The not so humble art of choko pickles​​

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1_Choko Pickles

Chokos are an old-time Aussie favourite, native to South America where it is known as chayote. It remains a feature of many backyards, growing over the chook pen or along a fence. A green, slightly spiky fruit with mild, white flesh. It was used as a pie or jam filler during the Depression years -where its vine grew over the backyard dunny– in Australia and still graces dinner tables of its fans, in vegetable form -barbequed, fried or in white or cheese sauce.

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In this household I’m the single fan of choko as a vegetable. The G.O. however, has a fondness for choko pickles: the speciality of many a nanna, mum, aunt or generous neighbour; omnipresent as a condiment; ubiquitous at fetes & market stalls; and useful as a bartering commodity.

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Day 1

Use a long pole with a bent nail in the end to reach a baker’s dozen of the highest & biggest chokos on your neighbour’s vine because everyone else got there before you.

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Peel, deseed & neatly dice chokos.

Wash your hands half a dozen times to get the choko sap off them… unsuccessfully.

Peel and neatly dice 16 medium brown onions.

Cry.

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Soak choko & onions in salted water overnight.

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Hunt out jars from where they’ve been stashed in the shed.

Prepare jars by boiling for 30 minutes to sterilise.

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Day 2

Open all the kitchen windows. Turn on ceiling fan.

Heft tub of soaking chokos & onion onto the sink, drain & rinse.

Transfer chokos & onion to large stockpot.

Add equal quantities white sugar & white vinegar, i.e. 12 cups each. 

Update shopping list to replenish white sugar & vinegar.

Add 6 teaspoons each of tumeric, ginger powder, white pepper, mustard powder & curry powder.

Stir to combine then bring to boil.

Reduce heat and simmer with lid on for approximately 1 hour.

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Panic that you haven’t sterilised enough jars.

Scour cupboards for more, wash, then microwave extra jars for 2 minutes.

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Put all jar lids in saucepan to sterilise… again, and boil for 10 minutes.

Put all jars on trays in oven on 120 Celsius for at least 30 minutes to sterilise… again.

Remove lid from stockpot, remembering not to stick face into spicy vinegar fumes. 

Reserve half cup of liquid in small bowl.

Firmly break up softened chokos & onions using potato masher.

Turn up heat, bring back to boil & reduce by half.

Mix 2 tablespoons of cornflour into cooled reserved liquid.

When contents of stockpot have reduced by half, lower heat & blend in cornflour mixture until contents thicken slightly.

If, like me, you prefer thick, caramelised pickles rather than liquidy-floury, use as little flour as possible, make smaller batches… and share judiciously.

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Spoon mixture into hot jars leaving headspace at top. 

Sort through lids trying to figure out which belongs to what. 

Screw lids on tight. 

Wipe spillage off jars with damp cloth. 

Lick sticky residue off fingers… mmm… spicy… sweet.

Place jars on heat-proof surface to cool. 

Label jars with contents & date unless you plan, later, to play guess the mystery contents. 

Add to the label, in the spirit of optimism, a note asking for jar to be returned.

Listen for popping noises that indicate jars have achieved airtight seals.

Happy dance each time you hear a pop.

Pickles are best left to mature for at least a week, better a month. 

Store jars in cool cupboard. Refrigerate once opened.

If a not quite full jar remains, store in fridge and enjoy immediately.

Eat choko pickles with cheese & bread, as a side to eggs & meat dishes, as a condiment to curries and casseroles, add to rissole/meatball mix…

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Many variations of choko pickle recipes can be found in old cookbooks and via Google. 

A basic, classic recipe is http://www.foodtolove.com.au/recipes/choko-pickle-306

If you want to learn more about chokos including how to grow your own, Jackie French: A Choko Needs to know its Place is a good start.

“Alexandra often said that if her mother were cast upon a desert island, she would thank God for her deliverance, make a garden, and find something to preserve. Preserving was almost a mania with Mrs. Bergson. Stout as she was, she roamed the scrubby banks of Norway Creek looking for fox grapes and goose plums, like a wild creature in search of prey. She made a yellow jam of the insipid ground cherries that grew on the prairie, flavoring it with lemon peel; and she made a sticky dark conserve of garden tomatoes. She had experimented even with the rank buffalo-pea, and she could not see a fine bronze cluster of them without shaking her head and murmuring, ‘What a pity!’ When there was nothing to preserve, she began to pickle.”  Willa Cather, ‘O Pioneers

 

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19 thoughts on “The not so humble art of choko pickles​​

    Eha said:
    April 28, 2018 at 2:01 pm

    Oh Lordie, Dale – I have been following blogs for nearly seven years and have never roared with laughter as I am doing now: I mean tears in the eyes laughter ! Don’t have a dunny outside the kitchen door overgrown with the vine, but in honour of this wonderful writing just have to go look in the supermarket aisles . . . Remember being an immigrant child totally at sea in the then very Anglo-Saxon Australian world and being handed this strange fruit or vegetable or whatever by neighbours – ‘see whether your Mother would like this, dear’! Well, Mom did not have a clue . . methinks she boiled it and it kind’of did not have all that much taste! Shall fish our all my old jars, boil them to bits and dare make about a quarter of this amount probably spilling quite a lot because of laughter!! Promise to wash my hands . . .

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      daleleelife101.blog responded:
      April 28, 2018 at 6:50 pm

      I’m laughing with you… I can imagine your mother’s consternation. For me, chokos were a bit like vegemite, part of the food scene from the get-go.
      May I suggest a short-cut. Visit a local market, op-shop, ask around… it’s choko season, pickles will abound!

