Chow Chow Recipe — Green Tomato Relish 14

Circa 1970s:

The old metal grinder is firmly mounted to my mom’s kitchen table, the abundance of our summer garden stacked in bowls and baskets around us. As often as I could, I’d take a turn at the grinder, cranking the handle despite my stinging, watering eyes.  I watched as onions, bell peppers, and green tomatoes were pulled into the turning screw, a crunching sound coming to my ears over the noise of the squeaky handle turning. Mom hovered, sure that with every turn of the handle one of my tender young fingers might join the mix in the pot that was catching the crushed green vegetables. Clear juices, tinted green, dripped from every point of the old grinder, running down to my elbow and then to the floor where a large towel was ready to catch the overflow. The bright green pulp from the unripe remains of a bountiful harvest would be transformed into a relish with the funny name chow chow.

Chow chow is a relish made from green tomatoes. It's excellent as a condiment for meats, on hamburgers, and even as an appetizer with crackers.

Circa twenty-first century:

As times have changed, so too have my methods.  Nowadays, an electric food processor makes quick work of the unripe tomatoes, peppers, and onions. But while I am feeling nostalgic about the days I spent hand cranking the grinder in my mom’s kitchen, I share the details with my boys. I want them to know that this is a family recipe, one that my grandmother and theirs made, salvaging the last of the fruit from the vine before winter relegated them to the compost heap. Thirty-some years later, the chow chow tastes the same and my eyes still water, though as I think back to my childhood I’m not sure if it’s the pungent ingredients or the memories that cause the tears.


Chow Chow – Green Tomato Relish

  • 12 pounds green tomatoes
  • 8 large onions
  • 10 green bell peppers
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 6 hot peppers
  • 1 quart cider vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons dry mustard
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar (one and three-fourths)

In a food processor, chop tomatoes, onions, and peppers in batches, using the pulse mechanism. Stir together in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the salt and refrigerate overnight.  Drain off liquid and stir in vinegar, mustard and sugar.  Bring to a slow boil; continue boiling until tender (about 15 minutes). Pack into canning jars and refrigerate, or process according to safe canning methods.  Makes about 10 pints.

**Adapted from the Ball Blue Book.
**For more information about safe canning, contact your local cooperative extension office.

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14 thoughts on “Chow Chow Recipe — Green Tomato Relish

  • Living Large

    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!

  • NoPotCooking

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

  • Jennifer Margulis

    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

      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

  • Sheryl

    What nice memories. This sounds like an awesome dish.

  • Kerry Dexter

    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.

  • merr

    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!

  • Donna Hull

    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.

  • MyKidsEatSquid

    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.

  • sarah henry

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

  • jackie m

    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!