On Cooking Southern: Modern He-Men and Strong Women Can Can… And Should

SOUTHERNISM OF THE WEEK
Holler: NOUN: A place that’s an indentation in the landscape; VERB: To call loudly. As in, Mama used to holler at us kids to come on up from the holler and wash up for dinner.


Christmasrelish-DSCN1144

Canning and preserving is not for sissies.

In fact, one might make an argument that canning and preserving seasonal fruits and veggies requires almost super-human stamina combined with the dedication of a lab scientist. It certainly requires patience. Bushels of patience.

I’ve just spent the past week “putting up” chowchow, green tomato relish, Grandmother’s Christmas relish and squash pickles. The house certainly smells interesting. But, I’m not sure I have the strength left to tackle canning batches of tomato chili sauce unless family members jump in to assist with the veggie prep stages.

Preserving and canning fruits and veggies of the late summer season is part of our traditional Southern agrarian landscape. Those canned goodies enabled folks to survive cold and dreary winter days in the days before globalization, while at the same time providing needed nutrients not available in salted meat, dried beans or cornmeal.

Now is the time when green tomatoes actually have almost as much appeal as huge round red globes of vine-ripened tomatoes. It’s also when the peppers and zucchini have begun running amuck in the garden patch. So what better way to use them and enjoy them than to chop them up, mix them with spices and onions, and transform them into canned relishes?

Traditionally passed down from one generation to the next, nowadays the techniques and procedures for canning are available to novices via youtube videos and online manuals. But take it from a person who has consulted those videos and manuals, it helps to have one-on-one guidance from an experienced, hands-on, live person.

When in doubt about how to properly process canned produce, call Patty Hudek, 662-234-4451, at the MSU Lafayette County Home Extension Service in Oxford. Or, contact the Ball Corporation Canning national hotline at 303-469-3131. According to their online site, the average wait time is 2.1 minutes.

The recipes in this week’s column are for classic favorites that old-style Southern cooks of my acquaintance always relied upon when creating casseroles, soups, stews and batches of beans and peas. It is helpful to assemble all needed implements, ingredients and cooking vessels before starting. To me, the most difficult part is having enough stove burner space for sterilizing canning jars, keeping hot water for the jar lids, the hot water bath pot and the actual relish pot.


LOUISE’S CLASSIC CHOWCHOWchowchow-DSCN1105

This is one of the best concoctions handed down by Appalachian cooks. Regular chow-chow (recipe below) is mild and tangy, combining tartness and sweetness. To add heat, sprinkle with cayenne pepper or slice about 4 small rings of Tabasco pepper into each filled jar before processing. Serve it as a condiment for hot dogs, beans and roasted meats, or use as a secret ingredient in vegetable soup, baked beans and hamburgers. Yum!

2 qt (8 full cups) cabbage (about 2 medium heads)
1-1/2 c sweet onion
1/2 c red bell pepper
2 T kosher salt
2 c white vinegar
1-1/2 c white sugar
2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp celery seed
2 tsp mustard seed

Shred cabbage using a box grater. Chop onion fine, and bell pepper more coarsely. Combine all veggies and sprinkle evenly with salt. Do not stir.

Let stand 4-6 hours in fridge. Drain well.

Combine spices, sugar and vinegar in a large stock pot. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain veggies and stir to blend the salt. Add salted, drained veggies to pot’ toss well to combine veggies and liquid. Bring back to a simmer and time it — simmer another 10 minutes. Bring mixture to a boil and cook for 5 more minutes, tossing regularly to keep mixture blended. The veggies will begin to reduce in volume and become golden colored.

While cabbage mixture is cooking, sterilize 5 to 6 pint canning jars in boiling water. Wash new jar lids and rings in hot soapy water and place in a pot of warm water (not boiling).

Remove sterile hot jars from water and shake to remove water from inside the jars. Pack the still-boiling cabbage mixture into the hot jars, using canning stick to remove air bubbles in the jar. Fill each jar to 1/8-inch below jar lip. Place canning lids and rings on jars, and tighten. Turn jars upside down while hot to ensure heat seal.

Process filled and sealed jars for 10 minutes in a hot water bath (cover the jars by an inch of water that is hot but not simmering or boiling). Remove jars to a level surface and allow to cool. The jars will pop as lids seal. Chow-chow is edible as soon as jars cool.

VARIATION: For Spanish Piccalilli (Royal Chowchow), substitute 1 cup of cauliflower and chopped green tomato for equal cups of cabbage. Increase salt from 2 tablespoons to three tablespoons.


Christmasrelish-DSCN1122-2GRANDMOTHER RUBY’S “CHRISTMAS” RELISH

Grandmother called this Christmas relish because it combines red and green peppers. I call it instant heat in a jar. She used it as a cooking ingredient for her pots of beans and cheese logs, and also as a condiment for bricks of cream cheese.

5 red bell peppers
5 green bell peppers
5 medium white onions
4 hot Tabasco peppers, seeded
1 qt. white vinegar
2 lb white granulated sugar
3 T salt

Wash all peppers and remove seeds. Peel onions and wash. Fine-chop all peppers and onions. Put in colander. Pour boiling water over them, and let drain for 10 minutes. Measure salt, sugar and vinegar into a large stock pot. Place over medium heat for about 5 minutes to dissolve. Add pepper mixture and cook until light in color, 30 or 35 minutes.

While mixture is cooking, prepare 12 to 16 8-ounce canning jars by boiling in hot water. Prepare the lids by washing with soapy hot water and placing in hot water (not simmering or boiling).

Fill each hot sterile jar to 1/8-inch below lip of jar. Place lid on top and screw band to close. Do not over-tighten the bands. Process for 5 minutes covered by an inch of water in a hot water bath. Allow to cool until lids “pop” to seal. Refrigerate any jars that fail to seal (center will become depressed when sealed).


greentomatorelish-DSCN1074GREEN TOMATO RELISH

This recipe is similar to the chowchow recipes, but focuses totally on the tomatoes and peppers. It’s delicious on hot dogs and hamburgers, or served as a condiment with roasted meat.

12 large green tomatoes (about 8 c), chopped (with skin)
4 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped fine
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped fine
1 T + 2 tsp yellow mustard seed
1 T celery seed
2 c apple cider vinegar
2 c white granulated sugar
1 T + 2 tsp kosher salt

Combine chopped veggies in a large stock pot. Add the seeds, vinegar, salt and sugar and stir to mix. Bring mixture to a boil on medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for about two hours, until mixture cooks down. Skim any foam if necessary; stir from time to time to prevent sticking.

While tomatoes are cooking, prepare canning jars and lids. sterilize 4 or 5 pint-size canning jars in boiling water. Wash new jar lids and rings in hot soapy water and place in a pot of warm water (not boiling).

Remove sterile hot jars from water and shake to remove water from inside the jars. Pack the hot tomato mixture into the hot jars, using canning stick to remove air bubbles in jar. Fill each jar to 1/8-inch below jar lip. Place canning lids and rings on jars, and tighten. Turn jars upside down while hot to ensure heat seal.

Process filled and sealed jars for 10 minutes in a hot water bath (cover the jars by an inch of water that is hot but not simmering or boiling). Remove jars to a level surface and allow to cool. The jars will pop as lids seal. Chow-chow is edible as soon as jars cool.


Laurie Triplette is a writer, historian and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Association of Food Journalists, Southern Foodways Alliance and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. Check out the GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’ website and follow Laurie’s food adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

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