1st Prize, Indiana State Fair, 2013


Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance


Picnics and Family Reunions

Indiana State Fair

August 9, 2013


chow chow ball jar canning mason indiana state fair 2013

(Image by Peter Engler)



First Prize:

Ms. Myrl’s Chow-Chow

Michael Weaver, Morgantown, Indiana


The origination of Chow-Chow is somewhat vague. There are known Chow-Chow recipes dating back to 1770 in the recipe book of Harriet Pinckney Horry of South Carolina. According to the book Southern Food (1993) by John Egerton, Ann Bleidt Egerton and AI Clayton, “Chow-Chow may be derived from the Mandarin Chinese word “cha” meaning mixed and goes back to the 1840s and the coming of Chinese laborers to California”. The Chinese were known to regularly ship spices and pickles to the U.S. and England. Other sources indicate the name may be based on the French word chou for cabbage. Yet, still others believe its roots might be from India.


Most believe that relishes originated from the need to preserve vegetables for winter. More specifically, its origination may have stemmed from using the ep.d of season vegetables in the garden at the first frost. This notion is consistent ‘Yith the word “relish”, which first appeared in English in 1798 and comes from the word “reles” meaning “something remaining” in Old French. Regardless of when or where Chow¬Chow originated, one thing is for sure in that it has been enjoyed in the Southern U.S. for well over 200 years. Whatever the origin, what follows is the history of mine.


In high school, my eldest sister worked at a local root beer stand in our rural community, car-hopping for $.25 @ hour. Since the populace in our Morgan County farming town was around 900, securing a part-time job as a teenager was an accomplishment and prestigious. I was proud to boast that she worked at “The Barrel” and I showed up there whenever Mom would bestow the $.65 needed to procure me a foot-long hot-dog, “loaded”, an order of crinkle-cut French fries, and a root beer.


The senior employee there, well into her 70s, along with her husband, was a sheep farmer, and our neighbor down the road. She took a liking to me, probably because of my interest in the “restaurant operation” and took me under her wing. When I learned that she was a distant cousin in my Great-Grandmother’s lineage, the alliance was set for life.


A genuine friendship and bond grew between us with Myrl sharing many of her culinary talents with me, a “little pest” to my sisters, but to her, a protege of sorts. I was invited countless times to her farm where I learned the art of canning and even about those blue Ball jars with scary zinc lids


We placed crocks of sauerkraut and pickles in her smokehouse to “work”. I thought the process was from a foreign country, but I loved and trusted Myrl, so I accepted the technique.


Growing up during the depression, Myrllearned the importance of being frugal on the farm, especially in food preservation. After we’d spend the day putting up precision-cut green beans from her sizeable garden, the “nubs” and ends of the beans were set aside to be cooked and served at supper. Nothing from the garden was wasted. No doubt from this principle, her celebrated chow-chow was created


Our family canning mentor, and my dear friend, passed away over 20 years ago without bequeathing anyone her revered chocolate pie formula. However, many of her handed-down recipes are still winning awards. This is one of them.



First Prize:

Ms. Myrl’s Chow-Chow

Michael Weaver, Morgantown, Indiana


3 cups minced raw cabbage

3 cups raw cauliflower

2 cups diced tomatoes, peeled and seeded

1 green sweet bell pepper, minced

1 sweet onion, minced

1 red bell pepper, minced

1 orange bell pepper, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup vinegar

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon mustard seed

1 tablespoon turmeric

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon celery seed

1 teaspoon allspice



Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to simmer over medium heat. Cook for 15 minutes. Pour mixture into sterilized jars leaving 1/2-inch head space. Apply sterilized lids, adjust bands and process in boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes. Makes approximately 6 pints.


NOTE: Allow to cure in jars for at least 1 week for best flavor.


chow chow recipe vegetables