Chow-Chow Mustard Pickle

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An American relish of chopped green tomato, red pepper, mustard seed and a variety of other vegetables, chow chow has been around at least since the 19th century. Growing up, we ate plenty of a vinegary variety of chow-chow (or picalilli, as my mom liked to call it,) as a condiment with sandwiches and deviled eggs.  But it was usually store bought. Coming across a 1940s community cookbook of “Old Time Tennessee Receipts” I was intrigued by the many entries of chow-chow and mustard pickle that brined the vegetables and then added a sauce thickened with mustard and flour paste. The resulting pickle flavor pin-balls happily around your tastebuds hitting sweet, salty, sour & spicy. And the texture is nice too–with crunch from the cauliflower and a more yielding bite from the tomato & pepper. I’m thinking what I don’t eat straight out of the jar, might go very nicely with some little hand-held savory pies….

Makes 12 pints

Chow Chow Pickle Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups salt
  • 1 1/2 gallons water
  • 1 very large cauliflower, broken up into small flowerettes (about 2 quarts)
  • 2 qts small cucumbers, cut into small chunks
  • 2 qts green tomatoes, cut into small chunks
  • 1 qt small onions, sliced thin
  • 6 red peppers, seeded and cut into small squares

Mustard Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 Tbsp dry mustard (powder)
  • 2 Tbsp turmeric
  • 3 pints plus one & 1/2 cups cider vinegar, divided
  • 3 lbs can sugar
  • 1 ounce celery seed
  • 1 ounce white mustard seed


  1. Make brine: In a very large container, stir salt into water to dissolve. Add all of the chopped vegetables. Weight the vegetables under the surface of the brine with a large plate. Let sit overnight.
  2. Drain salt water from vegetables into a large pot. Heat salt water to boiling. Place vegetables in a very large colander or sieve over sink. Pour boiling salt water over the vegetables to scald them.
  3. Make mustard sauce: Whisk flour, dry mustard powder and turmeric together. Stir in 1 and 1/2 cups cider vinegar to make a smooth paste. Meanwhile, into the large pot over medium heat combine remaining 3 pints of vinegar with 3 lbs of sugar, the celery seed and white mustard seed. Add the mustard paste. Whisk over heat until thickened (about 1/2 hour) taking care not to scorch the sauce. Add all of the vegetables and heat until hot but not boiling.
  4. Assemble sterilized canning jars and lids. Ladle hot mustard pickles into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch of head space. Place jars in boiling water and simmer for 15 minutes.

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