      Like

    katechiconi said:
    April 28, 2018 at 2:19 pm

    I hope the G.O. appreciates the superb hand crafting that went into these…? I’ve never pickled or preserved them; I first ate a choko/cho cho/chayote/christophine in the West Indies and found it very tasty. They do it two ways I like a lot: with a spicy, thymey dry rub and roasted in thick slices, and cut into large cubes, parboiled and then au gratin in a mustardy cheese sauce, baked till the top was brown and bubbly. I’m actually quite sorry we don’t have a vine on the fence, but I’m pretty sure that if we did the Husband would be rooting it out pdq: he has not so great memories of wet, watery, pale green splat on his plate, and I can’t really blame him!

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      daleleelife101.blog responded:
      April 28, 2018 at 6:55 pm

      I remember the watery, pale green splat on the plate redeemed only by a generous splat of butter. The spicy, thymey dry rub sounds delicious. I love chokos stir fried with beef, or the caramelised delicious of baby chokos on the bbq. And, there’s not much I wouldn’t eat if it was served baked with cheese sauce 😍

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    davidprosser said:
    April 28, 2018 at 6:33 pm

    I don’t know this fruit under any of it’s names but you certainly seem to have fun with it.
    I’m very fond of pickled onions so will have to look out for this.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

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      daleleelife101.blog responded:
      April 28, 2018 at 6:43 pm

      According to Wiki for Chayote…
      “Globally it is known by other names including chaya, chayote or pataste in Nicaragua, christophene in Trinidad and Tobago, christophine cho-cho, sayote (Philippines), pipinola (Hawaii), pear squash, vegetable pear, and choko (Australia and New Zealand). Its tuberous and edible root is called chinchayote or chayotextle in Mexico, and ichintal or güisquil in El Salvador, Guatemala and Venezuela. In Brazil it is called chuchu, xuxu or chow chow”. But probably millions of children are grateful it doesn’t have a following in the U.K.
      I’m fond of a pickled onion, or two, too ☺

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    Glenda said:
    April 28, 2018 at 8:14 pm

    Oh Ella, it sounds like my ever day. All this pickling is hard work.

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    memoirsofahusk said:
    April 28, 2018 at 8:40 pm

    Blimey Dale, what a labour of love that was!!! I am so glad we don’t have them here or I might feel morally obliged to try this – pickling pears (simple and yummy and go with meat and cheese too) is about as much pickling as I can take! (And that note re the vinegar fumes – oo eee phwoah my nasal passages – yes)

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      daleleelife101.blog responded:
      April 28, 2018 at 11:04 pm

      Despite my best efforts there is a lingering pickle aroma throughout the house.
      I think there are somewhat simpler ways to accomplish pickles but I can’t resist backyard bounty, and I like to do a batch of spicy pickles now & then. I should be able to forage another lot of chokos so I might do a run-of-the-mill version too, maybe mid-year break. I have run out of time these holidays… back at it on Monday.

      Liked by 1 person

    acflory said:
    April 28, 2018 at 9:49 pm

    -giggles- I’m half envious half relieved that my glut of tomatoes never quite eventuated So much damn work! The jars do look fabulous. 🙂

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      daleleelife101.blog responded:
      April 28, 2018 at 11:15 pm

      Tomatoes… easy peasy! Slow cooker or oven roasted. That said, I have never attempted numerous vats of passata.

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        acflory said:
        April 29, 2018 at 9:05 pm

        We made one pot of passata, one of salsa and generally used up about a kilo of tomatoes a week. Haven’t bought one in, months, literally.
        The plants gave use just the right quantity for two people. To bottle them, I think I’d have to plant about twice as much. It’s doable, and I have the jars, even have a jar-picker-uppera for taking them out of the sterilizing pot, just not sure I have the energy. We’ll see. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

          daleleelife101.blog responded:
          April 29, 2018 at 9:20 pm

          Our vege garden isnt huge as we have to hand water, mainly recycled kitchen sink water via watering cans. Happily, we got just enough tomatoes to keep us in salads, and few batches of oven roasted. I have all the bibsnbobs for preserving too but… you know…

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          acflory said:
          April 30, 2018 at 3:46 pm

          lol – I know what you mean about watering. Use greywater too but still have a huge water bill over summer. Ah well, the flavour is the thing!

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    Ron said:
    April 28, 2018 at 10:03 pm

    Being raised close to the Mexican border in the US we ate chayote often. Mostly as a veggie in soups, fried with hot peppers or as a savory spicy pickles. My favorite was Chayote Gratinado, which was full of yum. Never had a sweet dish with chayote squash. Would love to try your recipe but, alas, no chayotes where we live now. Fun read.

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      daleleelife101.blog responded:
      April 28, 2018 at 11:17 pm

      Thank you. Savoury chayote dishes sound delicious. These pickles are more spicy than sweet, and spicier than the classic version.

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    Littlesundog said:
    April 28, 2018 at 11:25 pm

    Goodness I was laughing my ass off – almost spluttered my coffee all over the keyboard! Hilarious!! What an EXACT accounting of any canning process… although these choko pickles sound like an extreme labor of love! All of this work is exactly why my generation doesn’t do much canning. My brother still enjoys the process but I never did. My goodness – your writing of a recipe is the best style, if you ask me. There is humor in most every aspect of food preparation and you certainly have a knack for presenting the process to readers! Loved the photographs too.

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      daleleelife101.blog responded:
      April 29, 2018 at 7:19 am

      Thank you ♡ In supplementing the rough notes I sometimes scribble -on a succession of post-it notes- when I develop my own recipes… straying from the one, two or three I’m using for guidance, the process wrote itself, and I thought who would ever have thought it takes all this to make a jar of pickles…

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