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eastern and central Virginia eastern and central North Carolina eastern and central South Carolina central and southern Georgia northern Florida Alabama Mississippi central and western Tennessee central and western Kentucky
Early European explorers were deeply impressed by the South’s thick layer of fertile soil and its mild climate. They recognized that the region could become an agricultural paradise for European settlers.
The Appalachian Mountains extend into the region but are not part of it. The fall line, a rocky shelf, separates the piedmont, or foothills, from the coastal plain. The Deep South extends from northern Florida though Mississippi. West of the Appalachians the land is gently rolling.
Ample moisture and mild weather are due to proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas have climates suitable for all European food crops. The Deep South has more than three hundred frost-free days allowing cultivation of subtropical plants, with two separate growing seasons for many temperate-climate crops.
were agricultural tribes that practiced cyclical land use. They did not fertilize fields; when soil became depleted they moved their village to another location, eventually returning generations later.
Relied on hunting and gathering as well as farming. They practiced human seasonal migration, living in villages during the spring planting and fall harvest seasons, and traveling to hunting and foraging grounds in summer and winter. Native American core belief : land is a common resource to be shared by all, owned by none
Before European settlement the South was covered with dense hardwood forest. Native American farmed using swidden agriculture: 1. Killed trees by girdling, or removing a band of bark to deprive the tree of water and nutrients. 2. Leaves and branches dropped off the trees. 3. Burned the underbrush. 4. Planted crops amid the standing tree trunks.
CORN, BEANS & SQUASH are ideal companion plants. Bean vines climb the cornstalk and support it. Squash plants shade the soil and prevent moisture loss. Corn uses up nitrogen in the soil, whereas beans replace it.
SUNFLOWERS seeds eaten as a snack or toasted and ground into meal to make doughs and thicken sauces roots boiled and served as a vegetable side or in stews (sun chokes) TOBACCO smoked in hand-carved wooden pipes for both recreational and ceremonial purposes an important trade item because it was highly valued by tribes living in other regions became popular in Europe and was an early source of wealth for Southern planters
venison bear meat bear fat for cooking rabbits, squirrels, opossums, other small game wildfowl fish and shellfish wild strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, huckleberries, plums, persimmons, and crabapples wild mushrooms; onions; greens including purslane, cresses, dock, dandelion, ramps, and poke weed acorns, hickory nuts, and filberts tuckahoe root (coastal)
Native Americans preserved foods by drying, salt curing, and smoking. Smoke is a defining flavor of Plantation South cuisine. Smokehouses stood on every plantation and many farms.
Pre-contact Native Americans did not have metal vessels or oven technology. hot stone griddling spit roasting smoke roasting pit roasting sling bag simmering clay pot cooking
This Native American cooking method involves suspending meat, poultry, or fish over glowing coals. Basting with liquid seasoning creates steam and smoke. Native American smoke roasting is the precursor of modern Southern barbeque.
Corn’s endosperm is primarily starch and protein. The oil-rich germ is flavorful and nutritious. The fibrous hull is largely indigestible cellulose; it causes dough made with whole corn to lack cohesion.
East Coast Native Americans used tree trunks carved into mortars, and slender logs carved into pestles, to grind dried corn into grits and meal. Grits comes from the Old English word, grytta, meaning coarse meal, bran, or chaff. After sifting ground corn, the finer ground grain is cornmeal and coarser grind is grits.
Boiling and soaking whole corn kernels in water treated with an alkaline substance softens the endosperm and germ, and removes the hull. Makes corn: more palatable easier to digest more nutritionally valuable. When ground, forms a cohesive dough
GROUND UNPROCESSED DRIED CORN Cornmeal products: cornmeal mush corn pone shuck bread Southern cornbread Grits: whole-grain grits quick grits Corn flour (used as a coating) GREEN CORN fresh, slightly immature field corn (replaced by sweet corn) PROCESSED DRIED CORN alkaline-processed hominy (not commercially produced) steam-processed hominy PARCHED CORN green corn kernels removed from the cob and dry-roasted until most of the moisture evaporates (reconstituted by boiling)
FOUNDATION FOODS principal starch: dried corn (maize) principal proteins: fish, large and small game, dried beans principal produce: squashes, pumpkins, sunflower root, wild greens FAVORED SEASONINGS: wild herbs, wild fruits, wild onions and garlic PRINCIPAL COOKING MEDIA: water, bear fat PRIMARY COOKING METHODS: grilling, roasting, poaching, boiling, steaming FOOD ATTITUDES: strong food culture, culinary liberals
Southern Native Americans were culinary liberals with strong food cultures. They had ample resources and a broad ingredients palette. Food and corn was considered sacred. Corn was considered a high-status food included in religious ceremonies as the source of life.
In 1607 English colonists sailed into the Chesapeake Bay and up the James River, and founded a colony called Virginia. An uneasy peace with the Powhatan Confederacy of Native American tribes led to an exchange of ingredients and cooking methods that resulted in the hybrid colonial South cuisine style.
English colonists in the South were primarily from the rural west of England. They were not overly religious. Most sought economic opportunity. Most were culinary conservatives, products of England’s minimized food culture. HOWEVER, in the New World they were forced by circumstances to accept indigenous foods and became culinary liberals.
