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!
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.
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.
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When I share this recipe with people there’s always a lot of talk about what makes a “real” chow chow. People will tell me that their great aunt’s recipe had cabbage. Or meemaw’s recipe had horseradish. Here’s the thing. While this is a recipe common to the southern United States, every family had a slightly different version. I’ve also had people tell me that my recipe is *just like their grandma’s.
We love this recipe, and it’s how my mom always made it. I’d love to hear what you think!
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. You could use red bell peppers as part of the mix, if you like, but I’d limit it to two red peppers as part of the total of ten peppers called for in the recipe.
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 onion, whichever you prefer.
Salt – Use sea salt, kosher 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.
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.
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 large bowl or large 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.
Transfer the chopped vegetables to the refrigerator and allow to sit for 8 hours or overnight. The next day, 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.
🍅 Safety First!
Canning is an excellent way to preserve food for the pantry, but there are some important safety considerations to keep in mind. The recipes on this site have been made following safe canning procedures by a certified Master Food Preserver.
- 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 or Harvest Right hard plastic lids that are intended for such a purpose.
- For more on canning equipment, please go here.
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.
I have a canning funnel for this purpose, that makes it easier to transfer the chow chow into the hot jars without a lot of mess. Fill as many jars as you can fit in your canner at once; transfer filled jars to the canner. If you have more chow chow, keep it warm until you’re ready to process a second batch.
Use a clean dampened cloth to wipe the rims of the jars; a little bit of food on the jar rim can prevent the lids from sealing properly. Remove air bubbles with an air bubble tool or a non-metallic tool. Set the flat lids in place and twist screw 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.
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.
Using Chow-Chow Relish
- Pour over cream cheese and serve with crackers
- Use it to top hot dogs and hamburgers
- Put it on pulled pork sandwiches
- Stir this tangy relish into deviled eggs or potato salad
★ Did you love this recipe? Be sure to give it a star rating below! ★
★ Did you love this recipe? Be sure to give it a star rating below! ★
- 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
MAKING THE CHOW CHOW RECIPE
- 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.
- 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.)
- Refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
- Remove from the refrigerator and transfer vegetable mixture to a large colander to drain off liquid.
- Put drained vegetables into a large stock pot.
- 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:
- While the chow chow is cooking, fill a water bath canner with water, set the lid in place, and heat on high heat until boiling.
- Ladle hot relish into pint or half-pint jars, leaving 1/2-inch head space. A canning funnel makes this easy.
- Wipe jar rims to remove any relish that may have spilled. A clean rim is essential to a good seal.
- Set jar lids in place. Screw bands on finger tight, firmly, but don't crank the rings on.
- Use a jar lifter to gently submerge jars into the canner. Water should cover the top of the jars by two inches. The water will cool somewhat in reaction to the addition of the jars. Return the water to a simmer and set the timer.
- Process pint or half-pint jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes 0-1,000 feet altitude; 15 minutes over 1,001 to 6,000 feet, 20 minutes over 6,000 feet.
- Allow jars to cool overnight.
- 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.
- Wash the outside of the jars, remove rings, and store in a cool, dry place at room temperature for up to a year.
If you like a spicier relish, it's safe to add a teaspoon or two of red pepper flakes to this recipe.
This homemade chow chow relish 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