I have been craving some cha cha (as it is called in Texas), because I haven’t had any since I left there more than 20 years ago. Being raised in California, cha cha (or chow chow), was unknown to me. The spicy, tangy, sweetness of cabbage, green tomatoes, peppers, vinegar and spices combined together was something I’d never experienced. But I loved it. And we used to throw that stuff on everything!
Realizing that it is impossible to find cha-cha in California (land of bean spouts and wheat grass), I decided to try to make some myself.
Though I used to watch my grandmother put up peaches, apricots, pears, green beans and other veggies, I’ve never canned a thing in my life. But I watched a few You Tube videos about it, and determined it seemed simple enough if one followed sanitary and safe food handling procedures. Last night I decided to give it a try. This is what I came up with:
After tasting it, I decided that I should have used more spice. Added another jalapeno, or a habanero or something to make it hotter. But since not everyone likes their mouth to burst into flames, I must concede that it has a bit of a kick, a hint of sweetness, and the tartness of cha cha that I was looking for. Tonight I’m going to make some collard greens and top it with my cha cha, and imagine I’m back in Texas.
But I am going to make the collard greens.
I started with these ingredients (nothing was really measured):
- 1 large head cabbage
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 green bell pepper
- 1 large yellow onion
- 2 yellow peppers
- 2 jalapeno peppers
- 3 green tomatoes
- Maybe 1.25 to 1.50 cups Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar
- About 2 Tablespoons pickling spice
- About 1 cup of brown sugar (not packed though)
- Couples of sprinkles of turmeric
- Water (about 4 cups)
- 1/2 cup Kosher salt
The vegetables were chopped up and put into a plastic bowl, to which I added the salt and water (previously mixed together until salt dissolved). Sat that in the fridge for about 10 hours (I took a nap in there as well).
About 11:00 pm I woke from my nap, drained the vegetables in a strainer, then put them into a ceramic lined pot with the vinegar, sugar, and pickling spice. I suggest putting your spices in a tea ball or wrap it up in a bit of cheesecloth to avoid having to pick it out of the cha cha later. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, then simmer for about 10-12 minutes.
Using a canning funnel, put the mixture into your sterilized and still hot canning jars, filling to neck of jar with mixture. Remove air bubbles and pack down, adding a bit of liquid from the pot if desired. Wipe the rims of the jars if necessary, then add your lid and ring which should be in hot sterilized water. Make bands snug but not super tight.
When done filling jars, place them all into canning pot with hot water. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Let sit in pot until water cools somewhat (about 20 minutes), then remove jars and sit on clean kitchen towel to cool completely.
I filled 8 half-pint jars and 1 quart jar from this mixture.
Next time I make it I will change a few things because I prefer mine to be a bit spicier. But for a first attempt, it certainly wasn’t bad. Now that I have the hang of this canning thing, look out!