Cooking Made Difficult: Trying to Make Easy Chow Chow with Internet Recipes

Ask twenty people how to make something and you’ll get twenty different sets of instructions. This is not a big deal as long as there’s some general consensus on the important details. But what do you do when you’re making a recipe for the first time and the recipes vary wildly ?

This day would have made a funny video, but a story will have to do.

Btw, this post was started back in November and finished on 2/12/2022. Haha!

It all started with Antone’s Po’ Boy sandwiches. My husband and I both grew up in Houston, Texas, where we traveled the same roads and had many of the same experiences, but we didn’t meet until we were in our twenties. We didn’t live very far from each other, which meant that we grew up eating at a lot of the same restaurants, including Antone’s.

We both have happy food memories of these sandwiches. We rarely go to that part of Houston anymore, but they sell them now in the deli section at a local grocery store, so I buy them occasionally as a treat.

What makes them special, besides the bread, is the relish that they put on them. It’s like pickle relish, but it’s made from cabbage. It’s called Chow Chow. Well, being the DIYers that we are, we figured we could make some chow chow. Turns out it’s like many other foods in that there are a million different ways to make it!

You really can find ANYTHING on Youtube! (That’s not my husband.)

But when it comes to DIY projects, we are often like naive children who don’t realize that driving a car is more than just playing with a steering wheel.

There is a recipe online for this specific chow chow, but only subscribers to the Houston newspaper can read it. I figured I could find a good recipe pretty easily.

A couple weeks went by and I purchased some chow chow at the store (not Antones brand), which the boys and hubby ate up. I also did a little quick research and watched one video. It appeared that this was going to be an easy process.

Just buy some coleslaw, slice up some peppers and onion, mix with vinegar, sugar and spices.

The devil is in the details!

I bought a bag of coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrots) and decided that yesterday was the day I would make the chow chow. Having only a vague idea of what to do, I grabbed my phone to get a recipe that would tell me more specific instructions.

Uh-oh. The first recipe mentioned that I needed to use a water bath canning method. That’s not what I wanted. I kept looking. Each one was different, but all said to use canning. I changed my search terms. Still not finding that quick and easy recipe.

I started getting nervous. Maybe I will have to learn how to do canning? Finally I found a recipe that looked good. But my habit is to try to find at least TWO recipes with similar instructions. I kept looking. I could not find another one like that. Ugh. Maybe it’s a bad recipe if there is only one like that?

I had already sliced and diced the peppers and onion while I was watching a Youtube video of an entertaining chef who had a very elaborate chow chow method. So I was somewhat committed to the plan, even though I was having second thoughts by this time. He was using the canning method, so I left him behind.

Since we are pretty new to pickling things, I hadn’t expected the time-consuming step of sprinkling the veggies with salt and letting it sit to draw out the water from the veggies. The Youtube chef said he let his sit for 4-5 hours, but most recipes said overnight. At first I thought I would wait 4 hours, but eventually I gave in and decided to do it overnight.

In the meantime, I kept searching for a recipe similar to refrigerator pickles. These are pickles that you do not have use a water bath to can them. All you do is basically soak them in a vinegar, sugar mix. You have to consume them within a short time.

My mind was fairly scattered yesterday, so I also decided to bake cookies during my chow chow making attempt. I baked a couple dozen gluten free chocolate cookies from my favorite Pillsbury mix.

While the cookies were baking, I started looking through my cabinet full of cookbooks and my drawer full of recipes I’ve printed off the internet to see if I had any canning information. I didn’t find the food preserving booklet that I was looking for, but I did find the refrigerator pickle recipe!

The pickle recipe was from Martha Stewart’s website. I decided to check and see if she had an easy chow chow recipe. Guess what? She did! But, just like her pickle recipe, the instructions were very scanty. I still didn’t feel confident. But by this point, I was tired of looking, so I kept it as a possibility.

The other thought bouncing around my head was to just go buy some canning supplies and learn how to do the water bath method. Why was I avoiding canning? Because I’ve never done it and it seems so complicated and time consuming! I also spent a good 30 minutes reading canning article and watching videos. Those gave me conflicting instructions as well!

So the next day, today, I got up early determined to finish this project.

Fast forward to the present because I did not finish writing this post when I made the chow chow.

Long story short, the chow chow tasted like cole slaw according to my husband. It was a flop! But I did go buy some canning supplies that are now sitting on my floor almost 3 months later. Haha!


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