green tomato chow

Sweet pickles are one of those things. Those things that you either wrinkle up your nose in disgust at, or that you heap on your plate next to your mashed potatoes and dive in for seconds.

For some reason, I feel that I’ve been led to believe that these pickles, known as Chow, Chow Chow, or Green Tomato Chow, are a Maritime thing, but I don’t know if that’s true at all. What I do know is that they’re delicious, and a great way to use up those green tomatoes that might not ripen before the first frost. They’re fantastic with mashed potatoes, and are usually served with fish cakes, here in Nova Scotia. (Fish cakes are another thing I’ve always thought of as Maritime - would you like a recipe sometime?  They’re amazingly delicious, quick, simple, and frugal.)
This particular recipe is from a wonderful woman named Shirley. She was my mother’s best friend when I was growing up, and she was like a second mom to me. She died on my first day of high school after a horrific ordeal with cancer. I still miss her and dream about her and her kitchen every now and then. I spent a lot of time at her house when I was a kid, most often in the kitchen, and remember being sent to fetch jars from the shelves in her basement before meals. Next to her dill pickles, I clearly remember bottles of bright chow lined up neatly.

A very special thanks to her daughter, who sent me many of Shirley’s recipes last year. This was my first attempt at making chow, and I’m so pleased that it tastes just like Shirley’s. I made half of the recipe, and it worked beautifully.
Shirley’s Chow Chow

9 lbs green tomatoes (approximately 60) sliced thick (approximately 27 cups)
6 lbs onions (20) sliced thick (approximately 18 cups)
¾ cup pickling salt

Put tomatoes and onions in a large bowl and sprinkle salt on top. Let sit overnight. Drain and rinse.

6-8 cups cider vinegar
20 cups white sugar
½ cup mixed pickling spice, tied in bag
    (Shirley tip: reserve 1 cup of vinegar and sugar for thickening mixture in next step)

Heat and add tomatoes and onions, simmer 1 hour or until somewhat soft.

Add thickening:
¾ cup corn starch or flour
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon curry powder
Dissolve in reserved liquid. Add to pickles and thicken, stirring constantly. More corn starch may be added as schow should be slightly thick. Pour into sterile jars and seal.



  1. This recipe sort of reminds me of chutney. I think my family would like it better than chutney though. We kept up with the tomatoes pretty well this year so we don't have 9 pounds of green ones for making this; I'd have to scale it way down. Wonder if Food In Jars has a small scale version. I'll have to look. :)

    Yours look beautiful!

  2. Shirley would be very very proud.

  3. Carol S-B10/11/2012

    Sherrie, I am so excited. A seagull arrived in the mail! Now I just need to figure out where on my walls it needs to soar. Looking out my office window this afternoon, I could see a seagull and a magpie disagreeing about air space by Downtown Calgary... so I already had Great Big Sea playing "Seagulls in her eyes" in my head before I got home. Then to see that lovely brown envelope... well, what a beautiful thing. Thank you so much.

  4. Anonymous9/11/2013

    Do you have to process the jars after?

    1. Yes - seal in a hot water bath; I think it's 15 minutes. :)

  5. Anonymous11/15/2013

    I am living in New Jersey (originally from NS) and craving Chow Chow, especially with Thanksgiving in our thoughts. If only I could reach through the monitor and grab a few bottles, they look delicious...Bob


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