One of the things that I love about traveling is discovering new foods. Whether it be on the other side of the world or one state over, there is always something new to taste and fall in love with. While living in Memphis about 12 years ago, I was wandering through a farmer’s market and one of the vendors was selling jarred preserves, pickles, and relishes. They had little samples set out to try and I went down the line sampling each of them. Peach jam, pickled watermelon rind, strawberry rhubarb jam, etc. The last sample was a chutney-like substance that was tinted yellow and was labeled “Chow Chow”. Intrigued, I spooned some onto a cracker and took a bite. It was totally not what I was expecting. The chow chow was an explosion of sweet and sour in my mouth and it was delicious. I bought a jar to bring home and that was the start of my love for chow chow.
Chow chow, at least in the south, is a mix of cabbage, peppers, onion, and sometimes (but not always) green tomatoes. The great thing about chow chow is that it is one of the easiest relishes to make and perfect for the summer heat. It is really a quick pickling process. You make your pickling liquid by heating water, sugar, apple cider vinegar, salt, and a mix of spices together in a pot. Then you stir in your chopped vegetables and let everything cook until it breaks down into a relish. It is delicious on everything from a bowl of beans to a pork chop. But our favorite way to eat it is probably on a hot dog straight off the grill of your backyard BBQ. You can pair it with other condiments or let it stand on its own.
When I decided to make my most recent batch I didn’t have any access to green tomatoes, which got me thinking about what other ingredients I might add that would shake things up. I’m sure you can see where this is going . . . Yep, California Avocados. I made the chow chow like usual, then set it out to cool. When it had cooled to room temperature I stirred in some chopped avocado, then transferred the chow chow to glass jars to store in the refrigerator. The addition of the California Avocado. The addition of the creamy California Avocado was a wonderful compliment to the firmer, tangier bite of the other vegetables. Once the chow chow has cooled to room temperature it is actually ready to eat, but I like mine chilled.
California Avocado Chow Chow Relish Recipe
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 cup water
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon fine grain sea salt
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1 ½ teaspoons mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 green bell peppers, diced
2 red bell peppers, diced
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 ½ cups diced green cabbage
1 ripe California Avocado (firm and not quite too ripe), diced
- In a large non-reactive saute pan, bring the water, sugar, vinegar, and sea salt to a boil over high heat.
- Add the spices (mustard powder, mustard seeds, crushed red pepper, celery seed ground turmeric, and ground ginger) and stir well, making sure to break up any spice clumps.
- Add diced bell peppers, sweet onion, and green cabbage and stir to coat everything. When the liquid in the saute pan returns to a boil, reduce the heat to low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for approximately 40 minutes, until the vegetables become tender, and the chow chow starts to break down, and thicken into a relish. If the chow chow starts to dry out, add a tablespoon or two of water.
- Remove the saute pan from the heat and let the chow chow cool to room temperature (about 30 minutes), then stir in the chopped California Avocado. Transfer the chow chow to glass jars and store in the refrigerator. The chow chow can be used immediately, but it will keep for 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.