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Tastebud: Chowchow Down

JBF Editors

JBF Editors

April 07, 2010


A pickled, relish-like spread that’s served cold, chowchow is popular in Pennsylvania, Appalachia, the American Southwest, and the South—and with gardeners who have leftover vegetables from summer’s harvest on their hands. The indiscriminate condiment employs almost anything from the ground, from tomatoes and onions to peas and cabbage, and is slathered on biscuits, beans, and burgers or eaten alone. Whatever its contents and purposes, chowchow is almost always flavored with mustard seed and vinegar. The origins of chowchow are disputed: some argue that chou, the French word for cabbage, is the root of the American name. (Other historians trace chowchow to reported sightings of the chow chow breed of dog listed on 19th-century restaurant menus in China; word got back to America, and when China began shipping pickles to the West Coast, the name stuck.) Thankfully, associations of canine consumption didn’t, or else we wouldn’t have the stomach for the chowchow creations at the Beard House this spring. Brian Landry of Galatoire’s in New Orleans has served pork belly cut with green tomato chowchow, while Low Country chef Nathan Thurston will make chowchow from the first ramps of spring.