Gullah Wednesday: Recipes from a Slave Cabin
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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

Gullah Wednesday: Recipes from a Slave Cabin

Gullah Grub is a matter of making something great out of whatever  you happen to have on hand.  In the case of the South Carolina Low Country slaves, it involved this general set of instructions.

Take a big pot (you probably only have one), and sizzle some bits of salt pork, both for the grease and for the salt. Then fry some onions (from the patch outside your cabin door).

Add whatever starch is available. This is usually rice or hominy (grits) because those are the local crops.

Add some vegetables (tomatoes and okra in the summer, dried field peas of some kind in the winter, and greens in the spring and fall).

Toss in an old chicken that quit laying eggs or whatever you can fish out of the local waters -- oysters, clams, shrimp, croakers (that's a fish, not a frog, although in a pinch a frog might work), or even a turtle.
 
Season with some kind of hot pepper if you have it.

Cook it all into a thick stew that you can eat, using oyster shells for spoons.

You probably don't need any other recipe, but here are a couple of examples of how the basic dish changes with the seasons.

 Hoppin' John

. . . .is a traditional Southern feast on New Year’s Day. It’s a wonderful blend of rice, black-eyed peas, and ham that will bring you luck all year.


  • 1 1/2 cups dried black-eyed peas

  • 6 strips salt pork or bacon, diced

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 
2 cups cooked rice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • Dash of hot sauce

  • 1/2 cup minced green onions, including tops


Rinse peas and pick them over. Cover with cold water; add 1 tablespoon salt and let stand overnight.

Drain peas, discarding water, and place in a 6 to 8-quart stockpot. In a 10-inch cast iron skillet, saute salt pork or bacon until crisp; add it to the peas, reserving the drippings.

Add onion, a little salt and 2 cups water. Bring just to a boil, lower heat, and simmer until peas are tender, about 20 minutes. A small amount of the cooking liquid should remain; if liquid is absorbed too quickly, add fresh water by1/4 cups.

Stir in 2 tablespoons of the reserved bacon drippings, salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes longer so flavors combine and rice absorbed some of the remaining cooking liquid.


To serve, garnish with green onions.

Limpin' Susan

This Low Country dish combines okra, rice and shrimp for a hearty one-pot meal in the summer. Legend has it that Limpin’ Susan was the wife of Hoppin’ John.

    •    1/4 cup green bell pepper, diced
    •    1/4 cup yellow onion, diced
    •    2 cloves garlic, minced
    •    1 pound okra, stems and tips removed, sliced 1/4 inch thick
    •    1 pound shrimp, peeled
    •    3 tablespoons vegetable oil
    •    1 cup long-grain white rice
    •    2 cups chicken stock
    •    1 teaspoon salt
    •    Ground black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

In a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat, saute the the onion and pepper in the oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes, being careful not to burn it.

Add the rice and stir well with a fork until the grains are coated and cook, stirring often about 3 to 4 minutes or until rice is opaque.

Add the okra, stock, salt, and black and cayenne peppers and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and and simmer, covered, until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Adjust seasonings, stir in the shrimp and cook until the shrimp curl and turn pink, about 4 to 6 minutes.

Transfer to a bowl and serve.