Food & Drink

Green Tomato Chowchow

Savannah chef Mashama Bailey’s pickled chowchow celebrates the earthy pucker of fresh green tomatoes

Photo: Johnny Autry

Though born in New York, chef Mashama Bailey spent a large chunk of her childhood in Georgia and credits her love of canning to her Southern roots. “My great-grandmother was constantly putting something up,” she says. “I remember that she smelled like sugar and there were always mason jars around.” So when it came time to develop a green tomato dish for her new restaurant, the Grey, in Savannah, Bailey eschewed the traditional fried preparation in favor of chowchow, a pickled vegetable relish, built from a base of fresh, firm green tomatoes. After testing several recipes, she settled on a version mixed with serrano peppers (a nod to Savannah’s early Spanish settlers) and spiced with the warmth of mace or nutmeg, which, she says, “blends really well with the earthiness of the tomatoes.” At the Grey, Bailey serves it atop juicy pan-roasted chicken, but the chowchow is the undisputed star. “Some of the flavors play on the chicken and the pan juice,” she says, “but really, it’s all about highlighting the green tomato.”


    • 6 green tomatoes, cored and diced

    • 1 or 2 serrano peppers, seeded and diced

    • 1 large yellow onion, diced

    • 1 1/2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced

    • 1/2 bunch celery, diced

    • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

    • 1/2 tsp. salt

    • 1 tbsp. mustard seed

    • 1/2 tbsp. fennel seed

    • 1/2 tsp. turmeric

    • 1/2 tbsp. blades of mace (can substitute 1 scant tsp. nutmeg)

    • 1/2 tbsp. whole black peppercorns

    • 1 cup apple cider vinegar

    • 2 cups sugar


  1. Place diced vegetables in a large bowl and season with salt, tossing to combine. Cover and let sit at room temperature overnight.

  2. Set a colander into a large bowl and strain vegetables, reserving the liquid.

  3. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium and toast mustard seed, fennel seed, turmeric, mace blades (or nutmeg), and black peppercorns for 2–3 minutes or until fragrant, tossing frequently.

  4. In a medium saucepan, bring vinegar and 2 cups of reserved vegetable liquid to a boil. Add sugar, stirring to dissolve, and toasted spices. Reduce heat to medium-low and reduce liquid slightly, about 4–5 minutes. Pour hot liquid over diced vegetables.

  5. Let cool to room temperature, place in an airtight container, and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Or, to preserve, ladle mixture into sterilized jars kept warm in hot water and preserve according to standard water-bath technique. For more information about canning, see Ball’s

Recipe from Chef Mashama Bailey of the Grey in Savannah, Georgia.