A Southern New Year’s tradition
When I asked Shirley Crowder, of La Marque’s Mama Frances Soul Kitchen, for a traditional New Year’s Day recipe, I expected a delicious version of black-eyed peas or collard greens or cabbage, the foods that superstition says bring luck and money.
But what Crowder graciously served up was a surprise — chitterlings, commonly referred to as chitlins.
Growing up in Texas, I, of course, had heard of chitterlings. I just didn’t know they were part of a New Year’s culinary tradition. I did some research. Chitterlings, which are hog intestines, are usually part of a larger meal that includes collard greens, fried chicken and other traditional Southern foods during the holidays.
In recent years, chitterlings and Champagne have been showing up on restaurant menus in Paris and New York, becoming a popular indulgence among well-heeled crowds, according to reports. But how they came to be a New Year’s Day dish has its roots in poverty and enslavement.
“The consumption of chitlins (hog intestines) dates back to slavery when most slaves were given one week off: the week between Christmas and New Year’s,” according to a January 2011 posting on blackis.com. “During that time, their masters would give them Christmas ‘gifts’ — typically hand-me-down items, but primarily food. This often consisted of remnants from hog slaughters and included the chitterlings, hog head, pig feet, hog maws, and a few salted pieces of pork, all of which found their way into our soul food. Though this food was considered the base of the hog, for slaves it was good eating, especially during the cold winters in the South.”
On the Texas Coast, the tradition remains. Here’s Crowder’s recipe.
5 to 10 pounds frozen chitterlings
1 large onion chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
2 minced garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped red pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow pepper
2 celery ribs chopped
Add 1 to 2 large whole potatoes (peeled) to the middle of your pot to reduce smell
First, start with washing the chitlins to remove excess fat and all foreign matter. Remove the clear lining by using running water during cleaning. Wash until your water is clear. This may take several repeated steps.
Place in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add your ingredients. Add 2 cups water, 2 cups chicken stock and cover.
Be sure that your liquid covers at least 2 inches over your chitlins.
Bring to a quick boil, reduce heat to a low simmer for 2 hours or until tender.
After cooked, remove from water cut into small 1-inch pieces.
Remove potato and throw away.
Add 2 tablespoons of self-rising flour to thicken for gravy.
Add chitlins back to the pot and simmer for 5 more minutes.
Recipe courtesy of Shirley Crowder, Mama Frances Soul Kitchen, 199 Vauthier St., La Marque