September 3, 2014

South Carolina

Statehood: May 23rd, 1788 (8/50)

The first jellyfish I ever saw was on Myrtle Beach in South Carolina (this was long before I would learn [and instantly love] the jellyfish handshake or hug... which you should probably look up immediately if you don't know what I'm talking about!); the other thing I know about SC is that they have an incredibly inspiring motto... Dum Spiro Spero, which sounds like something you might hear in a Harry Potter novel, but is Latin for "while I breathe, I hope."

South Carolina is known as The Palmetto State (the sabal palmetto flourishes in SC, and it can be seen on their flag), The Iodine State (there's loads of it naturally found in the vegetation here), The Rice State (they produce alotta the starch), and finally The Keystone of the South Atlantic Seaboard... because, y'know, the state's shaped like a wedge. And as we all know from the Art History 101 class we definitely didn't nod off in because the lights were always off and the room was always too warm, keystones - that pivotal piece located in the summit of an architectural arch - hold all the other stones in place. So, if South Carolina were to collapse, I guess we'd all be in trouble (let's Dum Spiro Spero that never happens!).

Keep holding this East Coast together, South Carolinians, while we savor some of your state's symbolic snacks.

State Beverage: Milk

Since dairy farms are found in almost every county, and represent a 100 million dollar industry for South Carolina, milk was designated as the official state beverage in 1984 by the General Assembly. Did you know that a cow's udder can hold anywhere from 25 to 50 pounds of milk at any given time?

Supah Simple 'Slaw
Makes: 2 to 4 servings

12 oz cole slaw mix
1/2 cup mayo or Vegenaise
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 to 4 Tablespoons (alternative) milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Mix everything together (starting with just 2 Tablespoons of milk). Let refrigerate for a couple hours before serving. If it seems too thick, add another 1 or 2 Tablespoons of milk to thin out to your preferred consistency.

State Fruit: Peach

South Carolina produces the second most amount of peaches in the country behind California (and is sometimes referred to as "The Tastier Peach State"). The fruit has been an integral part of SC's commercially grown agricultural scene since the mid-1800's. The peach was designated the official state fruit in 1984 by the General Assembly.

Peach Tea For 21+'s
Makes: 4 large drinks

4 bags black tea
6 cups water
1 cup peach liqueur (preferably Stirrings, because it's all natural and sweet without being cloying)
optional: half of one peach, cut into thick wedges
optional: 1/2 cup sugar for rim

Boil water and pour over bags of black tea. Stir. Let seep for at least one hour. Remove tea bags and add peach liqueur. Refrigerate until cool. Serve over ice and decorate with wedges of fresh peach (alternatively: rub peach slice on the mouth of the glass to make it wet, then dip the glass upside-down into a bowl of sugar to decorate/flavor rim).

State Hospitality Beverage: Tea

South Carolina was the first state to grow tea in the U.S. (in the Lowcountry near Charleston), and in 1995 it was designated as the official state hospitality beverage. Today the Charleston Tea Company (owned in part by R.C. Bigelow & Co.) on Wadmalaw Island is a modern plantation that calls itself "America's Only Tea Garden". Since pineapples - the princess of fruits - have historically been the symbol of hospitality, I thought it would be fun to make a pineapple-sage iced tea!

Makes: 2 to 4 glasses

2 packed cups fresh pineapple sage leaves
6 cups water
1 1/2 Tablespoons agave syrup*
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Boil the six cups of water then pour over sage leaves in pitcher. Mix in agave syrup and lemon juice. Let cool entirely before straining over ice to serve.

*Feel free to add more agave if you like your tea on the sweeter side (note: the more agave you add, the less of the actual pineapple and/or sage notes you'll pick up on).

State Picnic Cuisine: BBQ

South Carolinians take BBQ very seriously; and well they should, as they're considered "The Birthplace of Barbecue." It stems from the 1500's when Spanish explorers brought over pigs and were taught how to cook the animal over low, slow, indirect heat by the Native Americans. As such, when talking about BBQ in SC, pork's the only real meat associated with it. Also, the state is the only one in America that uses all four of the basic sauce types - vinegar and pepper, mustard, light tomato, and heavy tomato. All these things considered, it only makes sense that BBQ was designated the official state picnic cuisine in 2014.  

