M: When I was growing up in the Midwest, piccalilli is what we called sweet pickle relish. When I moved South, I found that it referred to the type of relish we’re making here. That is, one made from primarily green tomatoes and peppers. So which is the real piccalilli? After a little research, It turns out the answer, as is so often true, depends on where you hang your hat.
Its origins seem to be British, where it has referred to a mélange of pickled vegetables, often including cauliflower and cucumbers. In the Midwest, it refers to the aforementioned diced gherkin relish. And here in the South it is pretty much what you see here, green tomatoes, peppers, sometimes cabbage.
So now that we’ve worked that out, I’m left with a new question. This is my first piccalilli. As I looked through the ingredients, I found this looks a whole lot like chow-chow to me (something I’ve been making for years). I usually use cabbage for my chow-chow, but green tomatoes are also common. What’s the difference? The author of this recipe says it’s that chow-chow doesn’t always use green tomatoes, but you know, if it does, it’s still chow-chow, right?
I’m a fan in any case. Distinctive and well-balanced, it enhances, but does not overpower whatever it accompanies. Carolina red dog, anyone? This is a very sweet relish, and I did cut back on the sweet a couple of different ways here, but that is very much a matter of taste. This is superb piccalilli. Or maybe chow-chow.
Addendum: I wrote this post last night. When I opened the newspaper this morning, what should I find but this featured article about, yes indeed, chow-chow. Ain’t that a thing. At least one person quoted in this article suggests the difference between piccalilli and chow-chow is in name only. Once again, it all depends on where you hang your hat.
Summary: This sweet relish of green tomatoes and peppers is a winning topper for hot dogs, hamburgers, black eyed peas or just about whatever suits you. Adapted from The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook
- 3 Lb Green Tomatoes, diced to 1/4″
- 1 Onion, diced to 1/4″
- 3 Green Bell Peppers, diced to 1/4″
- 3 Red Bell Peppers, diced to 1/4″
- 2 Yellow Bell Peppers, diced to 1/4″
- 3 c Apple Cider Vinegar (M: I used 2 c cider vinegar and 1 c white vinegar)
- 1 3/4 c Sugar (M: I cut back to 1 1/4 c)
- 2 T Salt
- 1 tsp Ground Allspice
- 2 Cinnamon Sticks
- 1 T Celery Seed
- 1/4 c Mustard Seed
- 2 Bay Leaves
- Combine tomatoes, onion and peppers in a large saucepan.
- Stir in 2 c cider vinegar and bring to boil for 30 minutes.
- Drain and discard liquid.
- Add remaining cup vinegar (white or cider), sugar, salt, allspice, cinnamon sticks, celery seed, mustard seed and bay leaves.
- Return to boil 3 minutes.
- Remove cinnamon sticks and bay leaves.
- Pack in pint jars and process in water bath 5 minutes to seal.