Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Ah Chow. When I was a kid, it was my favourite condiment; my Mom says I used to sit with a spoon and eat it straight from the jar. Even when my tastebuds turned and I decided I hated chow (and wtf, younger self) I still loved the smell of it cooking. The sweet, sharp tangy scent would fill the house; it's a scent that is indelibly imprinted with the best feelings of home: comfort, succor, warmth. That's probably the main reason I make chow now that I've moved away - to recreate that feeling in my own home.
But just what the hell IS chow, Melissa? I'm sure some of you are asking. Well hopefully some of you are asking, otherwise I'm just talking to myself. Legions of fans, the answer is thus: it's a sweet, tangy green tomato preserve. And fellow babies, it is GOOD. Especially tasty with fish and pork, you'll definitely want to serve this with some bread to soak up all the saucy goodness. And if you're watching your weight, use this instead of butter on your potatoes - I guarantee you won't miss the butter, and that's probably the only time I'll ever say that. Chow makes simple food into something stellar. It's just the shit, that's all that needs to be said.
And it's easy as all get out to make, and is very adaptable to the individual palate. For instance, my mom, who wouldn't thank you for an onion, makes hers with more onions than tomatoes (yeah, I don't know). Personally, I like it with a lot of red peppers. Everything is up to you - rock out with your chow out.
To start, slice some green tomatoes into medium thick slices. I got my tomatoes from Mom's garden, but they should be easy to find in a farmer's market or something similar this time of year. I make a batch that's big enough to fit my ginormous stock pot (yay Paderno blowout sales!), and I used about 2 dozen. Mom said to use a peck. I have no idea what a peck is.
Cover them with a couple of handfuls of COARSE salt, and let sit overnight. I didn't have any on hand, so I used kosher salt and that worked fine. Just don't use regular table salt; it's too fine. The salt will bring the water out of the tomatoes and help preserve them, so don't skip this step.
The next day, drain the water and rinse the buggers out a couple of times. Then, add vinegar until the tomatoes are just covered. Next, add your onions, peppers, Pickling Spices, and 4-5 cups of sugar (for a big batch). It sounds like a lot sugar, but this makes a serious amount of food. I like my chow on the tangy side, so I use 4 cups. Mmmmmm, PUCKER UP! Let it simmer 3-4 hours, or until the tomatoes are good and soft. I got a little more than 10 500ml jars out of this batch.
See? There she is, all done! Looks good, right? RIGHT? Right.
Freaked out by canning? Don't be. Here's something I find in today's world: people over-complicate things. If you read the net, you'll find all sorts of canning instructions telling you to buy a sterilizer, canning apparatus (apparatii?), tongs for sterilizing, water baths, blah blah blah. That's a foolproof way of having safe preserves, hands down. But I'm lazy, so here's how it's been done in my family for at least 100 years (seriously): Fill the mason jars when the chow is hot, screw the lid on tightly, and let 'er sit for a few hours. The heat of the chow will seal the jars shut, and in fact, you'll hear the lids start popping over the next few hours. Press down on the lid: if it pops back it's not sealed. If a lid doesn't pop, eat that one first. Simple. Easy. Miraculously, we're all still alive.
So don't freak out, make this chow, eat it with gusto, and welcome in the fall!
2 dozen green tomatoes (give or take)
3 lbs white onions
3 large red peppers
4-5 cups white sugar
3-4 tbsp pickling spices
1. Slice tomatoes in rounds, about medium thickness. Place them in a large stockpot and cover them with 2 handfuls of coarse salt, which will bring out the water in the tomatoes. Note: do NOT use regular table salt! Cover, and let sit overnight or until reduced by half. When the ratio of tomatoes to water is almost equal, they are ready.
2. Drain water from tomatoes. Rinse well a couple of times so they aren't too salty, but you definitely don't want to remove all the salt.
3. Add enough vinegar to just cover the tomatoes.
4. Slice onions into rounds and chop red peppers in a small dice. Add to pot. Tie up pickling spices in some cheesecloth, and add to pot. Add 4-5 cups sugar, and give the whole thing a quick stir.
5. Put pot on stove and cook at a very low simmer for 3-4 hours, or until tomatoes are good and soft. Immediately place the hot chow into glass jars and seal; you'll hear them self-sealing over the next bit. Refrigerate opened jars, and enjoy!
I like this picture. The chow looks like it's kinda hanging out there, doesn't it? Streetwalker chow!