:22

    Made your chow chow recipe. Delicious! Great relish! All 9 quarts of it. (I drained juice off all veggies before cooking) Recipe says about 10 pints. Looks like all sons and daughters will have Chow Chow in abundance. You might want to update the volume.

  • Edna Morehouse Oct 19, 2020 @ 3:13

    My family ate a lot of pinto beans and tortillas. We always would add a couple big spoons right in the bowl juice and all. It turns boring pinto beans into a masterpiece.
    Thank you for the momories.

    • Kris Bordessa Oct 26, 2020 @ 12:24

      Great way to use it!

  • laurie Oct 13, 2020 @ 16:45

    so since tomatoes are acidic this needs to be a water bath canning method?? TIA!

  • Nikki Sep 23, 2020 @ 12:12

    I have lots of green tomatoes still on, we waited a bit and luckily we did because we had a late frost. So we have a slow down and now have lots of green tomatoes. I’m not sure about making this much, can I cut this recipe in half??

    • Kris Bordessa Sep 27, 2020 @ 13:24

      Certainly!

  • Tawnya L Verploegh Aug 16, 2020 @ 14:31

    Is it possible when making the chow chow to leave the Jalepenos out? I remember my grandma making this but there was no heat!
    Thanks

    • Kris Bordessa Aug 18, 2020 @ 7:29

      Yes.

  • Terry Aug 4, 2020 @ 10:04

    I plan to try this recipe however 12 pounds of tomatoes would be way too much for me and I’m not sure I can find that many green tomatoes at the market (I don’t have a garden). I plan to cut the recipe into 1/4. I’ve calculated all the ingredients accordingly and some don’t equate to an easily divisible number – example 3 T sea salt equates to .75 T sea salt. I don’t plan to can this recipe but will use the refrigerator version and I will consume within 4 weeks. Do you foresee any issues from a safe food perspective rounding the .75 tablespoon of sea salt to 1 tablespoon? I’m not concerned as much with the difference in flavor with the additional .25 tablespoon of salt as I am with making sure it’s safe to make that substitution considering that pickling recipes are supposed to be followed exactly to prevent contamination. Any feedback would be helpful.

    • Kris Bordessa Aug 6, 2020 @ 15:24

      If you’re not processing it for long term storage, the negligible difference in salt measurements shouldn’t be a problem.

      • Nancy Jul 10, 2021 @ 9:42

        Could you tell me how to make green tomato and onion Chow Chow that’s real sweet no green peppers and no hot peppers my grandmother always made it and my sister and I can’t find the recipe or where to buy some

        • Kris Bordessa Jul 16, 2021 @ 16:38

          This is the only recipe I’ve made, and it must be different than what you are familiar with.

  • Naomi Mier Jul 18, 2020 @ 13:19

    What great memories! My parents would make chow chow and us four kids would crank the grinder until our arms were too tired then the next sibling in line would go at it. Wow, memories. My parents used green cabbage, too. Anyone out there have a recipe for that version? My dad would have hot peppers in his and by looking at the jar, you could see the red specks and we knew not to mistakenly use that one! Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    • Marci Wedel Sep 16, 2020 @ 12:53

      I have the recipe my mother used that uses cabbage (but not tomatoes).
      She alternately called it Chow Chow and Green Relish. There is nothing better in my mind than this relish with a burger. After she passed, I spent years looking for her recipe, and finally found it. Here you go:
      Green Relish.
      4 cups green onions
      1 medium head of cabbage ~ 4 cups
      12 green peppers
      6 sweet red peppers
      ½ cup salt
      6 cup sugar
      1 Tblsp celery seed
      2 Tblsp mustard seed
      1 ½ tsp turmeric
      4 cups vinegar
      2 cups water

      Grind veggies using coarse blade. Sprinkle ½ cup salt; let stand overnight. Rinse and drain. Combine remaining ingredients. Pour over vegetable mix. Heat to boiling. Simmer 3 minutes. Seal in hot, sterile jars.
      Waterbath 5 – 15 minutes
      Makes 8 pints

      BTW: this recipe was handed down from a Kansas GC Mennonite tradition.
      Enjoy!

  • zoe Oct 10, 2019 @ 23:15

    Can i use mustard seeds as I don’t have dried mustard powder in my pantry or should I crush mustard seeds to make powder?

    • Kris Bordessa Oct 16, 2019 @ 9:30

      If it were me, I think I’d try just crushing the seeds a bit to release the flavor.

  • Sheri Aug 13, 2019 @ 14:49

    Hi Kris,
    I froze lots of green tomato slices last year. Do you think those could be thawed and used in the chow chow recipe. I’m not sure what to do with these. I need my freezer space back. Thanks.
    Sheri

    • Kris Bordessa Aug 13, 2019 @ 14:56

      Because the tomatoes were frozen, it *might make a softer relish, but I’m an experimenter; I’d try it.

  • Lorne Budgell Sep 20, 2018 @ 9:43

    My family has been making this since I can remember , I am doing a batch now a little bit different but almost the same. My Chow is from Newfoundland & Nova Scotia where this chow is used almost daily ,. It stay,s good for a year or two . Enjoy & May God Bless.

    • Nanette Loucks Jul 23, 2020 @ 14:06

      If I do not can this can I make it and refrigerate it and then how long will it last thanks nanette

      • Kris Bordessa Jul 28, 2020 @ 12:31

        Yes, but it makes a big batch. I’d be surprised if you could go through it in time. It will last in the fridge for 3-4 weeks, maybe more?

  • Donna Winingham Aug 24, 2018 @ 9:21

    My 85 yo mother still makes chow chow when she visits. She is very particular about getting as much fluid as possible out of the initial mixture. She lets it hang overnight in pillowcases to drain.

