Picalilli from Grandma’s Garden

Way back at the end of 2015, I made some picalilli.  Somehow in the rush of Thanksgiving and Christmas that year, I did not share the recipe with you.  I apologize.  Of all the things that Grandma Vera Anderson preserved, I most yearn to have the recipe for picalilli. Alas, she probably just threw together whatever vegetables, in whatever amount she harvested, and no recipe remains.

And what is picalilli? It’s origin seems to be India via England. The inclusion of turmeric provides a big clue to Indian origina, as turmeric is a must in Indian cooking.  I have included some links to more information down below, including the puzzle of  the difference between picalilli and chow-chow.

Although I do not have Grandma’s recipe for picalilli, I think I came up with a pretty fair approximation, after scouring old cookbooks and the Internet. Just keep in mind, this is a pickle made at the end of the growing season, so she might well have included other “leftovers” from her garden.

Picallili vegetables

Chopped vegetables for picallili. Cabbage, bell peppers, green tomatoes.

Cabbage,green tomatoes, red bell peppers, green bell peppers ( which Grandma called “mangoes” in a 1943 letter), sugar and spices. Recipes call for onions, which I can’t eat. I thought the picalilli was fine without them, but feel free to add them if that is important to you.

This recipe comes from the Ball canning site.  I highly recommend this site if you are a novice at preserving and canning, as I am.  The Ball people have been providing the jars and lids and advice for generations, so you can find answers to your questions about what to do if you don’t have a canning kettle, how long you can keep things preserved for refrigerator rather than canned under pressure, and how to prepare your jars and lids.

A note on Ball canning jars.  Mason jars, invented in 1858 by John Mason, are the style of jar that Ball manufactured in Buffalo, New York, starting in 1884. Do you own some old Ball jars? Learn all about dating Ball jars at this website.

I deviated from the recipe by leaving out the onions, substituting ground giner for grated ginger root, and and I did not boil the filled cans for long shelf storage.  Instead, I sterilized the jars and kept the product in the refrigerator for not over two months.

If you do not have half pint glass canning jars, you will need six or seven of them.  Do not reuse the two-part canning lids.  You can find the lids and jars in most grocery stores, and in Walmart.

Another thing you may not have on hand is cheesecloth–needed to make a spice bag. That also should be available at your grocery store.

Picallili spice bag

Picallili spice bag

Pickling spices are available in the spice section of your grocery store. (That’s the pickling spices in the blue-lidded container.  The other round beads are the mustard seed. If you’re lucky, you’ll have access to a store that sells spices and herbs from bins, so you can get the small amount you need–only 1/4 cup.

Picallili spices

Dried spices for picallili

Everything else in the recipe should be easy to find.

Picallilli seasonings

Picallilli seasonings

Everyone who tried the picalilli on my Thanksgiving table–even the picky eaters–loved it.

By the way, Grandma also made something she called chow-chow, and I have no idea what was in it or how it was different.  I vaguely relate it to pickled corn, but I am not sure about that. Anyhow, here is more information about the varous pickles and chow-chow. Notice how close the Philadelphia Pickle is to my recollection of Grandma’s Picalilli. And a second article from the same site, has several Chow Chow recipes that sound suspiciously like Picalilli.

Picallili

Prep time 13 hours
Cook time 1 hour, 25 minutes
Total time 14 hours, 25 minutes
Dietary Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Misc Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
Website Ball Preserving
The origins of picalilli are mysterious, but Grandma Vera Anderson made it from the last of the vegetables in her garden.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups cabbage (finely chopped (About 1 1/2 medium heads))
  • 4 cups green tomatoes (unpeeled, cored and chopped (about 8 medium))
  • 1 1/2 cup onion (chopped (about 2 medium))
  • 1 cup red bell pepper (stem and seeds removed (1 large))
  • 1 cup green bell pepper (stem and seeds removed (1 large))
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 1/4 cup pickling spice
  • 4 tablespoons ginger root (coarsely chopped (or 1/2 tsp. ground ginger))
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 1 3/4 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric

Directions

1. Combine cabbage, green tomatoes, onions (opt.), red and green peppers and salt in large glass or stainless steel bowl. Cover (a towel is fine) and let stand in a cool place for twelve hours or overnight.
2. When the mixture has sat for twelve hours, transfer to a colander in the sink and drain. Rinse with cool water and drain thoroughly. Using your hands, squeeze out excess liquid. Set aside.
3. Heat jars in simmering water (not boiling), or in 250 degree oven until ready for use. Wash lids in warm sopay water and set lids and bands aside. (Or run through dishwasher with heated dry cycle.)
4. Prepare a spice bag by putting pickling spices, mustard seed and ginger in a square of cheesecloth. Tie two opposite corners tightly, then gather up and tie the other two opposite corners ro make the spice bag.
5. In a large stainless steel pot, combine the vegetable mixture with the vinegar, water, sugar, turmeric and the spice bag. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Uncover and boil for 5 minutes, stirring frquently. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently for one hour, until thickened to the consistency of a thin commercial relish--about 20 minutes.
6. Discard spice bag.
7. Ladle hot relish into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot relish. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is "fingertip tight." (In other words as tight as you can fasten with just your fingers).
8. If you are preserving the picallili for long-term shelf storage, process jars in boiling water to cover for ten minutes. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.
9. If you are storing in the refrigerator rather than processing for shelf storage, let the jars cool for one hour, then store in refrigerator.

Note

Onions are optional. In fact all the vegetables are interchangeable in picalilli.  Tumeric gives the pickle a distinctive yellow hue, and a hint at its Indian origins.

Have you eaten or made picalilli or chow-chow?  What were the ingredients? I’d love to know if they differ in various parts of the country.

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