The renowned cuisine of America’s southern Low-lands is much more than a collection of recipes, ingredients, and techniques. It is the very essence and the soul of African-American innovation and culture. In the deep southern regions of South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama, many former slaves assimilated their native foods, spices, and cooking techniques into a unique fusion called soul food, or Low-land cuisine. Each June, we celebrate National Soul Food Month.

As with most cuisines, soul food integrates locally-grown and harvested ingredients. Since the Atlantic Ocean is at their doorstep, soul food incorporates plenty of seafood into their menus. Shrimp, oysters, clams, and muscles find their way into hearty stews and main dishes, along with dark, leafy greens like turnip, kale, and collard are staples on the country table.

People often refer to this cuisine as genuine, down-home country cooking. The difference between classic Southern cooking and soul food are regional preferences. Like Southern cuisine, soul food has a wide variety of breads, flavorful meats, and plenty of fresh garden vegetables. Typically, low-country recipes use fewer ingredients, and are sometimes called “poor folk’s food”, however these dishes are rich in color, textures and have a deep and rich satisfying flavor.

There is no such thing as bland or boring soul food. Low-country recipes are laden with savory herbs and spices, like garlic, onion, cayenne pepper, paprika, chilies, and black pepper. Meat dishes are often served smothered with vegetables or a creamy gravy and may include local wild game. Local cooks quickly learned how to use the bounty of their gardens and created recipes that feature fresh vegetables. A typical soul food meal will feature several vegetable dishes. The cuisine is also renowned for its delicious quick breads, such as biscuits and cornbread.

Real butter and lard are the usual fats used for cooking, adding depth of flavor to fried foods and making pastries light and flaky. Fortunately, many innovative cooks have found ways to use leaner cuts of meat and reduce saturated fats without sacrificing that iconic soul food taste. 

These recipes were handed down from generation to generation. When many African-Americans left their rural homes to seek better opportunities elsewhere, they brought their regional recipes with them. Delicious soul food cuisine spread across America and found a substantial and multicultural following. 

This June, introduce some “soul” to your family’s table with a few authentic low land recipes. These updated and modern recipes make the cuisine even healthier, while preserving the outstanding flavor profiles. Try some of these exciting recipes.

Hoppin John

Since the black-eyed peas are believed to bring a good future the coming year – it would be a great idea to try a southern classic Hoppin’ John, one of the best holiday recipes for a down-home dinner, this new year’s eve. Serve with steamed rice, and stewed greens.

Honey Cornbread

The addition of honey is definitely a plus as it brings in subtly sweet note to a standard cornbread. You can also bake 12 delicious muffins instead of baking cornbread in a single pan. This recipe freezes beautifully, so make a double batch and treat yourself to homemade cornbread anytime a craving strikes.

Fried Catfish Fillets

These delicate catfish filets are the epitome of soul food-style seafood. The overnight marinade infuses the catfish with flavorful spices. Roll them in a seasoned breading, and deep fry them to a golden perfection. Each filet has a satisfying crunch on the outside, with a tender inside. Serve them up with home-cut fries and some tossed greens.

Red Punch

During the hot days of summer, quench your family’s thirst with this refreshing Southern-style punch. It blends tart cranberry juice with the sweetness of pineapple juice. This lovely red concoction gets put into the freezer until it turns into a soft slush. Add your favorite ginger ale before serving, to give the punch a peppery fizz that everyone will love.

Homemade Peach & Blueberry Cobbler

This recipe is a sweet way to celebrate National Peach Cobbler Day with a modern twist. It has tangy, sweet peaches bathed in spices and their own juices. Prepare a simple biscuit dough topping, sprinkle it with sugar and spices, and watch it bake into a golden dream. The only way to improve this dessert is to add a generous scoop of vanillia ice cream!

Jalapeno Pimento Macaroni & Cheese

For generations, pimento cheese spread has been called the “pate’ of the South”. If your family enjoys macaroni and cheese, wait until they get a taste of our elevated version. It gets a delightfully crunchy topping after being in the oven for 30 minutes. Each comforting bite is loaded with pasta, tangy cheddar, and zesty jalapeño pimiento cheese.

Fried Chicken & Waffles

Although the dish originated in the South, chicken and waffles have been adopted nationally. It is only natural that savory chicken, tender waffles, and sweet maple syrup would become a classic brunch favorite.

Southern Style Collard Greens

In this southern-style recipe, the bold flavor of collard and mustard greens are mellowed with rich and savory flavors of smoked ham hocks. Pair with other classic southern staples, such as Blackend Catfish or Cheese Grit Casserole.

Classic Lady Baltimore Cake

What better way to finish an impressive Low-country meal than to serve this iconic Charleston cake? It has delicate layers that are dotted with plump raisins and infused with almond extract and a splash of sherry. While the icing in the middle of the cake is soft, it is surrounded by a hard icing sprinkled with black walnuts.

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