Please read the safety note at the end of this post before deciding to make this recipe.

Chow Chow (also known as picalilli) is a tart green relish common in Maritime Nova Scotia.  Recipes are shared within families but often guarded beyond that as each family protects it’s ‘secret formula.’


My family didn’t have a chow chow recipe; we were more about mustard pickles (which featured a somewhat dubious sugar-vinegar-tumeric-flour brine mixed with cucumbers, onions and cauliflower).  Mustard pickles are sweeter than chow chow but both are common in fish dinners, served atop fish cakes or with boiled salt potatoes.


All measurements below are after chopping.  Makes about 4 half-pints.

  • 3 cups medium green tomatoes (about 5 tomatoes) chopped coarse
  • 2 cups cabbage (slightly less than 1 medium savoy cabbage) chopped coarse
  • 1 cup sweet onion (about 1 medium sized onion) chopped fine.
  • 1 cups red or orange bell peppers chopped coarse (1-2 peppers)
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 0.5 cup light white or brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon  mustard seeds
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 0.5 teaspoon celery seed


  1. Mix all vegetables and salt together.  Cover loosley and sit in warm spot in your kitchen for 3-6 hours.  If you don’t know why we rest it, read this article – you’ll also see why I recommend making 3 salsa recipes at the same time!
  2. Prepare canner (large pot of water which will cover the jars by at least 1 inch), heat jar seals and sterilize jars (in boiling water for 10 minutes).
  3. Drain vegetables (discard liquid).
  4. Rinse vegetables very well.
  5. Add vinegar, brown sugar, seeds and spices to a boil – stir until the sugar is disolved.
  6. Add vegetables to brine, simmer for 10 minutes.
  7. Add veggies to jars, then add liquid while leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  You will likely have extra brine; which is better than running out.
  8. Wipe rims, apply seals and rings and place in waterbath and process (boil) for 10 minutes.
  9. Remove from waterbath, allow to cool for 24 hours and check lids for proper seal.


In 5 years of sharing recipes, I’ve avoided posting salsa recipes on WellPreserved.  The main reason is simple: salsa includes a lot of low-acid ingredients and requires a delicate balance to ensure safety.  As I’ve written before, I think there are many problems around food bloggers (like myself) claiming to be food safety experts.  I am not a food scientist and what I feel comfortable/ safe eating, may not be the same for you.  Today’s recipe was based on a source I chose to trust (About.com’s recipe for picalilli) though modified slightly based on my non-scientific experience.  At time of publishing, my personal source for tested tomato and salsa recipes is the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning Guide 3 Selecting, Preparing and Canning Tomatoes and Tomato Products.  We eat every recipe we post and share it with that in mind.

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