October 5, 2007

Let's make Chow with Mulch Paul


Okay, As promised I would have my aunt's Chow Chow recipe online tonight. So let's get going.

Geraldine Paul is more well known as Mulch, she is my aunt from We'koqmaq First Nation, aka Whycocomagh, Waycobah, but no matter what you call our rez, its supposedly translates to the "Head of the Waters" of Oonamaki, the Land of the Mist and Fog, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. We live at the most beautiful place on earth, don't believe me, just come and visit, and explore scenic locations such as our homelands, the Cape Breton highlands, only an hour away are absolutely breath taking and of course our shorelines are stunning, the brad or lakes are a gem and who doesn't love the ocean? Anyone up to some whale watching or eagles soaring, or maybe witness a moose on the loose?

How about some Chow Chow preserves? That's on our agenda tonight. Earlier today I got a call from my aunt who told me she was in the process of making homemade preserves, Chow Chow and Cucumber relish so I went on over to her house with my camera in hand. I took photos step by step of what I thought would be an intimidating process. To my surprise my aunt made it look simply simple and relaxing. Nothing intimidating about it as a matter of fact.

Waste Not Want Not. Mulch had an extra supply of red tomatoes and she did not want them go to any waste so she added them to her Chow. So now we have a beautiful array of red and green tomatoes. My aunt mixed 16 cups of tomatoes for this recipe and cut up 5 Large Onions or in this case we substituted 10 smaller onions and mixed with a 1/4 cup of salt. Let sit overnight. Okay, that was the hardest part of the recipe. Unless you have food processor than this can prove to be the most daunting task.

My aunt says, this is a good time to shoot the breeze, a good ladies night. She and Annie K did this the night before and she tells me stories of when she used to preserve as a young girl. Preserving was much more common back then, In fact it used to be her homework assignment when she used to be a student of Mabou School. Students competed in homemade preserving in order to gain extra points she recalls. She would test every jar and students were tested on taste and how well the jelly was set. Lucky teacher.

Next Morning: There should be a lot of excess liquid now, so drain the Chow. Mulch squeezes the broth out of the Chow one hand full at a time. This did not too long, she put the drained chow into the pot she will be heating in only moments. Continue this until the Chow is completely drained. Then you add some Sugar, Dry Mustard, regular Vinegar. Mix well with your hands for about a minute. Mulch took two tablespoons of pickling spice and tied it tightly into some cheesecloth, you can see a picture of the bag in the banner below. Place this bag in the center of the Chow Mix.Now set on the stove at medium heat for about forty minutes. Mix occasionally and check that the pickling spice bag is still tied well and does not loosen up or break open.

As the Chow heats up, Mulch starts to prepare her table and places her Pre-sterilized Jars and Covers neatly on a clean towel.
Every once in a while Mulch would slowly stir the chow while it was slowly steaming on the stovetop. She would carefully inspect if any of the tomatoes for too large for her preference and would chop them into smaller pieces with her scissors. There were a few larger pieces. Once the pot has been heated for about forty minutes. Take the Chow off the burner and let cool for about 20 more minutes.

Then you scoop the Chow into the jars until the there is no more Chow left. Place lids and covers on the jars and close as tightly as you can. You should here a popping sound on the covers withinin a few more minutes indicating the jars are properly closed. Now you let sit in a dark, dry place for at least two days to get the most favorable Chow, this is when its best. Jarred Chow will stay fresh for at least a year. Last year, Mulch jarred 56 cans of Chow for us, this lasted us the entire year and it was all very good and fresh from week 1 to 52. And this is how it was done. Now I'm going to attempt to do this myself . I know it's not so intimidating as I first thought, I feel much more comfortable with the whole process now that we went through this step by step.

Mulch laughs at how easy preserving homemade preserves are these days. When she was a young girl, she can remember making preserves with her family and kiju, the Late Mary Helen Googoo. They had a big pot over an open fire, outdoors and cooked this way. Now a days we have electric stoves, so easy. We have dishwashers that can be used to sterilize the jars. Canning jellies, cucumber relish, Chow and other foods are an annual tradition for her and her sister Annie K. Thank you ladies for contributing to the On-line Mawiomi, Our Mi'kmaq gathering place to share stories, recipes and more.

About Mulch Paul:

Geraldine Paul, those who know her call her Mulch is a woman of many skills and known to be a go getter in our community. It was only a few years ago that Mulch was disabled and confined to a wheelchair. But this fact, did not deter her, she underwent surgery, regained her strength and recovered well. She healed with her will and determination. Today she is seen walking, working and traveling all over the place. She works hard all week and usually takes the weekend to relax with friends and family. Mulch is an active woman who is always working or volunteering all over the community. We all know obtaining a job on a reserve can be challenging but Mulch can get pretty creative in finding ways to earn a living. In the Summer, she wakes early in the morning and starts Barbecueing and making fresh subs,then sells them to all the hard workers, and clients all over the reserve. A lot of people depend on her and appreciate the service she provides to the community. In the winter months, she focuses more on her sewing trade and is often creating quilts that she sells, raffles and sometimes donates for charity. She spends much of her time, teaching young children at the school about Mi'kmaq crafts, games and our culture and traditional lifestyle. Last week, she was making baskets by the river during treaty day celebrations for all the students and on lookers to watch and learn. This weekend she is taking part in another annual tradition with her brothers and sisters. Every thanksgiving is a time where they go camping to the Cape Breton highlands and enjoy traditions such as cooking slowly roasted partridge and Barbecued eels,and who knows, maybe this year they will get that moose on the loose so their families can continue to enjoy the succulent taste of wild traditional foods in their lives.

Lets Review the recipe:
Mary Johnson's Chow

16 cups green tomatoes
8 cups onions
1/4 cup course salt
4 cups of sugar, she used half brown sugar and half white sugar
2 tablespoons pickling spice in a bag. For marinating flavor into the chow.
1 teaspoon dry mustard
3 cups of white vinegar


Put sliced up tomotoes, onions and salt in a large pan and let stand over night. In the morning drain out the juice. Return the mixture to the pot, add sugar, dry mustard, vinegar and mix well. Add the bag of pickling spice and heat for about 40 minutes to an hour. Let cool for a bit. Bottle while still hot. Place in a dark, dry place.

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