Friday, July 2, 2010

Fresh from the Garden

Happy 4th of July!  This is for the 4th of July Blog Potluck over at Creating Home.  Be sure and stop by there for links to lots of memories and recipes.

My grandmother was a fantastic gardener, but she didn't eat fresh vegetables.  Nana was a product of the great depression and all things were to be hoarded, even food.  Some of my earliest memories are of summer harvests and the inevitable canning process.  With only a tiny icebox, she didn't freeze things.  She canned them.  For days on end, the pressure canner and pots of boiling water roiled nonstop.  I'm talking about a Texas summer with only a little swamp cooler unit to take the sting out of the heat. 

We'd sit there beet read, wiping faces on the apron and eat those last few peaches that didn't make it into the jars.  She would tell me stories about her childhood and we would snap beans.  She excelled at all those things folks consider the dying domestic arts now.  She canned and quilted, made all my clothes until junior high--and she could strike a match at 100 yards with her rifle.  She was a shrewd business woman in an era in which it wasn't appreciated, but she had to be.  I'm pretty sure that if she was of my generation, she'd be a Fortune 500 CEO, given her ruthless nature and razor sharp intellect.

I still haven't found any store bought relishes, jams, or pickles that come anywhere close to hers. My favorite was her chow-chow.  Chow-chow is a pickled relish made from whatever you've got in the garden and hers had a smattering of everything in it.  Nana loved color and this is a vibrant, beautiful garnish to your hotdogs and burgers. The vegetables can vary, but she started with:

Tomatoes: This is the base of your relish.  Peel and core about 2 1/2 pounds
Zucchini, 5 or six medium sized will do, you can throw in crooked neck squash for a little color
Sweet bell peppers, 6 large ones, I like to use a combo of red, green and yellow ones, remove stems and seeds
Onions, 2 peeled and quartered
Garlic, four cloves

Coarsely chop all your veggies.  Nana chopped these all by hand and mixed them, but I like to use the coarse chop blade of my food processor.  Put them in a colander and let the excess liquid drain into the sink.  Sprinkle them with 1/4 cup of pickling salt and let them stand overnight.

The next morning, rinse the mixture and drain again.  In a large pot mix:

2 Cups sugar
2 Cups white vinegar
1 Cup water
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp thyme

Bring it to a boil and add in the veggies.  Once it reaches a full boil remove from the heat.  Put it in your pint jars leaving 1/2 inch of headspace, adjust lids and boil in canner for another 10 minutes.

Soon I'll share her corn relish recipe and maybe even her icebox pickles (if I feel frisky).

Enjoy your 4th of July!


  1. I am saving this recipe. I love chow-chows!

    Reading about your grandmother made me think of mine. I guess that's why it's so important to me not to forget how things used to be done.

    Thank you.

  2. Give me that icebox pickle recipe, woman! Didn't your granny teach you to SHARE?

  3. Just arrived via Maria's blog party. Another lady lawyer with a bizarre sense of humor and a need to write about it! Woo Hoo! So greetings to an itty bitty town in Texas from an itty bitty town in Kansas. I am a part-time public defender and also run our family toy business.

    In my family, you described my Aunt Ede. Canning and making jam are childhood memories! Yum!

    For fish, I created a super simple sauce I just call 'garnish.'

    1. Dice up tomatos from the garden.
    2. Dice up banana peppers from the garden.
    3. Dice up anything else crunchy from the garden.
    4. Mix well with a couple of tablespoons of off-the-shelf mild pickled banana peppers and a tablespoon of salsa.

    Serve with deep-fried catfish chunks!

    Don't look behind you, Ize a followin!


  4. Mmm, those sound great Terri. Always glad to meet a fellow lawyer. I'm your flip side, a career prosecutor who can't imagine letting navy suits and billable hours run her life.

  5. I don't think I've ever heard of "chow-chow" but I do make various chutneys, salsas, pico de gallo, and relishes...which is all pretty much the same thing, really.

    Thanks for this. Yum!