Monday, May 24, 2010

aunt miriam's tomato chow chow

Hello dear readers,

Jena here, guest blogging from texas.. I was told I needed to introduce myself, so here goes.. I met Stephanie back in 2004 when we first got to berkeley and were both pretty clueless about.. most things. My first memory of Stephanie is meeting her in bible study and seeing her every Friday because we had back-to-back discipleship appointments with the amazing Allison -formerly Lee- Staton. I remember thinking that steph always smelled good and that I probably wasn't cool enough to be her friend. But Oh how things work out better than we could have thought and I have been blessed to call her not only my friend, but my incredible roommate, sister, co-worker and confidante among other things.

When Steph asked me to be a guest blogger for i ate everything, I was a little intimidated, truth be told. But hopefully this will be as entertaining for ya’ll as it was for me!

I was trying to think of something that screamed southern cooking for all of you Pacific-coasters and Mid-westerners, and I think I found it..

Aunt Miriam's Tomato Chow Chow is one of those things I grew up with, and didn’t think twice about eating as a side with my black eyed peas, lima beans and every once in a while on pork chops. The recipe I’ve grown up with is a creation of my Great Aunt Miriam, my Grandma’s twin sister, from Eupora, Mississppi. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

So here goes: First, you need to gather up 24 tomatoes.. best if they are fresh and homegrown.. but if you only have 3 tomato plants like we do, you can just use some nice store-bought ones. Dip them in hot water, let cool, and peel the skin off of every one.

Next, you’ll need 12 medium size onions.. chop them all up in varying sizes. Don’t worry about making them small; they’ll shrink while cooking. It is best to get some help for this one.. Otherwise after 4 onions, you won’t be able to see what you are doing from all the tears!

You can add three chopped green peppers if you want, for a little more flavor.

Get a HUGE pot to cook it all in.. cut your tomatoes over the pot, so you don’t lose all the yummy juices. Then, dump in your green peppers, onions, and a whole 16 ounce jar of hot peppers (drained). You can also use 25-30 fresh hot peppers, but the canned ones are just easier to deal with.

Add in ½ teaspoon of:

Cinnamon, ginger, allspice, dry mustard, cloves, black pepper, and celery seed. 2 Tablespoons of salt, 2 cups of sugar (mmm sweetness), and 1.5 cups of white vinegar.

Cover the pot, and let it cook on medium heat for about 3 hours. At first, you’ll think, “this looks too dry, should I add water?” the answer is no, because after about an hour or 2, you’ll think, “Dude, this looks like soup, when will it thicken up?!” You can take the cover off for the last 45-30 minutes to let the soupy-ness evaporate.

While everything’s cooking, you can start preparing your jars for canning. This recipe will fill up 24 half-pint jars. You can get these at your local supermarket. You can also buy old cool canning jars for interest, you’ll just have to buy new lids so they will seal correctly. Wash everything in warm water and rinse very well.

Once your three hours are up, and your kitchen smells amazing, heat up some water in smaller pots. Just follow the canning instructions that come with your jars, which say to heat the jars, and lids in hot water. They need to be heated so that when you pour the chow chow in, it won’t break the class, but don’t heat the rings, that would make it a little difficult to screw them on!

Fill the jars to ¼ - ½ inch from the top, and wipe the rim clean. Place the lid on top, and screw on the ring in one smooth movement.

The final step is to submerge all your filled jars in boiling water for 40 minutes for the canning process. This is a great time to grab a glass of wine, and relax, because it’s almost done!

Let the jars sit on a towel for at least 12 hours to make sure the seals are good. In the morning, you can take the rings off and test to make sure they are all sealed. If you have any that haven’t been sealed properly, you can just eat those immediately!

I know not everyone will be able to go through this whole involved canning process, so I made a bunch of smaller jars for you guys. If you want a sample, just email me your physical address: jenateresa [at] gmail [dot] com. I would LOVE love love to share this sweet-spicy-tomatoey goodness with you. But you have to promise to eat them with black-eyed peas.. and not say, "I don't eat anything we feed to the pigs" like some people say.

Here's the easy to read/print recipe:

Aunt Miriam's Tomato Chow Chow
Makes approx. 24 half-pint jars

24 Medium size tomatoes - dip in hot water and peel
3 Green peppers - chopped - optional
12 Medium size white onions - chopped
25-30 hot peppers - diced OR whole 16 oz jar pepper rings
1/2 teaspoon of each:
dry mustard
black pepper
celery seed
2 Tbs. salt
2 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups white vinegar

Takes about 3 hours to cook down
(when you fill jars leave at least 1/4" space at top)
Do not use assembly line method - fill one jar, then place lid and screw band on.
lower into boiling water making sure lids are covered for approx. 40 minutes.
Remove jars and cool 12 hours. Remove bands and test lids by pushing on top and trying to remove lid - if not easily removed, it is OK.

Yay! this was fun. Thanks Stephanie, for the opportunity to share this with all of you!
don't forget to send me your addresses!


  1. wahoo - so fun to hear from you Jena! You'll find my snail mail address in your inbox :)

  2. OH my goodness. This looks like 30 shades of delicious!! I can't wait for my it okay if I smother it on anything, not just black eyed peas? A+ guest blogging job!! I learned about canning (and it looks way fun)...k this post also made me miss you a lot more than usual too. I'm dealing.

  3. Great post Jena! Canning seems really intimidating. I have several aunts with big gardens who do lots of canning, maybe I'll have to head over to one of their houses for my first venture into canning.

  4. This definitely screams southern cooking, and it looks absolutely delicious. Send one of those jars my way :)

  5. The sheer quantity of tomatoes and onions is amazingly overwhelming.

    Um... so I'm dreaming of fun times playing with you soon. I'm thinking a couple road trips are in order. Half way. My house. Your house. Medesto... ya know the basics. Also- I'll spare you international shipping and just plead that one of those cans (jars?) or heaven makes it to NM? please...!?


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