Sep 03 2008

Canning the Chow Chow – Post, the First

It’s a down-east family tradition. Chow Chow.

Sweet relish made from green tomatoes and onions. When we were first introduced to it in New Glascow, Nova Scotia, we couldn’t believe we were allowed to eat this sweet good stuff right along side our meat and potatoes. Shouldn’t this be a desert?

This year, with the funny weather we’ve been having in farm and cottage country, Ontario, Canada… My organic heritage tomatoes are still mostly green. It’s September, I’m panicking… Until I remember Chow Chow. (yes, it gets capitals, every time. It’s THAT good.) The only catch is I’ve never canned anything in my life.

Now, I’ve got all the theory down, and the books and pots and jars and lids and on and on and on. Just no practical experience. I’m a lady who likes a challenge. I’m also a lady who doesn’t like wasting food, time, or effort. So, this has just got to work the first time.

The girls and I get out the old scale that is meant for food, but only ever used for weighing packages for shipping from our online store. We grab a couple of bowls, and then out to the picnic table and garden.

What does twelve pounds of green tomatoes look like, you might ask? Voila!


Green Tomatoes and Yellow Onions

Green Tomatoes and Yellow Onions

Along side of 3 pounds of yellow onions. The base ingredients for this recipe.


The first step is to chop up the tomatoes. stick em in a great huge stock pot. I borrowed one from my mom, because my stock pot looked very very tiny next to all these tomatoes and onions. This was easy. The whole time I’m chopping, I’m white knuckled and demonstrating the worst knife techniques possible. You know, the kind that ends with a sore shoulder and wrist, and a housewife losing a finger tip, or at least a close call. My inner Gordon shouted every version of the “F” word that the two of us combined know.

For those of you who are curious, there was a pound of icky bits left over. (tops and leafy bits.) So, this reduced us to 11 pounds of tomatoes. Oh, and for those of you who are concerned, I only grazed my nails. Finger tips in tact this round!

Now, I thought I could outsmart the onions. I had a bowl of cold water set up on the cutting board. I would quickly cut the tops and bottoms of the onions, make a slice down the side, and plunk it in the water, the tops and bottoms into the compost next to me. I peeled the brown skin off while it was under water, and then the onion went into a bowl. I managed to peel the first layer off of twelve onions (3 lb) without a tear.

Then, the chopping started. In half, plunk them in the water. One half at a time, chop chop chop… I’m thinking I might just have this beat, when the gases permeate my eyeball membrane and I’m down for the count. (My inner comedian kept screaming “DON’T CHOP ONIONS WITH YOUR EYES CLOSED!” and I had to put the knife down in between the last 5 onions and walk away to let my vision clear and my giggles subside.

Have you ever tried to take good pictures with your eyes dripping and burning from onions? Hilarity.

Eventually, all of them ended up in the stock pot (whew!) and I spread 1 and 1/4 cups coarse salt over the mix, mixed it up a bit, and let it sit overnight.

First bit down, next bit tomorrow. (oh, it gets better and better….)


Lori Petroff


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