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Southern Cuisine: OriginsBy Region | Traditional

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Menu Ideas & Planning

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Traditional Southern Dishes

Biscuits with honey.A traditional Southern meal is pan-fried chicken, field peas, greens, mashed potatoes, cornbread, sweet tea and a dessert that could be a pie (sweet potato, chess, shoofly, pecan, and peach are traditional southern pies), or a cobbler (peach, blackberry or mixed berry are traditional cobblers).

Some other foods commonly associated with the South are mint juleps, pecan pie, country ham, fried chicken, chicken fried steak, grits, buttermilk biscuits (especially with gravy or sorghum) pimento cheese, sweet tea, pit barbecue, catfish, fried green tomatoes, fried dill pickles, bread pudding, okra, butter beans, pinto beans, turnip greens, collard greens, mustard greens, and black eyed peas. A common snack food, in season, is boiled peanuts.

Fried chicken is among the region's best-known exports, though pork is also an integral a part of the cuisine, with Virginia ham being one renowned form. A traditional holiday get-together featuring whole hog barbecue is known in Virginia and the Carolinas as a "pig pickin'". Green beans are often flavored with bacon and salt pork, biscuits served with ham often accompany breakfast, and ham with red-eye gravy or country gravy is a common dinner dish. A bit of fatback is added to many vegetable dishes, especially greens, for flavoring.

It is not uncommon for a traditional southern meal to consist of only vegetables with no meat dish at all, although meat or meat products are often used in the cooking process. "Beans and Greens," which consists of either white or brown beans alongside a "mess" of greens has always been popular in most parts of the South. Turnip greens are generally prepared mixed with diced turnips and a piece of fatback. It is often said that Southerners tend to cook down their vegetables a little longer and/or use more seasoning than other Americans, but it often depends on the cook.

Southern desserts include many dishes such as strawberry shortcake, banana pudding, baked apple slices, sweet potato pie, apple pie, pumpkin pie, and many other pies utilizing fruits that are grown around the area.

  • Beverages

    • Ale-8-One

    • Barq's Root Beer - first made in Biloxi, Mississippi

    • Big Red - cream soda originally from Waco, Texas

    • Blenheim Ginger Ale

    • Bourbon - made in central Kentucky

    • Buffalo Rock ginger ale

    • Buttermilk

    • Cheerwine - a longtime favorite in North Carolina and Virginia

    • Coca-Cola - first made in Atlanta

    • Double Cola - based in Chattanooga, Tennessee; also produces Ski soda

    • Dr Pepper - a popular drink in Texas before achieving national popularity

    • Dr. Enuf - available in eastern Tennessee

    • Frostie Root Beer - first made in 1939 in Maryland

    • Grapette - grape soda first made in 1939 in Camden, Arkansas; currently available exclusively at Wal-Mart stores nationwide

    • Grapico - grape soda made by Buffalo Rock

    • Hurricane Punch

    • Lemonade

    • Mello Yello - a lemon-lime soda product of the Coca-Cola Company, sold primarily in the South

    • Mint julep - associated with the Kentucky Derby

    • Mountain Dew - originally made in southwestern Virginia

    • Muscadine wine and juice - usually homemade, though also commercially available from some regional vineyards

    • Nehi soda - produced by RC Cola, including grape, peach, and orange flavors

    • Orange juice from Florida

    • Rum - several small-batch varieties, primarily in and around New Orleans [

    • Sugarcane juice

    • Pepsi Cola - first made in New Bern, North Carolina

    • Red Rock Cola - Invented in Atlanta in 1885, predating Coca-Cola

    • RC Cola - first made in Columbus, Georgia

    • Sazerac cocktail

    • Shasta sodas - founded in Baltimore, Maryland and offering a variety of flavors

    • Slurpee - frozen drink sold by 7-Eleven originally of Dallas, Texas

    • Southern Comfort - New Orleans based whiskey, with sweeteners added.

