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Jamaican Cho Cho and Saltfish

I was feeling a lit bit pekish (hungry) the other day and could not decide what to eat. Of course I could cook up some of the usual foods and feel fine… but that was not what I had on my mind, you know. I felt like eating a little lighter food than usual but not too light.

I was in a real food-confused mood, so to speak. Then Mavis, my wife, and I started talking about the foods that were easily made when we needed to come up with something fast; foods such as Tomato and Saltfish, Red Herring and Crackers, Bulla and Cheese, etc.

Well the thing about all of the foods I just mentioned is that they are what we used to call, ‘dryas’…meaning that these are not cooked foods; the ones you put into a pot to cook until you are satisfied.

And, of course, I was not in the mood for ‘dry food’ or anything close to it…No Mon!!! I was thinking about food with moisture and oil based flavoring and all.

So we talked and laughed about old times and new Jamaican foods meanwhile comparing the all the Jamaican food innovations, you know.

However, I still could not solidly identify what it is that I would like to eat. Although I had said that I wanted something light to eat, I could not conclusively said what it was.

Then we talked about Susumber (gully beans) and Saltfish….aaarrgggh…not my favorite, even though they said it was filled with all sorts of iron and minerals. I still don’t care for that dish at all. And I have never cooked Susumber and Salt fish…too bitter for me and anybody else I know who eats it. If, when we were growing up as young people, someone says that he or she loves Susumber, we would consider that person to be very strange; eating all the little green seeds in the beans while trying to acquire the taste …it tastes horrible.

Then we joked about making Slide and Wine…that is flour dumplings and butter. That sounded good but I was still looking to have some kind of ‘salt ting’ or something close to it.

And then I asked Mavis about that little special ‘cook up’ that many people used to make back in the old days on a Wednesday or Thursday. Yes, I am talking about Cho Cho. Now let me explain what a cho cho is. This is a pear shaped vegetable that is also known as Chiristophene and is used as an added piece of food when making soups and stews.

When you are making beef or chicken soup it is added to the pot in large slices. In stews, it is added to the pot when the meat is almost cooked to enhance the stew someway somehow.

However, cho cho can be used as a ‘salt ting’ with rice, and yams. This cho cho 'salting' is not one of those dishes that you announce to your neighbors when you are making it, you know. It is merely understood that some things are better left unsaid. After all, cho cho is not a meat kind or a major vegetable such as callaloo, cabbage, or pop chow. It is just cho cho; a low level used-as-you-like green vegetable that does not have a great appreciation or significance in our ‘cooking tradition,’ if you will; a kind of step-cousin from the country.

Some have even named a certain part of the female anatomy with the same name…how cute? Nuff Said.

With that said, this easily-cooked green vegetable never made in into every stew, soup, or regular dish on a regular basis. And to make matters worse, there was no demand for it. The comments about cho cho were usually that it tastes good with the beef stew or liver…an after thought. If cho cho was not in the beef stew, no one would even complain, or miss it. For that matter, cho cho remained this partially mysterious seen-but-not-seen piece of food that you either like or dislike and never mentioned.

The only positive explanation that you can get out of anybody about cho cho is that it has a lot of good nutrients….yeah right; as much as Cerassee and Susumber without the bitterness. Oh! And you can you use it to thicken gravy.

Anyway, I did not get around to cooking the cho cho and salt fish because I had to go take care of my grand son, Landon; he is not ready for cho cho and saltfish as yet, but just wait…time will tell.

So, Mavis gave me this cho cho and saltfish recipe that you will love, or join in the multitude of hush-hush cho cho lovers…Yah Mon!!!

Cho Cho and Saltfish

¼ lb Salted Cod Fish (boneless Baccaloa)

3 Whole Cho Cho (sliced)

1 tbsp. Black Pepper

Cooking Oil

1 Medium Onion (sliced)

1 sprig Thyme

Soak salted cod fish in water for one hour and then drain. Cook salted cod fish for 15 minutes and then add cho cho to the pot. Allow the cho cho to cook for 15 minutes in the same pot. Check to see if the cho cho is ready before the time I mentioned because cho cho cooks very easily.

In the meantime, heat the cooking oil in a skillet, or frying pan. And then you need to Sauté the onion with the black pepper and thyme. Remove the cho cho from the pot and let it cool a little.

Drain the water from the salted codfish and use your hand to break up saltfish into tiny pieces. Put the saltfish into the skillet with the sautéed onions and black pepper; use a fork to mix in the fish and onion.

Now use a knife to remove the skins from the cho cho. Mash the cho cho with a fork to reveal the veins, which you should remove from the vegetable, and then put it in the pot with the saltfish. Fold in the cho cho and saltfish and let the ‘salting’ simmer for about five minutes.

This method is the saltfish tasting method.

To make the ‘salting’ have more of a cho cho taste, sauté the cho cho and onion first then add the saltfish later.

You can also add a little butter to enhance the taste when you choose the latter method.

If want to go strictly Ital (vegetarian), don’t use the saltfish or butter. Instead, sauté the onions and thyme with tomatoes and scotch bonnet pepper. Then add a little coconut milk to the skillet. In essence, simmer the cho cho in coconut milk.

Hope you enjoy.

Yah Mon!

Uncle Zack




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