Summer is in full force here by the Bay, as our blessed fog has finally rolled in. Time to preserve some of the harvest bounty. A couple of weeks ago, the San Francisco Chronicle ran an article on the resurgence of good local BBQ with a recipe for Chow Chow, a Southern condiment often served with grilled meats (and great with the grilled portobellas they feature with the recipe). I’d heard of Chow Chow from friends who grew up in the South, and recently sampled a great version at Southpaw BBQ in the Mission, alongside some of their supremely juicy brisket. Spicy and sour condiments are served with grilled meats in culinary traditions worldwide (think kimchee with Korean BBQ), and they can help you digest rich meats by augmenting stomach acid and providing antioxidants to help your body neutralize toxins formed by exposure to smoke.
Like many modern recipes for pickled things, this one called for both sugar and vinegar. This is a shortcut to the tart flavors of true fermentation, and I decided to try to make Chow Chow in what is undoubtedly the original style, relying on time, not vinegar for flavor. Scratch the surface of almost any condiment and you’ll find something that was originally fermented.
This traditional Southern condiment is great with grilled meats but can go alongside almost anything, and what a healthy boost of crucifers, spices, and in this version, probiotics, it is! I adapted this recipe from the SF Chronicle which adapted it from CatHead’s BBQ in San Francisco. Makes 1 quart.
1 ½ cups each thinly sliced red and green cabbage
1 cup bite-sized pieces of cauliflower
11/4 cup thinly sliced onion ½ cup thinly sliced red pepper
½ cup shredded carrots
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon dry mustard
¾ teaspoon mustard seed
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp freshly grated ginger
1 ½ tablespoons fine sea salt
Combine all the above ingredients in a large mixing bowl, and toss to combine. Massage with your hands until the vegetables begin to soften and exude their juices. Pack into a 1 qt Mason jar and press down the chow chow until liquid begins to rise above the level of the solids. Weight the vegetables down with a smaller jar of water or a bottle which fits inside the mouth of the jar, and cover the whole thing with a tea towel secured with a rubber band. Allow to ferment for several days to several weeks, making sure the fermenting veggies stay covered by liquid. Add brine if necessary to keep it submerged. When you like the level of sourness, serve and store remainder in the fridge, where it will keep for months.