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Chow Chow Recipe: Green Tomato Relish for the Pantry

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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 fruit, try these fried green tomatoes, too!

green tomato relish -- chow chow recipe -- in a square white dish on a red striped background

Chow chow recipe, 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 relish.

Related: Canning Recipes to Preserve the Summertime Garden Abundance

hand crank grinder laying flat on a beige countertop

Chow chow recipe, twenty-first century:

As times have changed, so too have my methods for making this chow chow recipe. Nowadays, an electric food processor makes quick work of the unripe tomatoes, peppers, and onions to transform them into my family’s favorite green tomato relish.

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 green tomato chow chow recipe 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.

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. 
  • 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

Canning green tomato relish for the pantry

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 green tomato relish!

This chow chow recipe uses green tomatoes, fresh onions, and bell peppers as the base, with a few hot peppers tossed in for a bit of spice. (But not too much!)

Related: Zucchini Relish Recipe for Topping Burgers and More

green tomato relish in a square white dish on a red striped background

Plan ahead to make this chow chow recipe

This recipe is easy to make, but you will need to plan ahead. Once the vegetables are chopped they need to sit in the refrigerator overnight to release their juices.

A food processor makes quick work of chopping the vegetables for this relish. Could you cut the veggies by hand? Absolutely — just aim for less than a quarter-inch dice and allow a bigger chunk of time to accomplish this task.

This chow chow recipe makes about ten pints — plenty for your pantry and some to share with friends if you preserve it with a water bath canning process.

★ Did you make this chow chow recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below! ★

Green Tomato Chow Chow Recipe

Green Tomato Chow Chow Recipe

Yield: 50 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

This green tomato relish is excellent as a condiment for meats, on hamburgers, and even as an appetizer with crackers.

Ingredients

  • 12 pounds green tomatoes
  • 8 large onions
  • 10 green bell pepper
  • 3 T. sea salt
  • 6 hot peppers
  • 1 quart apple cider vinegar
  • 3 T. dry mustard
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated organic cane sugar

Instructions

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

Notes

This chow chow recipe makes about ten pints.

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

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

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 50 Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 70Unsaturated Fat: 0gSodium: 40mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 1gSugar: 13gProtein: 1g

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

33 comments… add one
  • Living Large Oct 31, 2011, 10:51 am

    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 Oct 31, 2011, 11:52 am

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

  • Jennifer Margulis Oct 31, 2011, 12:11 pm

    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, 7:03 pm

      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 am

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

  • [email protected] Food. Stories. Oct 31, 2011, 1:23 pm

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

  • Sheryl Oct 31, 2011, 1:50 pm

    What nice memories. This sounds like an awesome dish.

  • Kerry Dexter Nov 1, 2011, 2:02 am

    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, 1:55 pm

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

      • Kris Bordessa Sep 9, 2018, 12:55 pm

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

  • merr Nov 1, 2011, 4:28 am

    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 Nov 1, 2011, 5:18 am

    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.

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

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

  • MyKidsEatSquid Nov 3, 2011, 3:12 am

    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 Nov 3, 2011, 6:17 am

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

  • jackie m Aug 27, 2016, 5:06 pm

    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!

  • Colleen Stromgren Oct 16, 2017, 9:15 am

    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 am

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

    • Lisa Aug 11, 2019, 7:44 am

      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.

  • Kathy Kacal Oct 30, 2017, 3:30 am

    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 am

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

  • Michelle Mar 24, 2018, 10:10 pm

    So easy to make and tasty!

  • George Webb Jun 26, 2018, 12:53 pm

    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 pm

      Drain, but don’t rinse.

  • Karen Aug 21, 2018, 9:41 am

    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, 6:04 pm

      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!

  • Donna Winingham Aug 24, 2018, 9:21 am

    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 am

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

  • Lorne Budgell Sep 20, 2018, 9:43 am

    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.

  • Sheri Aug 13, 2019, 2:49 pm

    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, 2:56 pm

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

  • zoe Oct 10, 2019, 11:15 pm

    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 am

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

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