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Recipe: Green Tomato Chow Chow

Oct 20, 2008 -

Macro Tomatoes

So here I am with the rest of the story… (read the beginnings of the story here).

James and Maggie Coffee were migrant farm workers (commonly known as prune pickers at the turn of the century) and raised 5 children while traveling from farm to farm throughout the Salinas and Sacramento valleys.  One good thing about working on farms is that there is always food around.  One bad thing about it is that most farms grew single crops so there was a limited variety of things to choose from.

People tended to eat the same things day after day.  My Grampa Mel, #4 in the line up, used to talk about how the minute they got where they were staying for the season the entire family would immediately dig up and plant the garden.  It added variety to their diet and preserves for the winter.

Don’t stop reading here…

Have you ever met an old person that puts catsup on everything?  It’s because potatoes and/or beans get really boring after several months and adding something sweet makes it palatable.

Here’s a little survival secret.  A steady diet of anything creates a condition called appetite fatigue.  Young children and older folks are most susceptible to it but after a while it can affect anyone.  It manifests itself as an inability to take another bite of “fill in the blank” no matter how hungry you may be.  A simple solution is to add a complex flavor to it, preferably sweet or in this case sweet and sour.  Grampa poured catsup on EVERYTHING!  Then put a few spoonfuls of Green Tomato Chow Chow on the side of his potatoes.

When he was a kid there were times in the winter that this was their vegetables.  We were so accustomed to this relish that it is difficult for me to this day to eat a hotdog or hamburger without it.  The recipe is made up of the end of the year garden stuff because well, that’s what Maggie had!

She didn’t throw away anything.  Couldn’t afford to!  Keep in mind that all her recipes were mere suggestions of what might go good in there.  So be creative and tweak it as much as you like. I’ve used red kale instead of cabbage for example and it added some color as well as tasted great.  I’ve used mustard seed and other spices in different batches.

So here’s grama Maggie’s Green Tomato Chow Chow

2 lbs Green tomatos
12 bell peppers
a few hot peppers
12 onions
a small bunch of celery
a small head of cabbage
1 qt. vinegar
1 qt. sugar
1 T. each of ground mustard, ground cinnamon, and whole cloves.

Start with about 2 Gals. of green tomatos.  Cut them in quarters and pack in salt. (Translation; start layering them in a big stainless kettle with a goodly generous salting in between.  Put a plate on top of them and a weight on the plate.)

Let stand for a day or two.  Drain and rinse them really well.

Grind all the veggies into a course relish, add all ingredients together and cook til tender but not too done.

Can in pints and serve the last of it for dinner.  It’s good hot or cold!

One of my husbands favorite things is to brown Polish dogs in a skillet and add some of this relish at the end and simmer just enough to get it a bit sticky.

Bon appetite!



Mariah Says:
Oct 20th, 2008 at 5:03 pm

This is probably a really dumb question but how does one ‘grind’ vegetables?  I am assuming you need some form of grinder but what kind?  e.g. can I use my meat grinder?

Jacki Says:
Oct 27th, 2008 at 4:24 pm

You can still buy the metal grinders that clamp on to your counter top. Or just use the metal chopping blade in your food processor to grind it all together. Just make sure to cut everything in to chunks before you put it in the processor.

Ann Beckett Says:
Oct 29th, 2008 at 7:35 am

I’m guessing a meat grinder like my mother had when I was a kid. I’m pretty sure I recall my aunt putting cabbage through ours.  I had one for years but finally gave it away so I’m going to chop my batch in my Cuisinart by pulsing it until it has a ‘ground’ consistency.  May have to drain off some liquid as grinding crushes which doesn’t cause as much fluid loss as chopping in a food processor does in my experience.  If you still have a meat grinder I’d use that making sure it’s really clean.  Good luck.

Grama Pam Says:
Apr 2nd, 2009 at 8:38 pm

I use my grandmother’s old meat grinder with one tooth missing.

Grama Pam Says:
Apr 3rd, 2009 at 10:14 am

I just realized a typo in the recipe.  Two gals. of tomatos are required not 2lbs. as is in the beginning of the recipe.

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