Editor's note: All summer long, the Southern Foodways Alliance - a member-supported organization of more than 800 chefs, academics, writers and eaters devoted to the documentation, study, and celebration the diverse food cultures of the changing American South - will be delving deep in the history, tradition, heroes and plain old deliciousness of barbecue across the United States. As a loud, proud SFA member, I'm pleased to say that Eatocracy will be partnering with them to share some of their stories. Dig in. - Kat Kinsman, Managing Editor
A few days ago, I got an email from an SFA staffer in which she admitted that, having grown up eating Brunswick stew in North Carolina, she knew almost nothing about South Carolina hash and rice. This, clearly, is a deficiency that requires addressing, and suddenly I had the topic for my first guest post.
Hash is one of those things that, like yellow mustard–based sauce, puzzles outsiders when they first sample South Carolina barbecue. A cross between a meat stew and a gravy, it's the Palmetto State's classic side dish, and it's almost always served over a bed of white rice.
You shouldn't inquire too closely as to what goes in the hash pot, but suffice it to say it's an economical way to use up most of a hog. Various pig parts (especially the livers and often the heads) are simmered with onions, potatoes, and spices till they merge into a single thick, consistent substance that's savory and delicious. Some flavor it with tomatoes or ketchup, giving it a reddish hue, while others use mustard to tinge it yellow.
Hash originated prior to the Civil War in the counties on either side of the Savannah River in South Carolina and Georgia. Estrella Jones, who was born into slavery on Powers Pond Place near Augusta, GA, recalled that when she was a child, the men would sometimes steal hogs from other plantations and "cook hash and rice and serve barbecue."
At the opening of the Civil War, a feast was held to honor the Edgefield (County, SC) Riflemen as they prepared to leave for battle. The menu included "barbecued meats and hash."
By the 1880s, hash was being served as far north as Newberry, SC, and as far south as Macon in central Georgia. Today, hash has all but disappeared in Georgia, which has become Brunswick stew territory. It continues to reign supreme as South Carolina's barbecue accompaniment of choice.
For a closer look at the hash tradition in South Carolina, check out Stan Woodward's 2008 documentary Carolina Hash.
Today's installment comes courtesy of Robert Moss, a food writer and restaurant critic for the Charleston City Paper and author of "Barbecue: the History of an American Institution". Follow him on Twitter at @mossr.
Delve into more barbecue goodness from the Southern Foodways Alliance blog
Previously - Take a moment to stare at some barbecue
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Aiken seems to be the "Cradle of Hash" lol. I'm also a native of Aiken County and have fond memories of cooking the whole hog all night long while my grandfather constantly stirred the hash in a big black iron pot. There are many different variations, some sweet and others spicy. Growing up, it was kind of like boiled peanuts, I thought everyone had heard of it.
(Oconee) Good stuff, try it once and you will just keep wanting more. I know what I'm cooking this weekend.
I am a native of Aiken, SC and married for 31 years to a wonderful lady from Sumter, SC. I have been eating hash from Ward's BBQ in Sumter for over three decades without once ever wondering what is in it. Reading this article has not diminished my enjoyment for the tasty, porcine-based treat that is indeed served over white rice. (But then in SC we like many, many things served over white rice.) To those of you who find the concept less than inviting, I can only say that try it and you should like it. Too bad we can't get it here in the suburbs of Chicago where we now live. One more thing to freeze and put in the suitcase . . .
Also an Aiken native, living in Myrtle Beach now. Everytime I go home I make sure that I go to Carolina BBQ in New Ellenton.
I would cut off my left leg to get some good hash in Texas (I'm also from Aiken and sometimes dream of Carolina B.B.Q. in New Ellington).
I can confirm that hash is delish! I'm also from Augusta :)
My boyfriend grew up in SC and every time we visit his family it is required we stop at his favorite restaurant that sells hash. I can't stand the stuff...but he loves it. ~shrug~
CNN has an identity ses. They laud the likes of Bloomberg and Michele, yet have way with high fat food.
The only real and mandatory ingredient mentioned in this article is liver (and sometimes heads). Liver is low in fat, but very high in cholesterol. I've never heard of this dish, but it seems like a respectful way to treat an animal that has given his life to sustain yours.
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