Chow Chow (Old Fashioned)

My maternal grandmother (Granny) was born in Alabama, moved to Kentucky as a young bride, eventually ending up in Southern West Virginia where she raised her 8 children. My paternal grandmother died when I was only 2 so growing Granny was the only grandmother I had. I loved her dearly and loved to be around her. I liked to stay for days on end at her house. Grandpa was a preacher and I liked going to church with him (especially revivals) and liked hanging out with Granny in the kitchen. I liked her story about how chow-chow came to be.

She was born on a farm and always had a garden. No matter which coal town they moved to, Granny always had a little garden patch. At the end of the growing season as the weather began to turn cold, there were leftovers and stragglers on the vines and plants….usually a few green tomatoes, some under-developed peppers, so they all were gathered up and with the addition of some onions and cabbage, used to make Chow-Chow……nothing ever wasted! Some people called it “end of season relish”.

I would help her by crawling under the porch and pulling out the bushel baskets of jars, all dusty and covered with cobwebs. I would squirt them down with the garden hose before bringing them into the kitchen where they would be thoroughly scrubbed before being boiled and set upside down on clean towels to wait for the finished Chow-Chow. How I loved to eat the Chow-Chow with her delicious pinto beans and corn bread (all crunchy around the edges)

When I became an adult I learned that in some areas it is called piccalili. In the Pennsylvania Dutch areas near where I now live, chow chow is made with large “chunks” of vegetables including carrots, celery, and green beans. It’s okay but it’s not what I grew up with.

I still make Chow-Chow for my family and I use Granny’s old 2 gallon crock churn to salt it down overnight. When the Chow-Chow is finished, I use my paternal grandmother’s glass canning funnel to fill the jars. It always gives me a good feeling that I am continuing family traditions. Neither of my daughter’s have shown an interest in making Chow-Chow but I still have hope for my granddaughters.