Some of my favorite foodie-memories are of the specialty canned goods and preserves my grandmothers and mother made. There’s one item that is particularly “Amish”, as I’ve never seen it anywhere but in the Amish-Mennonite community; and that is Chow Chow. What in the world is “Chow Chow”? It’s a relish of sorts, made with a variety of vegetables, vinegar, sugar and seasonings. The flavors are traditionally sweet and sour, but some cooks like to make a spicy variety! It is usually served as a side dish with traditional Amish meals, and brings a sweet and tangy flavor to the menu. There are many wonderful recipes to be found including raw and fermented, but today I am sharing one from the Mennonite Community Cookbook, first published in 1950.
Begin the process by washing and chopping your vegetables to the desired size.
Amish cooks use ingredients fresh from their garden. As with all traditional and simple recipes, the taste will always be best when using the freshest produce possible.
My grandmother used not only green beans in her Chow Chow, but Lima beans, yellow wax beans and kidney beans as well. Yum, yum! As a small child, I helped her chop and mix the vegetables in her large, antique crock.
After chopping the vegetables, cook them briefly. I combine the vegetables that require a longer time to cook in one pot, (such as lima beans, cauliflower and green beans) and the ones that cook quickly (onions, peppers and cucumbers) in another. All the vegetables should retain their crunchy texture, and only be cooked for a few minutes. Although the recipe does not call for it, I add a small amount of sea salt to the water while cooking them.
While your vegetables are heating, combine the vinegar and seasonings, and cook together until the mixture comes to a boil. (I like to use apple cider vinegar and raw sugar.)
Combine all the vegetables and mix together gently. Pack into jars, then distribute the boiling liquid you’ve prepared evenly into each one. Be sure to clean the tops of your jars so they can seal properly.
Place prepared lids on jars, and lower into your canner. Bring water to a boil.
My dear great-aunt Anna has a cookbook called “The Esh Family Cookbook”. I follow her canning directions Chow Chow, and cold pack my chow chow for 5 minutes after the water starts to boil.
(This photo shows Chow Chow in one of my Grandma Esh’s delightful serving bowls.)
Place the jars on a shelf where everyone can enjoy their simple beauty as a work of kitchen-art, and enjoy this German sweet and sour delight! My grandmother always served her Chow Chow in beautiful dishes, no matter the occasion.
- 1 quart cucumbers, diced
- 1 quart string beans
- 1 quart Lima beans
- 1 quart corn
- 1 pint celery
- 1 pint green peppers
- 1 pint red peppers
- 1 cup small onions
- 1 Tablespoon dry mustard
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 quart vinegar
- Chop vegetables the desired size and cook separately.
- Cook until tender, not soft.
- Drain cooked vegetables and mix together.
- Combine sugar, mustard and vinegar.
- Bring to a boil.
- Add mixed vegetables to hot liquid and bring to a boiling point.
- Put into hot jars and seal.
Recipe source; Mrs. Olive Bergey, Souderton, PA. ; Mennonite Community Cookbook