Chow Chow from “Southern from Scratch”

Southern Kitchen
Southern from scratch Chowchow

Chow Chow from “Southern from Scratch”

Serves: Makes about 3 pints

Hands On Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Total Time: 13 hours and 30 minutes


1 small green cabbage, grated

1 medium cucumber, peeled and finely chopped

1 medium onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1/4 cup pickling salt

1 cup apple cider vinegar

2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup water

2 teaspoons mustard powder

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon celery seeds


Combine the cabbage, cucumbers, onion, bell pepper, and pickling salt in a large nonreactive mixing bowl, such as glass or ceramic. Using clean hands, toss the vegetables with the salt to fully combine. Cover loosely with a kitchen cloth and leave at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.

Drain the mixture in a colander, pressing on the vegetables with a wooden or metal spoon. Don’t rinse with water, though, just press out and discard any juices. Combine the vinegar, brown sugar, water, mustard powder, turmeric, and celery seeds in a medium pot. Stir over medium heat until the sugar has fully dissolved. Add the vegetable mixture, stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

While the chow chow cooks, fill a canner or large stockpot with water, place three or four pint jars inside, and set over medium-high heat. Bring just to the boiling point.

Using a jar lifter, remove the hot jars from the canner and place on top of a kitchen cloth on the counter. With the help of a canning funnel, pack the chow chow into the jars, reserving 1/2 inch headspace.

Use a spatula or wooden chopstick to remove any trapped air bubbles around the interior circumference of the jars. Wipe the rims clean with a damp cloth. Place the lids and screw bands on the jars, tightening only until fingertip-tight.

Again using a jar lifter, slowly place the filled jars in the canner. Be sure that the jars are covered by at least 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil, and then process for 10 minutes, starting the timer once the water is at a full, rolling boil. Adjust for altitude as needed.

About the recipe

A type of pickled relish, chow chow has been a part of the Southern Appalachian culinary canon since the early 1800s. Its multipurpose “soup pot” nature makes it a popular means of using up any available vegetable, though cabbage does appear rather consistently. Along with ingredients, chow chow also varies in relative levels of sweetness, some being considerably sweeter than others. My “Goldilocks” version is neither too sweet nor too sour.

As a Southerner, I have known of chow chow my entire life. It wasn’t a condiment my family canned on the regular, but I have always been aware of its presence. My husband, Glenn, and I love it, and find all manner of uses for tucking it in here and there. Like most pickles and relishes, chow chow does best with some aging time once jarred. Hold out for at least 2 weeks before sampling; 1 month is ideal.