This vibrant condiment lands somewhere in between a relish and a salsa. 

By Margaret Eby
July 17, 2019

 

Summer is peak time for outdoor grilling and smoking, which often means a glut of rich, delicious meat stuffs. They're delicious on their own, but there's no denying the extra note of goodness that a pop of brightness adds to the umami and fattiness of a hamburger, a pulled-pork sandwich, or even a plate of ribs. That's why we have slaws and salads to balance them out, and the tang of ketchup and barbecue sauce to coax out and complement the richer, savory flavors. There's another member of the barbecue party you may not be familiar with, and if not, it's time to say hello to chow-chow. 

Chow-chow is a condiment that's somewhere between a pickle relish and giardinera. Though its origins are unclear, it comes close to Indian pickles or chutneys, and can be used similarly. In the North, that combination can include carrots, cauliflower, string beans, and asparagus. In the South, chow chow is usually cabbage-based. In this recipe for chow-chow, green tomatoes and bell peppers are included for extra tang, but feel free to omit them if you're not a fan. 

The key to chow-chow, like all pickles, is patience. You'll need to stir together your vegetables, including onion, with salt and allow it to chill for 2 to 8 hours. That draws the moisture out of the vegetables and starts to preserve them. When they're chilled, put the mixture into a large pot, like a Dutch oven, and stir in your pickling liquid. In this version, that's sugar, vinegar, mustard seeds, turmeric, and water, plus crushed red pepper flakes if you like things a little spicy. Bring the whole thing to a boil and then simmer for three minutes. Cool it to room temperature before storing the chow-chow in a jar or other container, covering it, and chilling it. 

Once the mixture has chilled for at least an hour, it's ready to serve. It's a tangy, bright, spicy condiment that works particularly well with grilled meats, but there's no rule on what you can use it for. Try it on fish, or with chicken, or as part of a cheese plate. One thing's for certain: You'll be spreading the word of chow-chow in no time. 

Get the recipe for Chow Chow

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