David Hagedorn has taken a few liberties with this family recipe from Thomas Head, former restaurant critic for Washingtonian magazine, mainly by chopping the vegetables separately in a food processor and adding other ingredients.
The vegetables need to be brined overnight before the canning process.
Refrigerate the chow-chow after opening.
Servings: 7 pints
- For the vegetables
- 2 small heads cabbage, cored and cut into chunks (about 1 1/4 pounds)
- 4 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 medium red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into chunks
- 2 medium orange bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into chunks
- 1 1/2 pounds tomatillos, husked, hulled and cut into chunks
- 1 1/2 pounds medium tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
- 1 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained
- 2 Thai chili peppers, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
- For the brine
- 4 cups salt
- 5 gallons water
- For the syrup
- 5 cups white vinegar
- 3 cups sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cumin seed
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco
- 7 bay leaves (optional)
For the vegetables: Working in small, separate batches, pulse the vegetables in a food processor quickly several times just until they are finely chopped but not mushy. Transfer to a bowl as you go.
For the brine: Dissolve the salt in the water in a very large nonreactive container, such as a Lexan container or a clean bucket. Add the chopped vegetables to the brine. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
To prepare for canning: Wash 7 pint jars, their new lids and bands in hot soapy water (180 degrees); rinse well. Dry the bands; set aside. Sterilize the jars by boiling for 10 minutes. Heat the lids and bands in a saucepan of hot water, keeping them hot until ready to use. Do not boil the lids.
Fill the canner halfway with water. Preheat the water (140 degrees for raw-packed foods, 180 degrees for hot-packed foods) over medium heat.
Drain the vegetables, discarding the brine, and place them in a large, nonreactive pot. Add the vinegar, sugar, spices and hot sauce, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, uncovered, for 1 hour. Fill the sterilized, still hot, pint-size jars with the chow-chow. Use a fork to guide a bay leaf down the inside of each jar, if using.
Use a nonreactive spatula or chopsticks to remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rims and necks of the jars with a clean damp cloth. Center a heated lid on each of the jars. Screw the bands on evenly and loosely until a point of resistance is met (fingertip tight). Load the filled jars, fitted with lids, into the canner rack and use the handles to lower the rack into the water; or fill the canner, 1 jar at a time, with a jar lifter. Increase the heat to high until the water boils vigorously. Set the timer for 15 minutes. Add hot water as needed to keep the water level at least 1 inch above the jars. Adjust the heat as needed to maintain a gentle boil.
When the processing is complete, transfer the jars from the canner to sit upright on a clean dish towel to cool; do not retighten the bands. Let the jars cool on the towel for 12 to 24 hours.
When the jars are cool, test for a good seal by pressing the center of each lid. If the lid does not flex up and down, it is sealed. Label and store the jars in a cool, dark place. Refrigerate after opening.
Adapted from a recipe from Thom Head.
Tested by David Hagedorn.
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