Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How now, chow-chow

My grandmother canned all kinds of things. Green beans, pickled cucumbers, stewed tomatoes ... you name the vegetable and chances are she canned it at once time or another.

Something else my grandmother canned -- or "put up," as she called it -- was chow-chow. My parents and I'd drive down to my grandparents' house on a Sunday and chow-chow was always on the table. We'd scoop big portions of the stuff onto the pinto or mixed beans my grandmother always served when she cooked a big meal.

For the uninitiated, chow-chow is a Southern relish made out of chopped cabbage, onions, peppers, mustard, vinegar and sugar. It's used to give a sweet-and-sour kick to soups, stews, or slow-cooked beans. Some folks, my self included, don't need to be eating soup, stew, or slow-cooked beans to enjoy chow-chow; indeed, I often spoon it on meat, or just put a big pile of it on my plate to enjoy alongside whatever else I'm eating.

Now, some chow-chow recipes throw in additional vegetables, like tomatoes, and some even throw in spices like thyme and rosemary. I can live with tomatoes and sich in chow-chow, but don't even get me started on chow-chow that's made with a bunch of unnecessary crap like thyme and rosemary. (That's so much Yankee-tinkering, if you ask me.)

All that said, there's an article 'bout chow-chow in today's Tennessean (check it out here.) It's more than a little serendipitous that the article ran today because, well, the chow-chow intro you just read was going to be published tomorrow along with this pic ...

... and I was going to tell you this:

I've been a big fan of Mrs. Renfro's jalapeño peppers for a long, long time. Indeed, if you search this blog's archives, you'll see that I've name-checked Renfro's peppers at least a dozen times.

Until recently, Monday to be exact, I had no idea that Mrs. Renfro's produced hot chow-chow. I ran into a local independent grocery store -- Apple Market on Nolensville Road -- for a loaf of bread, and I walked out of the place with my loaf of bread ... and three jars of Mrs. Renfro's Hot Chow Chow (which was on sale for $2.00 a jar).

Verdict: Mrs. Renfro's is pretty spicy, and it has a great green-vegetable flavor. It is, however, a bit too sweet for my taste. The sugar in chow-chow should always just temper the sour from the vinegar and the heat from the peppers. Sweeteness should never be the first thing you notice in a quality chow-chow.

"Pretty good, but" ... that's what you need to know about Mrs. Renfro's hot chow-chow.


Anonymous said...

Isn't that the same thing as piccalilli?

Joltin' Django said...

"Isn't that the same thing as piccalilli?"

No, piccalilli is a cauliflower-based condiment native to the U.K. One can buy little jars of the yellow stuff in Publix's "British" aisle.

You ain't talkin' 'bout chow-chow, my friend.

webbie said...

My aunt used to make chow chow in both hot and mild. Hot went into beans and greens, especially peas and pintos. The mild was more of a side relish.

BTW, have you tried Wickles Pickles? Hot and sweet, the relish will really add pop to a devilled egg.