HEARTH COOKING A hearth is the floor of an open fireplace. Reflector oven tin or copper drum with hinged door and rotating spit uses fire’s heat Dutch oven a heavy cast iron pot with concave lid; placed in the fire’s coals; lid is filled with coals; heats bottom and top Spider cast iron skillet with legs that hold it over glowing coals
CAST IRON COOKING heavy, thick-walled vessels heat slowly and retain heat for a long time even cooking, rarely scorches contribute a special flavor gives fried foods extra crunch left: cast iron Dutch ovens
OVEN BAKING Many kitchen fireplaces included a small oven built into the wall next to the fireplace and connected to it by a flue. Ovens were used for baking: breads pies Cakes
wheat flour European vegetables, esp. root vegetables and cabbages European fruits, esp. apples domesticated food animals beef and dairy cattle chickens and eggs hogs European herbs and Asian spices Despite colonists’ attempts to produce these foods as colonial domesticates, in much of the Plantation South, the climate was not conducive and they did not thrive. Underlined items did not grow well, and were rarely eaten. Thus, English colonists were deprived of many of their favored foods.
FOUNDATION FOODS principal starch: wheat bread (less available) principal proteins: beef, cheese (l/a) principal produce: cabbages, root vegetables (l/a), apples (l/a) FAVORED SEASONINGS: parsley, thyme, sage, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, onions PRINCIPAL COOKING MEDIA: water, butter, beef suet (l/a) PRIMARY COOKING METHODS: open-hearth cooking, including roasting, boiling, stewing; baking FOOD ATTITUDES: minimized food culture, culinary conservatives
The marriage of smoke and hog blends a Native American cooking method with Old World domesticated hogs and herbs and spices to produce flavorful, succulent meat. Smoke roasting is cooking method, whereas cold smoking is a food preservation method.
baked goods combining corn meal and wheat flour with eggs and dairy cornbread corn griddle cakes spoon bread wheat-based beaten biscuits yeasted wheat breads reserved for special occasion
A plantation is a large parcel of land dedicated to large-scale commercial agriculture. In the South, European planters needed cheap labor to clear trees, establish fields, and plant and tend crops. The solution was slavery. Between 1620 and 1776, almost 225,000 African or Afro-Caribbean slaves were imported into the Southern colonies.
In a region with few roads and towns, and fewer lodging places, Southern plantations were expected to offer hospitality to all comers. They were known for fine dining. Plantations were virtually self-sufficient, raising all necessary food and importing luxury goods by ship.
The planters’ diet was varied, substantial, rich; focused on meat, poultry, game, seafood. hogs produced fresh pork, hams, bacon; the favored meat for Southern barbecue shrimp, crabs, oysters, fresh and saltwater fish cornbread, grits, and other corn-based dishes European and Mediterranean vegetables Caribbean flavors
Slave cooks applied African ingredients, cooking techniques, and tastes to planter cooking, creating Plantation South cuisine. okra, black-eyed peas, sesame seeds, peanuts, chiles, melons purées and pastes for thickening; frying hot-and-spicy flavors, high seasoning, crisp- crusted foods
FOUNDATION FOODS principal starches: true yams, millet, rice, (later) cornmeal principal proteins: game meats, goat, fish, black-eyed peas principal produce: okra, groundnuts, eggplant, leafy greens FAVORED SEASONINGS: onions, garlic, dried and fresh chiles, sesame seeds PRINCIPAL COOKING MEDIA: palm oil, vegetable oil PRIMARY COOKING METHODS: spit-roasting, frying, boiling, stewing FOOD ATTITUDES: strong food culture, culinary liberals
Slave cooks were given minimal rations with which to prepare their own meals. They were given meat scraps from butchering. Some were permitted to grow gardens, hunt, fish, and forage in limited spare time. Some “borrowed” seasonings from the plantation kitchen. Slaves cooks were experts at “making something out of nothing.” Dining together expressed cultural solidarity.
The middle class diet was vegetable-based: collard and turnip greens, sweet potatoes, turnips, cabbage, green corn, black-eyed peas, pole beans, butter beans, okra Meat, especially cured and smoked pork, was used as a seasoning: ham, smoked hocks and neck bones, salt pork, bacon Cornmeal products were the staff of life. Hunting, fishing, foraging were important food sources.
FOUNDATION FOODS principal starches: cornmeal dishes, wheat flour quick breads, rice principal proteins: pork (fresh, preserved), beans, seafood, poultry principal produce: collard greens, turnips and turnip greens, green beans, okra, sweet corn FAVORED SEASONINGS: smoke, cured and smoked seasoning meats, cayenne pepper, bottled hot sauce, thyme, sage, granulated onion and garlic PRINCIPAL COOKING MEDIA: lard, vegetable oil PRIMARY COOKING METHODS: pan-frying, barbecue, stewing/simmering FOOD ATTITUDES: strong food culture, culinary liberals
The Civil War devastated the Plantation South environmentally, economically, and socially. The “genteel poor” maintained the traditions of Plantation South Cuisine. Economic revival in the late 19th century.
SOUTHERN BARBEQUE moved from the plantation to the roadside traditional barbecue is cooked outdoors. hickory wood favored for smoke. meats seasoned with spice rub and basted with a tangy mopping sauce SOUTHERN DESSERTS development of chemical leaveners unleashed a flurry of creativity tall cakes pies cobblers and crisps biscuit shortcake
In the 1980s chefs and cookbook authors began refining and promoting Plantation South cuisine. Today chefs apply European techniques and modern presentations.