South Carolina Cuisine
Formerly an important state crop, long-grain rice is still a local product to some degree, and remains a common side dish with meats and sauces, especially cured pork products and beans. Tomato rice, also called red rice, is cooked with bacon and onion and sometimes with added bay leaf and clove. It is a popular side with plain meats and seafood. Dirty rice is another South Carolina favorite. This dish is grayish in color thanks to beef and chicken livers simmered with the rice. Onion, garlic, peppers, and Worcestershire sauce are other standard ingredients. Shrimp bog is a bit more elaborate, including shrimp, bacon, onion, and tomato cooked with rice and chicken stock and seasoned with lemon, Worcestershire sauce, and black and red pepper.
Purloo or perloo is an everyday dish made of equal parts okra and ham, simmered with bacon, onion, garlic, green pepper, and tomato and served over rice. It can be a side dish or a full meal. Pork is a definite all-around favorite, especially for barbecue. It is generally rubbed with brown sugar, onion, and red pepper and smoked, basted, or sprayed with cider vinegar during the cooking process. The meat is then chopped, heaped on soft round rolls, and topped with barbecue sauce. In South Carolina, that means a sweet mustard sauce. The basic ingredients are prepared mustard, brown sugar, and vinegar. Onion, garlic, celery salt, and black and red pepper are common additions. Pork ribs are also a favorite, baked or barbecued with the same mustard-vinegar-sugar sauce. Vinegar-based coleslaw, often including other vegetables such as bell pepper or carrot, is the standard accompaniment.
Given the state's coastline, seafood is popular. It's often deep-fried, especially shrimp and oysters. Simple dipping sauces such as horseradish mayonnaise are common. Shrimp boil, sometimes called frogmore stew, is also common. In South Carolina, smoked sausage and corn on the cob are included in the pot with the shrimp, and store-bought seasoning mixes are normally used. These vary, but commonly include bay leaves, celery seed, mustard, and black and red pepper.
Tomato pie is a favorite side when tomatoes are in season. The dish consists of crustless white bread layered with ripe tomatoes and a mayonnaise-cheddar-onion mixture, baked until the cheese is golden. The cheese mixture used in this dish is a quick variation on pimento cheese, and is a popular party appetizer with crackers or raw vegetables as well as an everyday sandwich spread.
Grits, the unofficial state food, may show up on the table at any time of day, but are particularly popular for breakfast. Shrimp and grits, commonly called breakfast shrimp, represents its simplest and most traditional form. The sole two ingredients are cooked with a bit of bacon fat. Grits simmered with chicken stock and butter are also a particular favorite. Though more elaborate preparations are becoming more common, most South Carolinians prefer to keep their grits simple. Both yellow and white grits are widely used.
Southern states are known for dishes with colorful names, and South Carolina has more than its share. Hoppin' John, consumed throughout the South, is simply black-eyed peas or field peas cooked with onion and ham hock or bacon. Limpin' Kate adds hominy to this dish. Limpin' Susan, on the other hand, is okra and rice cooked together, sometimes with shrimp as well.
Collard greens simmered with salt pork, ham hock, bay leaves, onion, red pepper, vinegar, and sugar are a standard side. With black-eyed peas and rice, they make up an everyday meal. Sweet potatoes are common as a side dish, simply baked or simmered with some sugar. Sweet potato pone, for example, is grated sweet potatoes baked with dark brown sugar, butter, and perhaps nutmeg, all bound together with egg. More refined dishes popular for parties and special events include quail with ham and cheese grits and lobster baked with mushrooms, cream, and cheese.
For dessert, sweet potato pie is an inexpensive staple. Pie is generally heavy on the mashed sweet potatoes, bound together with a minimum of buttermilk custard. Spices such as cinnamon or ginger are not obligatory, but are occasionally used. Coconut cake is a popular but much more elaborate dessert. Layers of coconut-scented cake are sandwiched with coconut cream, frosted with a cream cheese icing, and coated with coconut. Pound cake is a less complex creation that's a very common dessert. Vanilla pound cake is often served with fresh fruit and perhaps ice cream or whipped cream. Sometimes local fruit, such as fresh peaches, is baked right in to the cake. As in much of the American Deep South, sweet iced tea is the beverage of choice. In South Carolina, they mean business when they say "sweet." Ratios of two cups of sugar to just three tea bags are common.
-World Trade Press