All Things Southern
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All Things Southern

Sunday
May292011

Filé Powder

Pronounced: Fee-lay

This ingredient is used to thicken gumbo at the very end of the cooking process, as it should not be allowed to boil or it will cause liquids to become stringy.  Filé Powder is made from ground sassafras leaves.  The sassafras tree, sassafras albidum is native to the Gulf Coast region of the United States and it may grow up to 20 or 30 feet tall with distinctive leaves that take on three different mitten-like shapes.  A tea is sometimes brewed from the roots and the bark and roots were long used to flavour root beer.  The Choctaw Indians were using Filé Powder when the Cajuns arrived in Louisiana from Acadia in the 1600s and the Cajuns learned these techniques from them.

Sunday
May292011

Greens

The most common greens eaten in the South are collards, mustards and turnips.  All of these are greens in the cabbage family that do not form a compact head.  Southerners love their greens and in the South a large quanity of greens (enough to serve a family) is commonly referred to as a 'mess o' greens'.  The exact quantity that constitutes a 'mess' varies with the size of the family.

The traditional way to cook greens is to simmer them slowly with a piece of salt pork or ham hock for a few hours until they are tender.  Typically greens are served with freshly baked corn bread to dip into the potlikker, which is the highly concentrated vitamin-filled broth left over in the pot.  According to folklore, collards served with black-eyed peas and hog jowl on New Year's Day promises a year of good luck and financial reward.

Sunday
May292011

Grits

Native Americans made both corn grits and hominy grits centuries ago by using potash water.  Modern day grits are made by soaking corn kernels in a lye based water solution to remove the outer shells.  The resulting smaller, broken pieces without the shells are then dried and ground.  This is what you call hominy grits, which is preferred in the south.

Sunday
May292011

Gumbo

This is a stew-like dish commonly served over rice consisting of vegetables and a variety of ingredients such as shrimp, crab, crawfish, oysters, rabbit, chicken or andouille.  It may or may not be spicy.  Gumbo was brought to the American south by African slaves.  The word 'gumbo' is the African word for okra, the African vegetabled used to thicken gumbo.  Gumbo may also be thickened by Filé Powder, ground sassafras leaves to create what is reffered to as Filé Gumbo.  The French adapted the original form of gumbo, with a roux, which later became the present day form of gumbo as we know it.

We have a great selection of Gumbo related items in our General Store.

Monday
May302011

Hoecake

Pronunciation: 'hO-"kAk
Function: Noun
Date: 1745
A small cake made of cornmeal.