    • Kris Bordessa Aug 27, 2018 @ 7:57

      You know, I remember my mom draining hers like that, now that you mention it!

  • Karen Aug 21, 2018 @ 9:41

    I’ve never canned and I don’t own a canning pot (I do have a Instant Pot not sure it that’s the same thing) but I can freeze with the best of ’em. Can this recipe be made for freezing instead of canning?

    • Kris Bordessa Aug 22, 2018 @ 18:04

      Instant Pots are not approved for *pressure canning. This recipe only requires water bath canning which can technically be done in any stock pot. My only concern with canning this would be that the texture might be a bit different than the canned version, but I can’t imagine it being *bad. Try it!

  • George Webb Jun 26, 2018 @ 12:53

    After letting the veggies set covered with salt you don’t rinse the veggies before you boil them?

    • Kris Bordessa Jun 28, 2018 @ 12:46

      Drain, but don’t rinse.

  • Michelle Mar 24, 2018 @ 22:10

    So easy to make and tasty!

  • Kathy Kacal Oct 30, 2017 @ 3:30

    My mother made ChowChow every year but it was different than the ingredients you use. My mothers ChowChow won the West Texas State Fair twice. The difference was no hot peppers,(of course if you like it spicy use peppers) but mothers and now mine has cabbage also in it. Mothers recipe was handed down from her great aunt and her mother, so it is over 100 years old, and still outstanding. My hand written recipe makes about 30 quarts so it was a two day process to just grind all the ingredients. This next year I plan on entering ChowChow in the State Fair of Texas in Dallas. try adding some cabbage to your recipe.

    • Barbara Eubanks Oct 29, 2019 @ 10:07

      Kathy yours sounds more like my grandmothers recipe. could you tell me the ratio of cabbage to tomatoes.

    • Teresa Jul 4, 2020 @ 19:37

      My grandmother put cabbage in hers, too! Not much sugar, so it was on the sour side, but delicious! I loved it, reading this recipe brings back great memories!

  • Colleen Stromgren Oct 16, 2017 @ 9:15

    I’ll sure try next year but I’m curious, to process or not ? I did a different recipe and put product into steril jars but the no processing I can’t get used to, comments please ???

    • Kris Bordessa Nov 14, 2017 @ 8:13

      Always process unless you’ll be refrigerating it and using it quickly.

    • Lisa Aug 11, 2019 @ 7:44

      Process 30 minutes in a water bath. It says to fill jars to the top and remove any air. I haven’t tried this yet, but if I get some green tomatoes, I’ll give it a try.

  • jackie m Aug 27, 2016 @ 17:06

    Finally!!!!! My gram made chow chow using all the same ingredients as you. Unfortunately I wasn’t interested in canning when she was still canning (and the kitchen was off limits when her old temperamental huge canning pressure cooker was fired up. For the last several years I have looked for a chow chow recipe that looked like hers and had the same ingredients.

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for sharing your family recipe. I will tell your story when I make and pass out the jars of chow chow to the family and friends!

  • sarah henry Nov 3, 2011 @ 6:17

    Know some local folks who are going to appreciate this recipe.

  • MyKidsEatSquid Nov 3, 2011 @ 3:12

    I haven’t heard of chow chow, but I love the idea. When I was a child my mom had a hand crank wheat grinder. Now I have one for my kids to use too.

  • Melanie @ Frugal Kiwi Nov 1, 2011 @ 7:28

    I don’t have a food processor, but I DO have a metal grinder. I might even upgrade one of these days…

  • Donna Hull Nov 1, 2011 @ 5:18

    I have never made my own chow chow, but my grandmother and great aunt did. Although I didn’t appreciate it as a child, I’d sure like to have a jar of their chow chow now.

  • merr Nov 1, 2011 @ 4:28

    So good to know about this! Earlier this year we wound up with many green tomatoes and could have used this then…will remember just in case for next time!

  • Kerry Dexter Nov 1, 2011 @ 2:02

    I don’t recall ever making chow chow with them, but my grandmother and mother both had grinders like that. great story (and recipe). thanks for bringing back the memories.

    • Shirley Sep 7, 2018 @ 13:55

      Where can I found your chowchow, salsa and spaghetti pasta recipes
      Thank you
      Shirley

      • Kris Bordessa Sep 9, 2018 @ 12:55

        Try using the search function to find anything you need — but the chow chow recipe is right here on this page! 🙂

  • Sheryl Oct 31, 2011 @ 13:50

    What nice memories. This sounds like an awesome dish.

  • [email protected] Food. Stories. Oct 31, 2011 @ 13:23

    Ughhh, this *would* have been perfect for the lingering garden veggies… until the freak snowstorm on Saturday buried them all. Frozen tomato, anyone?

  • Jennifer Margulis Oct 31, 2011 @ 12:11

    Yum! Our tomatoes didn’t do very well this year — no one’s did, apparently — so I don’t have any green ones left. We ate them all! But I would love to try this recipe. And I’ve always wanted to learn how to can food!

    • Karon Jul 21, 2017 @ 19:03

      It’s super easy I try to can tomatoes for spaghetti and soups so I panic when I run low. I’ve been wanting to can Som salsa with my fresh pints I just put up. My tomato canning is so easy email me and I would b obliged to share

      • Harper Baucum May 26, 2020 @ 3:41

        Please share your process for canning tomatoes. I love having it for spaghetti and soups.
        Thanks,
        Harper

  • NoPotCooking Oct 31, 2011 @ 11:52

    I have heard of chow chow, but never had it. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Living Large Oct 31, 2011 @ 10:51

    I remember one year we had green tomatoes still coming on by Halloween, but this year, I had just enough left for a batch of fried green tomatoes appetizers. I hope next year to be able to do this!

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