Lowcountry Cooking And The Resilient Gullah People
The Gullah people of the Lowcountry are the descendants of African slaves. These resilient people have maintained much of their African heritage with their own culture, food, and language.
There is some debate over what boundaries officially designate the Lowcountry. Geographically speaking, the Lowcountry encompasses the coastal regions of South Carolina and Georgia, including the sea islands. Lowcountry cooking uses ingredients that can be grown, picked, or fished out of the waters from Charleston, SC, to Savannah, GA.
Southern cooking has much to thank the Gullah people for. Out of necessity, Gullah cuisine used ingredients like rice, grits, and shrimp. Those were the readily available ingredients.
Most Gullah cuisine is uncomplicated, one-pot style cooking from farm or sea to table. Seafood is readily available and plays a heavy role in the cuisine.
Lowcountry Boil Also Called Frogmore Stew
Before you have a chance to say “no, thanks,” let’s clarify that no frogs are used in this dish. The name comes from a community on St. Helena Island, called Frogmore.
The essential components of this dish are shrimp, sausage, corn, and potatoes. Seafood seasoning is added, and the stew is slow-cooked, in a zesty broth, over an open fire.
Hoppin’ John is made with black-eyed peas, rice, and meat. Usually, pork, ham, or bacon would be the meat of choice.
Traditionally, Hoppin’ John is eaten on New Year’s Day to bring good luck in the new year.
Shrimp And Grits
Nothing says Southern cooking quite like a bowl of grits does!
Grits are made from either stone-ground corn or hominy that are boiled to become a dense porridge. Various flavors are then added and served as a sweet or savory dish.
Shrimp and grits originated in Africa when shellfish were added to ground maize. As seafood and rice are plentiful in the southern coastal region, the dish has become a staple in many Lowcountry kitchens. Today, shrimp and grits have become the poster dish for Lowcountry food.
The origin of Collard Greens in the south goes back to the days when slaves were given leftover greens from the plantation kitchens. The greens would be slow-cooked with ham hocks or pig’s feet in a savory broth for hours.
Today, collard greens are considered a southern staple. You will find them on most menus throughout Georgia and the South Carolina Lowcountry.
Don’t visit South Carolina without trying their official snack, the boiled peanut.
As with most great Lowcountry cuisine, boiled peanuts were introduced to the south by African slaves. During the civil war, soldiers roasted or boiled peanuts over a campfire. They were one of the few available food sources.
Today you will see this popular snack at roadside stands, farmer’s markets, and grocery stores throughout the south.
Imagine chicken pieces getting “bogged down” in a hot tub of rice to better understand this dish.
Chicken bog is standard fare in Lowcountry cooking. It’s made with three essential ingredients: chicken, smoked sausage, and rice. From there, an onion can be added along with a variety of spices.
This one-pot dish is cooked on low for hours, creating a melting pot of delicious aromas.
The basic stew will start with ingredients like okra, tomato paste, onion, garlic, and whatever meat is available. Each chef will then add spices according to taste.
How thick the stew will become ultimately depends on the chop of the okra. Big chunks of okra will simmer in the stew and give it a thinner consistency. Smaller okra pieces create a thicker stew.
After cooking low and slow for several hours, the flavors marry together and become a hearty bowl of comforting Lowcountry food.
Host An Oyster Roast
Bring your family and friends together to discover South Carolina’s favorite way to party. Lowcountry food is all about using the sea’s bounty, and oysters are plentiful in the south.
- Start with a large steel plate placed over a wood fire to serve as a flat top grill.
- Shovel a large number of oysters onto the steel plate.
- Soak a burlap bag in water and throw it over the oysters to trap in the steam and smoke.
- When the oysters are ready to eat, their shells will start to open slightly.
- Toss the steamed oysters onto a table with saltine crackers, lemon wedges, and a selection of hot sauces.
- Have lots of paper towels on hand, and dig in!
If all that sounds like way too much work, then join us instead. The only thing better than hosting an oyster roast is having a friend who hosts the oyster roast!
Our 7-Day Lowcountry Food Feast tour explores Lowcountry food as we travel from Charleston to Savannah. You’ll spend a week immersed in the cuisine and culture of the resilient people of this great area.
For more information, go online or call today!