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How to make Southern chow-chow - made easy, and illustrated!

Making Homemade Southern Chow-Chow
(also called Piccalilli)

Click here for a PDF print version

Making and canning your own Southern chow-chow is one of the easiest things you can do with your extra vegetables! Here's how to do it, in easy steps and completely illustrated.  This method is so easy, ANYONE can do this!  It's a great thing to do with your kids!

Note: More photos are coming


Yield: About 9 half-pints (8 oz each)

  • 8 to 10 large green tomatoes to make 6 cups chopped green tomatoes
  • 4 or 5 sweet red peppers (you can also use yellow and orange peppers for added color) to make 1-1/2 cups chopped.
  • 3 large green bell peppers to make 1-1/2 cups chopped
  • About 3 lbs of sweet onions to make 2-1/4 cups of chopped onions
  • 1 large head or 2 medium heads of cabbage to make 7-1/2 cups of chopped cabbage
  • 1/2 cup canning or pickling salt (most Grocery stores, like Publix, Kroger and Safeway and local "big box" stores carry this)
  • 3 tbsp whole mixed pickling spice (most Grocery stores, like Publix, Kroger and Safeway and local "big box" stores carry this, ask for "pickling spice")
  • 4-1/2 cups white vinegar (5%); apple cider vinegar also works well.  Store brand is about $1.25 for a 64 oz bottle.
  • 3 cups brown sugar (if you are on a sugar restricted diet, substitute Stevia (in a prepared form like Truvia, it measures same as sugar; if you use another form, you will need do your own conversion) - or Splenda, if you prefer, )


  • Jar grabber (to pick up the hot jars) 
  • Lid lifter (I like the lid rack that holds 12 lids or you can pull them out one at a time with the lid-lifter that has a magnet from the almost-boiling water where you sanitize them. ($4 at Target, other big box stores, and often grocery stores; and available online - see this page)
  • Jar funnel ($5 at Target, other big box stores, and often grocery stores; and available online - see this page)
  • 1 large pots; Nonstick ceramic coated pots for easy cleanup (metal often reacts with the vinegar).
  • Large spoons and ladles,
  • 1 water bath canner (a huge pot to sanitize the jars after filling (about $30 to $35 at mall kitchen stores, sometimes at big box stores and grocery stores.).  Note: we sell many sizes and types of canners for all types of stoves and needs - see canning supplies
  • Half pint canning jars or pint canning jars (Ball or Kerr jars can be found at grocery stores, like Safeway, Publix, Kroger, grocery stores, even online - about $13 per dozen 8-ounce jars, more for quilted design or larger jars, including the lids and rings).   
  • Lids - thin, flat, round metal lids with a gum binder that seals them against the top of the jar.  They may only be used once.
  • Rings - metal bands that secure the lids to the jars.  They may be reused many times.

Directions - How to Make Southern Chow-Chow, also called Piccalilli


Note the 12 hour soaking: you can either start in the morning and finish in the evening, or start at night and complete it the next morning.

Step 1 - Select and wash the vegetables

Choose fresh, firm vegetables without soft spots or blemishes. Wash the veggies under cool water and drain.

Step 2 - chop the veggies

You will need to make:

  • 6 cups chopped green tomatoes
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped sweet red peppers (you can also use yellow and orange peppers for added color)
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped green peppers
  • 2-1/4 cups chopped onions
  • 7-1/2 cups chopped cabbage

You can chop the vegetables as fine or as coarse as you like - I like 1/8 inch to 1/4-inches pieces, which my food processor does very well!

Step 3 - Mix the vegetables with the salt

Mix the vegetables in a large pot with 1/2 cup of canning or pickling salt, then pour enough hot (from the facet or tap hot, not boiling) to cover the vegetables.  Now, let it stand 12 hours (countertop, out of direct sunshine is fine).

DAY 2 (well, 12 hours later)

Step 4 - Get the jars and lids sanitizing

Sanitizing canning jars in the dishwasherThe dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a "sanitize" cycle.  I get that going while I'm preparing everything else, so it's done by the time I'm ready to fill the jars.  If you don't have a dishwasher, submerge the jars in a large pot (the canner itself) of water and bring it to a boil.Sterilizing jars

Be sure to let it go through the rinse cycle to get rid of any soap!

Get the canner heating up

Fill the canner about 1/2 full of water and start it heating (with the lid on).


Start the water for the lids

Warming lids in steaming hot waterPut the lids into a pan of hot, but not quite boiling water for at least several minutes.  Note: everything gets sanitized in the water bath (step 7) anyway, so this just helps to ensure there is no spoilage later!)

Canning jars
Ball canning lids Ball wide mouth canning lidsNeed lids, rings and replacement jars? 

Get them all here, delivered direct to your home,  at the best prices on the internet! 

