Chow-chow (also spelled chowchow or chow chow) is a North American pickled relish made from a combination of vegetables. Mainly green tomato, cabbage, chayote, red tomatoes, onions, carrots, beans, asparagus, cauliflower and peas are used. These ingredients are pickled in a canning jar. After preserving, chow-chow is served cold, most often as a condiment or relish.
Chow-chow has become regionally associated with the southern United States, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, the Appalachian Mountains, and the Maritime provinces of Canada. The recipes vary greatly; some varieties are sweeter than others. Pennsylvania chow-chow, known by the Wos-Wit brand, is generally much sweeter than the southern varieties.
Some[who?] believe that chow-chow found its way to the southern United States during the expulsion of the Acadian people from Nova Scotia and their settlement in Louisiana. It is eaten by itself or as a condiment on fish cakes, mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy, pinto beans, hot dogs, hamburgers and other foods. Others cite a connection to relish recipes of Chinese rail workers in the 1800s and Indian chutneys.
The origin of the term "chow-chow" is obscure. A possible source of the name is the ingredient chayote, which is itself known as chow chow in India. A very common Indian chutney (or thuvayal or thogayal) is made from chayote. The term "chow-chow" is sometimes used interchangeably with the term "piccalilli" (an English version of Indian-style pickles).
It has also been suggested that the name "chow-chow" is rooted in the French word chou for cabbage; however, despite the geographic affinities as well as a similarity in the written forms, food nomenclature is mostly transmitted orally: the fundamental difference in pronunciation makes this a weak theory. Food historian Luis W. Fernandez claims a connection with Chinese cuisine as an origin.
- The Mountain Laurel, "Southern Sweet Chow-Chow Relish"
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