Friday, May 03, 2013

Pickles, Chutneys, & Chow-Chows.

Pickles can be confusing, I think. For starters, there is Pickled Pork, which is actually salted pork, and must, absolutely must be eaten with pease pudding, if you want to do it right. Then there are Pickled Onions, which are nothing other than onions in vinegar (malt vinegar, of course, but some recipes – or abominations – use something called ‘white vinegar’ Ugh!) Some pickles on the other hand are really chutneys, which as everybody knows are a sort of jammy, sweet-sour fruit relish to have with cheese (Branston Pickle, please) or as a side to a nice curry. Yesterday’s recipe for Dill Pickles which came from an article in 1914 in The Leader threw another complication into the mix. The article was entitled Pickles and Chow-Chows. I don’t know about you, but I am certainly uncertain about the exact nature of a ‘chow-chow.’ The article did not help as it did not give a recipe for anything called by that name.

Naturally, I went to the Oxford English Dictionary for clarification:

Pickle, in a culinary context, can refer to:

Originally: a spicy sauce served with meat (obs.). Later: a salt or acid liquid (usually brine or vinegar, freq. seasoned or spiced) in which food, esp. vegetables or fruit, is preserved; (occas.) any liquid used to preserve something

A whole vegetable, or a piece of one, that has been preserved in vinegar, brine, etc. In later use usu. spec.: (chiefly N. Amer.) a pickled cucumber or gherkin.

A preparation of fruit or vegetables, freq. of a specified type, preserved in vinegar, brine, etc., esp. for use as a relish.

A single grain or kernel of wheat, barley, or oats. [and not forgetting, although the OED appears to have done, a grain of salt, hence ‘pickles’ meat.]

Chutney is:

A strong hot relish or condiment compounded of ripe fruits, acids, or sour herbs, and flavoured with chillies, spices, etc.

Chow-Chow is:

A mixture or medley of any sort; e.g. mixed pickles or preserves. Also, food of any kind.  India and China.

The article in the Leader included the following two recipes. I have no idea whence the name of the first, but perhaps one of you hailing from Philly can suggest or guess at an explanation. The second is the sort of pickle you have when you really want a ‘keeping’ salad, I think.

Philadelphia Pickle.
Six red peppers, six green peppers, three heads of celery, two pints of chopped onions, one small cabbage, half a peck of green tomatoes, half a peck of ripe tomatoes, one cupful of salt, three quarts of vinegar, two cupfuls of brown sugar, one tablespoonful of mustard seeds, one tablespoonful of celery seeds, one tablespoonful of black pepper, one teaspoonful of powdered cloves, one teaspoonful of powdered cinnammon, and half a cupful of grated horse radish. Chop the tomatoes, cabbage, onions, peppers and celery, and mix them with the salt. Let stand overnight, drain well and add the spices, vinegar, sugar and horseradish. Turn into a large kettle, and boil for ten minutes. Seal in glass jars.

Olive Oil Pickles.
Wash, scald, and slice 100 small cucumbers; peel and slice three pints of silver-skinned onions, and seed and slice two green bell peppers. Sprinkle them with salt in layers and let stand for 24 hours. Drain, and cover with cider vinegar, and let stand for six hours. Mix four tablespoonfuls of mustard with four tablespoonfuls of mustard seeds, one tablespoonful of celery seeds, one teaspoonful of black pepper and three-quarters of a teaspoonful of pulverised alum. Mix this thoroughly with the drained cucumbers and onions, then add two cupfuls of olive oil and four cupfuls of cider vinegar. These pickles will be ready for use in 48 hours, and they will keep in glass jars without sealing.


Anonymous said...

I've never heard of Philadephia Pickles but this is a try for sure! Love the idea of it. Thanks, Janet.

Dan said...

Thanks for another quite interesting post. Your research is certainly appreciated.

I too do not know the origins of chow-chow, except that I have only seen it, or heard of it, in southern Mississippi and Louisiana in the USA.

An uncle made similar, but called it "pepper relish."

Anonymous said...

Where does the medieval compost fit into this?

The Old Foodie said...

HI All. I guess what often happens is that someone makes a well-known dish, and then for reasons of their own, re-names it.
Sandra: good question. Perhaps the amount of sugar?

Ferdzy said...

Here in Canada chow-chow is usually pretty consistant: it's a chopped relish made with green tomatoes(such is the Canadian climate that anyone who grows tomatoes will have an elegant sufficiency of green ones at the end of the season, and the season ends with with a bang, not a whimper), onions, peppers and celery, in a sweet brine with mustard and turmeric.

The Old Foodie said...

Sounds delicious, Ferdzy!

Lapinbizarre said...

There is a superb "pimento chutney" in Elizabeth David's "Spices, salt and aromatics" (pp 237-8), which I make often. The base recipe, slightly improbably, is from Escoffier's "Ma cuisine" and it was reworked by Mrs David in Alexandria, during WWII. Not a pedigree to sniff at. Cannot recommend it, provided that it is made with good-quality ingredients, highly enough.

The Old Foodie said...

Sounds fantastic, Lapinbizarre. I am definitely going to try it.

Lapinbizarre said...

I gave a jar to a friend who had grown up in, and was not far removed from, rural South Carolina. Her comment? "That stuff's so good I'd lick it off a wet dog."

The Old Foodie said...

Belatedly - thanks Lb, you gave me the laugh of the day. I am going to keep that phrase and use it!