Granny’s Chow-Chow ~ From Joyce Bacon


From time to time I send out a call for submissions to email subscribers so that they can share their heritage recipes and stories with us. I sent out one a few weeks back and got so many wonderful submissions! I can’t wait to share them all with you but plan on doing it bit by bit so we have time to enjoy each one. Today’s Guest Kitchen recipe and story is from Joyce Bacon and I know you’ll enjoy it as much as I have. Thank you so much Joyce and all who read this for being such a great part of the Southern Plate Family!



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.

Granny’s Chow-Chow
  • 12 medium onions (4 cups)
  • 1 medium head of cabbage (4 cups)
  • 10 green tomatoes (4 cups)
  • 12 green bell peppers
  • 6 sweet red bell peppers
  • ½ cup coarse salt
  • 6 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 T mustard seed
  • 1 T celery seed
  • 1 ½ tsp. turmeric
  • 4 cups white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  1. Chop vegetables finely using food processor or grinder. Place chopped vegetables in porcelain or glass container; sprinkle with the salt; cover and let stand overnight.
  2. Place vegetables in large colander and rinse very well under cold running water. (divide into smaller batches if necessary)
  3. Drain thoroughly and place in large stockpot. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over chopped vegetables. Heat to boiling and then boil 4 minutes. Ladle into clean pint jars which have been sterilized in boiling water. Seal with sterilized lids according to manufacturers instructions. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
  4. Makes approx. 8 pints.

Everything that is past is either a learning experience to grow on,

a beautiful memory to reflect on, or a motivating factor to act upon.

– Denis Waitley. Submitted by Jenny. Submit your positive or motivational quote by clicking here.


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  1. sharon says

    not what I am looking for my grandma mom and anute made thier with banana peper no sugar kown some of the recipe I donot rember the rest thier on one in my famly that kown how to do any ting like that just me and I was very little at the time everyone is gone I still try nerve got it rigth but thank

  2. Teresa says

    Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe! It’s just like what I remember having in my younger years. I made it a couple of weeks ago and we’re already down 1 1/2 pints. I actually added an additional 3 cups of cabbage because I had a large cabbage. Also, my peppers were large so I had about 1 1/2 additional cups. It yeilded 10 pints.

    Thanks again for sharing the recipe!

  3. Pamela says

    Hi Christy,

    I’m an Aussie and came across your website while searching for a recipe for Chow Chow for a Texas mate.
    I wondered if you would like any typical Aussie recipes, since we’re about as far South as you can get 😉

  4. matt says

    Look folks, here is what you do with Chow Chow. I’m from GA and so is my entire family. You add some spice to it (jalapeno, any spicy garden peppers, etc…) and put it on your greens (collards, turnips, etc…) and that is what it is made for. It’s great!

  5. ingrid gordon says

    I ten to think of picalili as a specific relish with green tomatoes and peppers (mine also has horseradish). Chow-chow I think of as an end of the garden relish often with string beans and corn as well as green tomatoes, peppers, onions with a sweetish mustardy sauce. I think every family who makes it has their own recipe or at least the same bring recipe and adds the vegetables as they come that year. Wonderful stuff. I like mine with baked beans (I’m from New England) either on the plate or in a sandwich.

  6. Janet says

    Thanks Christy, for sharing this recipe.. I searcher the internet and this was the only place with the REAL recipe for chow chow.. I was born and raised in the deep hollows of Charleston, WV. My family always made their own Chow Chow and after learning how to make it, I made sure there was always some on the table. However, as life had it’s turns and all the older woman gone, I haven’t made any for lots of years. I now live in the south (Florida) so, I consider this recipe a northern (Mountain) recipe since, I am sure there are no Coal Towns in the south. I had cravings for “home food”.. Thanks for making an old lady have an extra happy day.

  7. Brenda Caldwell says

    I just found this recipe and post…Oh, how I love chow-chow! My son will not eat pinto beans without chow-chow, so I always have to make it every summer. This is just like my Mama’s recipe. I don’t care for the ‘new, sophisticated versions,’ just this plain and simple one :) Thanks so much!

  8. Cathy says

    Thanks so much for the recipe! I plan on making two batches of this, one following your recipe and the second with some jalapeño peppers added. I know it’s going to be just like the chow chow I remember eating growing up! Thanks again!!

  9. MB says

    Hi! We are in the midst of Chow Chow fixing! Our veggies are chopped and are bathing in the salt now. We’d love to finish up with the canning tonight. How many hours of setting counts as “overnight?” Thanks for all of the great recipes!

  10. Peggy says

    My mom always had a large garden as a child and she would always make chow chow. It’s hard to find the true thing in Calif. I was in Mo. on vacation and came across some. It reminded me of my childhood. How wonderful to find your grandmothers recipe. And can hardly wait to make some and have a big old “mess” of collard greens or black eyed peas. Thanks so much for sharing. Oh, I’m originally from Ark.

  11. Laura says

    I was just thinking about my amazing great grandmother Martin- Flippin who was from va/nc.
    She made chow chow and it was so very good. Her recipe was very similar to yours.
    My grandmother would make the best cornbread (not sweet but crunchy) to go with it. Sometimes they would eat the left over cornbread with buttermilk. Thanks for the recipe.

  12. Rita Garner says

    To my amazement this is the exact recipe , from the numbers of vegetables and teaspoons of ingredients passed down in my family for over 150 years. My ancestors are from Germany ending up in southern Illinois. Wow, has to be a cross link there somewhere. So glad to run across your website,like meeting a family member.


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