Back when we were voting for the best C of York County, friend and coworker (and lifelong Yorker) Jess said she’d never heard of chow-chow until recently!
Jo very wisely took her to task, and in honor of that, I bring you this note from our former Yorker Mark in Austria, my expert on all things of Germanic descent.
Mark writes: “Of course chow-chow is definitely a local favorite (not for me – it has veggies), so I thought I would check around here in Austria to see if I found some similar foods. Guess what, I did, somewhat. Here in Austria, when you go to a Gasthaus (local restaurant/inn) and you order, say, Wienerschnitzel, you usually get a ‘salad’ with it. The salad can be a potato salad (cold, with a vinegar dressing) or a veggie salad somewhat in the vein of chow-chow (corn, peppers, cucumbers, etc…) I will have to do a little more research to find out some of the different names for these salads to see if they resemble chow-chow. So, I think this is another German-ancestor hand-me-down for our area!”
Meanwhile, not-a-lifelong-Yorker but also coworker and friend Nickie weighed in with this: “My mom’s side of the family (Clearfield County) makes chow chow, but it’s a really odd combination. First, it is super hot – not sweet at all. It’s a mix of whatever was left over in the garden plus green olives and those round hot pepper rings you get in a jar.”
I got a great local explanation from commenter Sally Strickhouser, who writes: “I am the church secretary here at Mt. Nebo and Mt. Olivet United Methodist Churches here in Delta, Pennsylvania. Mt. Nebo makes chow-chow almost every year and sells it right before our famous apple butter is made and sold in October. I think we make chow-chow late summer and it is a sweet and sour vinegar-based dressing with corn, green beans, carrots, onions, yellow beans, lima bean, kidney beans, great northern beans, red & green & yellow peppers, cauliflower, celery chips, and pearl onions. The brine consists of white vinegar, water, sugar, celery seed, mustard seed, and tumeric. The recipe is in the Mt. Nebo cookbook we had published. … It is delicious!!!”
I got another opinion, this one from the proprietor of a company in Florida that sells – you guessed it – chow-chow. The owner of the company, Armadillo Pepper, writes: “It is a southern thing. Growing up as a kid, we eat it on pinto beans with cornbread.”
Well, never heard of that, but if you don’t buy your chow-chow at one of our local markets, I guess you can get it shipped up from Florida.
Speaking of buying it at market, the photo with this entry was taken by intrepid commenter and unpaid official blog photographer Jo, who is a regular shopper at Eastern Market. (Bet I can guess what “E” of York County she voted for!)
Jo writes: “I did some research on chow-chow and you can assure Jess the dish is nothing to fear. It is only mixed veggies in a sweet and sour liquid made of vinegar, sugar and some everyday spices and is often included in the ‘seven sweets, seven sours’ lineup at Amish meal time. It came about as an ‘end of season’ relish to use up the variety of leftover vegetables in gardens. The relish typically contains corn, red peppers, lima beans, cauliflower, carrots, yellow and green bean, tomato, onions. The makeup can differ slightly, depending on the cook and what vegetables are available.”
She continues: “As would be expected, our frugal German and Dutch ancestors would never just toss those veggies away and came up with away to enjoy them by adding the vinegar and sugar and some spices. I make the analogy of the dish with the small bowls of pickled veggies Isaac’s serves diners to consume while waiting for their orders to arrive. Chow-chow is sweeter and has a few additional vegetables, such as lima beans and green and yellow wax beans, that are not included in Isaac’s mix. Otherwise, not much difference. I love chow-chow and eat it as a salad on greens.”
Thanks to all who weighed in on this fun food topic!