While not exclusively a redneck food, chow-chow (the relish, not the dog), is certainly championed most by the rural folk of America, and with no uncertainty, is one of the sustainable marvels of our day. Seriously.
For you see, chow-chow is indeed the kitchen sink of canning. For my rural-impaired readers I will need to pause here for some clarification. Let’s start with canning.
Canning, for you urban folk, refers to the practice of preserving freshly grown fruits and vegetables in glass jars for use throughout the year. It is in and of itself a very sustainable practice due to its reliance on local produce rather than off-season stuff shipped from Timbuktu via carbon-emitting yack. And don’t think for a second that the “vine-ripened” tomatoes you find in January are anything of the sort, unless you live in California or think ripe means something like “edible enough to withstand commercial harvesting, processing, shipping and retail sale over the next week).
Now for chow-chow (according to the all-reliable wikipedia): a Nova Scotian and American Pickled relish made from a combination of vegetables. Basically, chow-chow is the leftovers from your garden, and how can you get any more sustainable than that?
Chow-chow is not only canned vegetables relied on over winter to avoid rickets and stave off climate change, but it can even be made from such garden waste crops as cabbage, chayote, tomatoes, carrots, onions, beans, asparagus, corn, cucumbers, celery, cauliflower and peas (and who doesn’t end up with way-the-crap-too-much cucumbers? And I don’t even know what chayote is.)
Rednecks, those hard-working rural American folk, have long known about this secret catch-all of the canning world, just as bachelors have long known about corn-spaghetti-manwich soup. And now the rest of you do too.
Even if you don’t plan on ceasing your crapping on the planet by making strawberry shortcake in February (coffee, tea and chocolate are O.K. ’cause how the hell else are you going to get them?), and you certainly don’t care about planting a garden or feeding your family by the sweat of your brow all year long, you can at least support your local chow-chow industry by picking up a sanitarily sealed jar of pickled-crap-vegetables lovingly made in a residential kitchen near you.
If you are a fan of chow-chow and have a favorite recipe, please share it with the rest of us!