Step 5 -Drain and dry the vegetables!

Drain and press the vegetables in a clean white cloth (cheesecloth, a clean pillow case even works, paper towels will do) to remove all possible liquid..

Step 6 - Add spices (in a bag), sugar and vinegar

Tie the 3 tablespoons of whole mixed pickling spice loosely in a spice bag and add it to a large pot with the:

  • 4-1/2 cups white vinegar (5%); apple cider vinegar also works well. 
  • 3 cups brown sugar (if you are on a sugar restricted diet, substitute Stevia (in a prepared form like Truvia, it measures same as sugar; if you use another form, you will need do your own conversion) - or Splenda, if you prefer, )

If you don't have cheesecloth or a spice bag, a piece of thin clean cotton, like an old tie shirt, works fine.

Here's a great trick for the spices: get a baby food holder like this one, available at Target and any baby supplies store.  It is made of plastic, and can hold the spices for easy removal later.  It's reusable and has no metal, so it won't react with the vinegar!


Step 7 - Heat to a boil in a sauce pan.

Just heat the mix from step 6 to a boil in a sauce pan.  Add the vegetables the liquid and return to a boil.

Step 8 - Remove the spice bag and fill your jars

Remove spice bag. Fill hot sterile jars with the hot mixture, to within 1/4 to 1/2 inch of the top, seat the lid and hand-tighten the ring around them.  (Note: larger jars are not recommended.)

Step 9 - Boil the jars in the canner

Put them in the canner and keep them covered with at least 1 inch of water. Keep the water boiling. Boil them for 5 minutes (or as directed by the instructions in the pickle mix, or with your canner).  Remember to adjust for altitudes and larger jars! 


Recommended process time for pint or half-pint jars of
Southern Chow-Chow in a boiling-water canner

Process Time at Altitudes of
0 - 1,000 ft 1,001 - 6,000 ft Above 6,000 ft
5 min 10 min 15 min


Step 10 - Done

Lift the jars out of the water and let them cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight)  You can then remove the rings if you like, but if you leave them on, at least loosen them quite a bit, so they don't rust in place due to trapped moisture. Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it. Some people replace the lid and reprocess the jar, then that's a bit iffy. If you heat the contents back up, re-jar them (with a new lid) and the full time in the canner, it's usually ok.

When can you start eating the relish?  As son as the jars cool! 

How long will they keep in cool, dark storage?  Usually 12 to 18 months!

For safety, this recipe is closely follows the recipe on page 6-13 of the USDA's Guide, "Complete Guide to Home Canning".


Other Equipment:

From left to right:

  1. Jar lifting tongs 
            to pick up hot jars
  2. Lid lifter
            - to remove lids from the pot 
            of boiling water (sterilizing )
  3. Lids
           - disposable - you may only 
           use them once
  4. Ring 
          - holds the lids on the jar until after
          the jars cool - then you remove them, save them and reuse them
  5. Canning Jar funnel
          - to fill the jars


Canning tool kit

Summary - Cost of Making Homemade chow-chow - makes 8 pint jars, 16 oz each*

Item Quantity Cost in 2024 Source Subtotal
Vegetables see ingredients free from the garden, or $3.00 cents at a PYO Pick your own $5.00
Canning jars (pint size, wide mouth), includes lids and rings 12 jars $8.00/dozen Grocery stores (Publix, Kroger, Safeway, etc.) and online here $5.35
Vinegar 6 cups $1.20  Safeway,
Publix, Kroger, grocery stores
Spices 4 teaspoons each $3.00 per package Grocery stores (Publix, Kroger, Safeway, etc.) $3.00
Onion 2 $0.50 each Safeway,
Publix, Kroger, grocery stores
Pickling Salt 3/4 cup $3.00 per 3 cup box Safeway,
Publix, Kroger, grocery stores
Total $16.35 total
 or about  $2 per jar INCLUDING the jars - which you can reuse!

* - This assumes you already have the pots, pans, ladles,, and reusable equipment. Note that you can reuse the jars!  Many products are sold in jars that will take the lids and rings for canning.  For example, Classico Spaghetti sauce is in quart sized jars that work with Ball and Kerr lids and rings. See this page for information about reusing jars from commercial products for home canning.

How to make other pickles -  recipes and instructions:

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This is the same type of standard canner that my grandmother used to make everything from applesauce to jams and jellies to tomato and spaghetti sauce. This complete kit includes everything you need and lasts for years: the canner, jar rack, jar grabber tongs, lid lifting wand, a plastic funnel, labels, bubble freer. It's much cheaper than buying the items separately. You'll never need anything else except jars & lids (and the jars are reusable)! There is also a simple kit with just the canner and rack, and a pressure canner, if you want to do vegetables (other than tomatoes). To see more canners, of different styles, makes and prices, click here!
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