Pulled Jackfruit BBQ
Makes: 2 servings

Pulled "pork" ingredients:
4 17-oz cans of jackfruit
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon cumin
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup sweet onion (about 1/2 a large onion)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon liquid smoke

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drain the jackfruit, rinse well, then cut off the triangular tips on each piece. Spread out on a cookie sheet and dust with salt, black pepper, and cumin. Using your hands, make sure each piece is covered well in the seasonings. Set aside. Sauté onion in olive oil for 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 2 to 3. Add jackfruit and 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke. Cook for 15 minutes on medium-high heat. Then sprinkle another ½ teaspoon liquid smoke and cook for another 5 minutes (any black crust that develops here is okay). Move contents of pot back to the cookie sheet. Let cool for five to ten minutes before, using a fork and your hands, you pull apart/shred the jackfruit. It will do this very easily. Spread shredded jackfruit back out onto the cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes on top shelf in the oven. Pull out, dump sauce on it (a little more than half a cup worked perfect for me, but this is a preference thing), and bake for another 10 minutes. Eat immediately with more sauce (if you want) or refrigerate overnight. If you refrigerate, when you're ready to serve it the next day, toss contents into a skillet and let heat through (again: any black crust that develops is okay!).

The four sauces of North Carolina - ingredients and method:
Vinegar and Pepper Sauce – Mix together 1/2 cup cider vinegar, 1 Tablespoon brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
Light Tomato – Mix together 1/2 cup vinegar, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes, 1/2 cup ketchup
Heavy Tomato – Mix together 1 cup ketchup, 1 teaspoon white vinegar, 1 Tablespoon brown sugar, 1/4 cup molasses, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon salt
Mustard – Mix together 1 cup yellow mustard, 1/2 cup honey, 1 Tablespoon brown sugar, 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, 2 teaspoons hot (chipotle) sauce.

State Snack: Boiled Peanut

What do you do with a surplus of peanuts after crops are harvested and sold? Boil 'em and sell 'em at roadside stands or festivals, of course! This is what the folks of SC started doing in the 1800's and still do today. The snack became an official symbol in 2006. 

Cajun Boiled Peanuts
Makes: a lot

1 1/2 lbs peanuts
12 cups of water
1/4 + 2 Tablespoons cup salt
1/2 cup chopped jalapeños (about 2 large, diced)
3 Tablespoons smoked paprika

You REALLY should let these sit in water overnight... but you don't have to. If you choose not to (I didn't): wash peanuts in shell, put in pot, and cover with water (about 12 cups for my pot). Add 1/4 cup of salt, jalapeños, and 2 Tablespoons of smoked paprika. Bring to a boil then lower to a solid simmer. After three hours, test for doneness (they're probably really close, but not quite right). So, add another 2 Tablespoons of salt and 1 Tablespoon of smoked paprika. Simmer for another hour. Drain. Eat while still warm and damp (all the flavor should have been absorbed by the actual peanut in the shell).

State Vegetable: Collard Greens

In 2011, collard greens were designated the official state vegetable after Mary Grace Wingard, a third grader from Lexington, lobbied for it to be so since SC is the second largest producer of the cruciferous veg in the country. Eating collard greens - an extremely low caloric food, by the way - is an excellent way to naturally lower cholesterol!

Makes: 2 meals or 4 sides

3 Tablespoons olive oil
12 oz. (soy) chorizo
1 cup chopped sweet onion (about 1/2 a large onion)
6 garlic cloves, diced
1/4 teaspoon red crushed vegetable flakes
1 lb collard greens, chopped (about 6 cups)
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke

Cook the (soy) chorizo in 1 Tablespoon of olive oil about 3/4 of the way done to your liking. Set aside. In the same pan on medium-hot heat, add another 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Cook onions 3 to 5 minutes until translucent and fragrant. Add garlic and red chili pepper flakes, cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Add collard greens and sprinkle in the liquid smoke. Cook down for 3 to 5 minutes. Add (soy) chorizo back to skillet. Cook for another three to five minutes.

South Carolina's Information Highway
South Carolina State House Student Connection
Spooner, Cindy. "South Carolina Official Foods." Message to the author. 18 Nov. 2013. E-mail.