Friday Photo: Grandma Grove’s award-winning chow-chow

Shippensburg Fair, July 2009
Shippensburg Fair, July 2009

Published Thursday, July 5, 2012.

“Hi, Grandma, it’s Sylvia. I was wondering — could I have your recipe for chow-chow?”

My cell phone crackled as my 91-year-old grandmother hesitated. “My what?”

“Your chow-chow,” I said. Her first-prize winning, pickled-vegetable blend that is always served at Christmas lunches — I wanted to know how to make it.

“My sauerkraut?” she asked.

“No,” I said patiently. Good hearing has never been my grandmother’s strong point. “Your chow-chow.”

Grandma audibly brightened. “Ohhh,” she said. “The sauerkraut.”

“No!” I nearly shouted. “The chow-chow! The one with the pickled carrots, and the cauliflower, the celery, and the red kidney beans — ”

“Ohhhhhhh.” Grandma let out a long sigh, like she was doing me a favor. “Sylvia, you’re talking about my chow-chow.”


I love pickled vegetables because they seal in summer freshness and tartness, but I have never understood the origin of chow-chow’s name. According to Wikipedia, chow-chow is a regionally-associated cold, pickled vegetable dish that is served in Nova Scotia, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, the South, and the Appalachian Mountains.  The article claims that Pennsylvania chow-chow is sweeter than other varieties, evidently drawing on our German-Amish tradition of the seven sweets and seven sours. But what is most fascinating to me is that one explanation for chow-chow’s name draws from its similarity to the word chou (pronounced “shoe”), the French word for cabbage, an ingredient found in many chow-chow varieties.

Okay, then — one mystery solved.

The mystery more difficult to solve is that of my grandmother.  Later, I called again to ask, “How many pints do you think this recipe makes?” and she answered with the non sequitur, “Double the kidney beans if you want,” but she is a mystery for another day.

My chow-chow, 2012
My chow-chow, 2012

5 thoughts on “Friday Photo: Grandma Grove’s award-winning chow-chow

  1. RogueAnthropologist July 5, 2012 — 7:10 pm

    Hmm perhaps I should learn to make chow chow. I confess that I did not actually know what it was until reading this. (I grew up in PA Dutch country but my parents did not, so not much of the associated foods crossed my plate.) I’m not a big fan of pickled cauliflower though…
    In Middle Eastern food the pickled vegetables are often pink and I always wondered what caused that.
    Also, have you ever tried pickled asparagus?

  2. paindecampagne July 6, 2012 — 1:51 pm

    Haha, I’ll have to share some with you. Hmm… are all pickled foods in the Middle East pink? I wonder. And I haven’t tried pickled asparagus, but I bet I’d like it 🙂

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