The gardening season is pretty well finished for the year in the Maritimes. By now, most gardeners have had their fill of tomatoes and probably still have some green ones left over.
Do you have an abundance of green tomatoes you’re wondering what to do with or know where you can get some? Today, I am sharing my recipe for green tomato chow (recipe follows at end of posting).
I grew up with chow being made every fall. In fact, it along with mustard pickles and pickled beets, were generally on the table for most meals. It’s a great condiment to serve with cold meats, baked beans, stews, casseroles and, of course, if you are a Maritimer, with fish cakes.
Chow is not difficult to make but, like any pickling and preserving, it can be a bit time-consuming since the vegetables have to be cut up and soaked for several hours (either all day or all night), then slowly simmered until cooked. Making chow is not something that can be rushed.
The first thing you need to do is gather up all the ingredients you will need. Chow is basically nothing more than green tomatoes, onions, celery, red pepper, vinegar, sugar, and spices along with some pickling salt. No out of the ordinary ingredients.
You can use regular white vinegar for this recipe but I prefer to use the pickling vinegar which is stronger.
Any kind of green tomatoes will make good chow. The ones I’ve used are just the basic garden variety of tomatoes. We didn’t grow tomatoes in our garden this year so these came from Kool Breeze Farms in Wilmot Valley on the outskirts of Summerside.
Some cooks cut the tomatoes crosswise into slices. I cut mine into chunks. Either works. You don’t, however, want to chop the vegetables up too finely as it will start to resemble more of a relish than a chow.
Cut up the onions, celery, and red pepper.
Place all the vegetables into a large bowl.
The vegetables need to be soaked for 7-8 hours in a salt brine. Be sure to use pickling salt, not regular table salt (see my posting on mustard pickles for explanation). It’s important to ensure that the salt is completely dissolved in water before pouring it over the vegetables. You will need enough salted cold water to completely cover the vegetables to soak. I use a ratio of 1/2 cup pickling salt to 4 cups of water.
Pour the salt brine over the vegetables and set the mixture aside to soak for 7 – 8 hours.
Under cold running water, rinse the vegetables to remove any salt residue. Swish the vegetables around to ensure that all are rinsed off.
You’ll want to get as much water drained out of the vegetables as possible so let them sit in the colander for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Meanwhile, prepare the spice sachet. I make a small cheesecloth sachet but I have also seen closed tea strainers used to hold the spices. I generally use a double thickness of cheesecloth because it has quite an open weave from which the spices can escape into the chow – you don’t want to be biting down on a whole clove so it’s important that they not find their way into the chow bottles. I buy a pickling spice mix at my local Bulk Foods store. If you can’t find pickling spice mix, you can always make your own. I give an explanation of how to do that in my mustard pickle posting.
Into a large stockpot, place the sugars, spices, and vinegar. Stir well.
Drop in the spice sachet and bring mixture to a boil.
Add the drained vegetables and return mixture to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to medium-low.
Cook until vegetables are cooked, somewhat transparent, and the mixture is slightly thickened. Stir mixture occasionally to make sure it is not sticking to the bottom of the pot.
While the chow is cooking, start the bottle sterilization process. Again, refer to my mustard pickle posting for details on this.
Once the chow is cooked and thickened, remove it from the heat and discard the pickling spice sachet. Bottle the chow while it is hot into the hot, sterilized bottles. With clean, damp cloth, wipe clean each jar rim. Seal immediately with heated lids. Screw on jar bands just until resistance is met.
Process filled jars in hot water bath according to canner manufacturer’s directions for the proper time for your local altitude. Cool and store in cool, dark place. Let chow age for at least 2 weeks before serving.
Green Tomato Chow
3 lbs green tomatoes, chopped into chunks
3¼ cups onions, chopped
1 cup celery, sliced
½ cup sweet red pepper, diced
Combine all ingredients into a large bowl. Using the ratio of ½ cup pickling salt to 4 cups cold water, cover ingredients completely with salted water. Add as much salted water as necessary to cover the vegetables. For this amount of vegetables, you will likely need at least 1 cup pickling salt dissolved in 8 cups water. Make sure the pickling salt is thoroughly dissolved in the water before pouring over vegetables. Let vegetables soak at room temperature for 7-8 hours. Drain vegetables in large colander. Rinse vegetables with cold water to remove any traces of salted water residue on vegetables. Let vegetables drip in colander for 1 to 1½ hours.
4 cups vinegar
3 cups brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1½ – 2 tbsp pickling spice tied into a small pickling spice sachet made with cheesecloth
¼ tsp tumeric
¼ tsp dry mustard
Combine vinegar, sugars, and spices into a large stockpot. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add the drained vegetables and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 to 1½ hours over medium-low heat, until vegetables are cooked, somewhat transparent, and mixture is slightly thickened.
While chow mixture is cooking, start the bottle sterilization process.
Remove chow from heat and discard picking spice sachet. Bottle chow while hot into hot sterilized bottles. With clean, damp cloth, wipe clean each jar rim. Seal immediately with heated lids. Screw on jar bands just until resistance is met.
Process filled jars in hot water bath according to canner manufacturer’s directions for the proper time for your local altitude. Cool completely. Store in cool, dark place. Let chow age for at least 2 weeks before serving.
Yield: Apx. 6 – 7 half-pint jars.
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