It’s time for a chowdown!

The first frost is coming. Soon.

Yet my garden is teeming with tomatoes. Some are red, a lot are still green. It’s been a kick not having to buy certain vegetables for the past couple of months: zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, carrots, chard, lettuce … and herbs, so many herbs!

gardening tomatoes

My rookie experience at gardening has been a success, but one that came with lots of learning. I see ways to improve for next summer, like when to start my seedlings, when to plant and how to design the garden. My American even says we’ll turn a fallow area in the backyard into a spot to move the zucchini, butternut squash and tomatoes so they don’t take over our herb boxes!

But back to those tomatoes …

What a pickle!

You may remember a post I wrote four (FOUR!) years ago, lamenting the lack of chow on the grocery-store shelves in Calgary. It’s a popular pickled relish that Maritimers love to dump all over their mashed potatoes.

It’s sweet. It’s sour. It’s delicious.

Shortly after I wrote that 2011 post, my mom sent me a couple jars of Graves from Nova Scotia. I also reconnected with my aunt Judy, who makes a batch every year and shared with me.

(Sidebar: No Chowdown continues to be a top-performing post on this site. You’re kidding, right? Nope. The search terms “graves chow green tomato,” “graves chow chow,” and variants continue to draw people to it. I also show up for searches “armpit rash” and “I love the smell of my hockey equipment,” but please don’t judge.)

Now here I am, married and living in Spokane, Wash. I have my Green Card but no one’s hiring writers like me and I suck at retail. I have one client for whom I manage a blog and social media (Janice is great … go here if you need advice on finding your dream life), but that doesn’t take up a lion’s share of my time.

Gardening has helped fill the void. (And camping, too, but those are stories for

Time for that is winding down, so it’s back #50shousewife-ing. Along with that comes the answer to the question: what the hell do I do with all these green tomatoes? And the tomatillos, too! Holy cow, two tomatillo plants and I’ve grown a bit weary of all the southwest cooking I’ve been doing (soups, quesadillas, salsas, you name it!).

The answer wasn’t even my idea. It was My American’s. He said, “Why don’t you make some of that chow you love so much instead of waiting for someone to give it to you?”


Take me back

I pinged my mom for her recipe.

She shared memories of going out to the Jessens near Keppoch Mountain to buy boxes of green tomatoes. I remember sitting at the dining room table, helping her slice and dice the tomatoes.

(I vaguely recall me and the brothers helping to peel and slice apples for pies and preserves, too. It was always a race to see who could get more done. We were always so competitive.)

I pinged my aunt Judy for her recipe, too. Not surprisingly, the two recipes are pretty damn close.

What I did find odd, though, was a Google search turned up “chow” as a southern StatesĀ favourite, too. Y’all southerners put bell peppers and celery salt into your chow, though, and that’s just weird. (I keed, I keed.)

Mom’s Super Awesome Chow

By Cathy MacIsaac

Chow, also known as chow chow, is a sweet and sour green tomato relish that Maritimers use to liven upĀ their mashed potatoes. You know it’s right from my mom’s old cookbook because there ain’t no metric.

Cook time: 1 hour
Yield: 8 quarts

pickling ingredients

6 quarts of green tomatoes
3 lbs. onions
6 cups white sugar
1 quart white vinegar
1/2 cup pickling spice
1/2 cup coarse salt


Slice tomatoes and onions, arrange in layers in large pan. Sprinkle with salt.

chow chow preparation

Soak this overnight then drain dry the next day. Mix with vinegar and sugar. Put spice in gauze bag and cook in with chow, simmering over medium-low about 1 and a half hours.

green tomato chow chow

Easy peasy, lemon squeasy.

I did it. I haven’t done a cold taste test yet but, when it was hot in the saucepan, it sure did taste an awful lot like the chow I remember from my childhood.

homemade chow chow

I also kicked it up a notch for half the batch, adding a sliced jalapeno pepper and a couple tablespoons of chili powder. Daring!

I’m pretty pleased with myself and tomorrow I go hunting for pickling cukes. We’re going to have our own dill and mustard pickles. (No bread and butter, apparently, because the husband doesn’t like anything too sweet. That’s why the chow is all mine! MINE!)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *