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: For safe water bath canning, 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! ★
Green Tomato Chow Chow Recipe
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.
- 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
I actually just bought one of those food grinders at a thrift store, I’m going to try it out on this thank you.
Great thrift find!
I am almost 70 years old and have canned this recipe for many years. My grandmother was born in 1889 and this is the same as she made. The only difference is she chopped all the veg rather than grind it. Her pear relish was put thru the grinder though. Excellent recipe and first time i’ve seen one so close to mine published. Loved reading all the comments.
I love to hear that!
I was searching for something like what I grew up with. Oohh here it is. Thank you for putting on net. 77 yrs young & remember this as delicious.
I can’t keep this stuff in my pantry, my family absolutely luvz it. This yr, I’ve purposely grown Aunt Ruby Green Tomatoes just to make and cann! Thx so so much for sharing
You’re welcome, I’m glad your family loves it!
I do not water bath.
What would be the processing time in a pressure canner?
This recipe has not been tested for pressure canning. You can use most pressure canners as a water bath canner, so I would suggest that. With canning, you want to stick with the recipe exactly for safety reasons.
I forgot to keep the mustard seed and celery seed separately . I cooked it all together. And put in jars. Will that be okay?
I think maybe you have the wrong recipe? Those ingredients aren’t listed here.
I have been looking for a chow-chow recipe without cabbage for some time. Thank you for sharing yours! I’m excited to try it. I have a question that’s more about canning than your recipe. The little green tomatoes still on my tomato vines are splitting. These are the green tomatoes I would use to make the chow-chow. Is it safe to can those using this recipe? I know canning split red tomatoes is a no-no, but what about green? I’ve searched the internet and can’t find an answer. Thanks so much! I love your website and plan to purchase your book.
I would cut out the split portion and use what looks good if it were me.
If I use quart jars, do I boil the jars for double the time?
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.
What is the expiration storage time frame , in refrigerator and shelf storage?
Home canned goods are recommended for storage up to a year; in the fridge, the chow chow will last a couple months.
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.
I hope they love it!
Hi DGIBBS, I have a cousin that lives in Tennessee. She is a retired school teacher and married to a former football player.
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
I think every family has a different “chow chow” recipe!
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.
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.
Great way to use it!
so since tomatoes are acidic this needs to be a water bath canning method?? TIA!
A water bath process is sufficient for this recipe, it does not need to be pressure canned.
What is a water bath tell me how to do it?
Here’s more info:
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??
Is it possible when making the chow chow to leave the Jalepenos out? I remember my grandma making this but there was no heat!
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.
If you’re not processing it for long term storage, the negligible difference in salt measurements shouldn’t be a problem.
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
This is the only recipe I’ve made, and it must be different than what you are familiar with.
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.
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:
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.
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?
If it were me, I think I’d try just crushing the seeds a bit to release the flavor.
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.
Because the tomatoes were frozen, it *might make a softer relish, but I’m an experimenter; I’d try it.
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.
If I do not can this can I make it and refrigerate it and then how long will it last thanks nanette
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?
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.
You know, I remember my mom draining hers like that, now that you mention it!
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?
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!
After letting the veggies set covered with salt you don’t rinse the veggies before you boil them?
Drain, but don’t rinse.
So easy to make and tasty!
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.
Kathy yours sounds more like my grandmothers recipe. could you tell me the ratio of cabbage to tomatoes.
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!
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 ???
Always process unless you’ll be refrigerating it and using it quickly.
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.
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!
Know some local folks who are going to appreciate this recipe.
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.
I don’t have a food processor, but I DO have a metal grinder. I might even upgrade one of these days…
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.
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!
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.
Where can I found your chowchow, salsa and spaghetti pasta recipes
Try using the search function to find anything you need — but the chow chow recipe is right here on this page! 🙂
What nice memories. This sounds like an awesome dish.
Ughhh, this *would* have been perfect for the lingering garden veggies… until the freak snowstorm on Saturday buried them all. Frozen tomato, anyone?
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!
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
Please share your process for canning tomatoes. I love having it for spaghetti and soups.
I have heard of chow chow, but never had it. Thanks for the recipe!
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!