    • Sun Drop - citrus drink found in northern Alabama, central Tennessee, the Carolinas, western Kentucky, southeastern Missouri, and parts of Virginia

    • Sunny Delight (SunnyD) - invented in Mount Dora, Florida in 1964

    • Sweet tea - usually served with ice, lemon, and sugar, sometimes with mint

    • Tennessee whiskey - Jack Daniel's and George Dickel are the two remaining brands

  • Meats, poultry and seafood

    • Barbecue - typically pork or beef, but also chicken; seasoning and preparation vary greatly within the region

    • Beef brisket - popular especially in Texas

    • Pork ribs - popular in and around Memphis, Tennessee; may be prepared "wet" or "dry"

    • Pulled pork - popular in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia

    • Boudin - spicy sausage, either white boudin, made with dirty rice in a casing, or red boudin, a type of blood sausage

    • Chicken and dumplings

    • Chicken fried steak

    • Chicken gizzards - fried

    • Chit'lins (Chitterlings) - fried small intestine of a hog

    • Chit'lins and Maw

    • Quail

    • Country Captain

    • Crab cake - popular along the Chesapeake Bay (Maryland and Virginia), where the crab cake is typically not dredged in bread crumbs; and in Louisiana, where it typically is

    • Crawfish - also called crawdad

    • Fried chicken - usually flour battered and pan fried
      Hot chicken - a spicy variant of fried chicken coated in lard and pepper
      Fried fish and seafood - battered or dredged in cornmeal then pan fried or deep fried

    • Calabash-style seafood - popular in the coastal Carolinas

    • Catfish - usually fried

    • Fried turkey - Deep fried using an outdoor frier

    • Game meat - venison, rabbit, and game fowl are most common, but opossum, squirrel, and raccoon also may be eaten, especially in more remote areas

    • Grits and grillades - a Louisiana brunch staple

    • Ham - usually pan fried, roasted, or smoked; varieties include "sugar cured" or "country" (salt cured)

    • Ham hocks

    • Jambalaya

    • Liver - usually pan-fried pork or chicken liver, but also beef

    • Livermush

    • Salmon Croquettes

    • Shrimp and grits

    • Shrimp Creole

    • Smithfield ham - a specialty of Smithfield, Virginia

    • Souse meat, also called Head cheese

  • Soups, stews and boils

    • Brunswick stew - originated in either Virginia or Georgia

    • Burgoo - served at barbecues in western and central Kentucky; similar to Brunswick stew

    • Chicken Sauce-Picquante - chicken cooked in a tangy stew with tomatoes and spices, often served over rice; a favorite in southern Louisiana

    • Conch chowder

    • Gumbo - made with seafood or meat and okra; a Cajun/Creole delicacy

    • Étouffée - a very thick stew made of crawfish or chicken and sausage, okra and roux served over rice

    • Low Country boil - any of several varieties (also known in some areas as a "bog")

    • Frogmore Stew - made with sausage, corn, crabs, and shrimp; popular in coastal South Carolina

    • Seafood Muddle

    • She-crab soup - mainly served in the area around Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia from Atlantic crabs Terrapin stew - a historical dish of Atlantic Coast states such as Maryland and Virginia

    • Hoppin' John

  • Vegetables and salads

    • Ambrosia

    • Beans - often cooked down with chunks of ham, bacon grease, or onions

    • Butter or Lima beans

    • Pole beans

    • White or great northern beans

    • Green beans

    • Pinto beans

    • Baked beans

    • Greens - seasoned with some kind of meat or meat grease. The liquid left after cooking is known as pot liquor

    • Collard greens

    • Turnip greens

    • Kale

    • Mustard greens

    • Poke salad - cooked pokeweed

    • Carrots - often "candied" with butter and brown sugar

    • Carrot raisin salad

    • Congealed salad

    • Corn

    • Corn on the cob - boiled, steamed, or grilled; usually served with butter or mayonnaise

    • Corn pudding

    • Creamed corn

    • Shoepeg corn

    • Hoppin' John - a traditional Low Country dish of black-eyed peas served with rice

    • Limpin' Susan - a traditional Low Country dish made with okra, rice and black-eyed peas

    • Macaroni and cheese - usually prepared with fresh eggs and baked en casserole

    • Mashed potatoes - called "creamed" in some regions

    • Rutmus - potatoes boiled and mashed with turnip bottoms and butter

    • Okra - flour-battered and pan-fried or boiled, stewed, or steamed

    • Onion - Sliced Vidalia, whole green onion, and onion rings

    • Peas - often cooked with chunks of ham or onions

    • Black-eyed peas

    • Crowder peas

    • Purple hull peas

    • Field peas

    • Potato Salad - usually made in the South with egg, mayonnaise, prepared mustard and pickle relish

    • Purloo - a traditional Low Country dish made with ham, bacon, peppers and okra

    • Ramps - wild leeks popular in the mountains

    • Red beans & rice - the rice is often some kind of dirty rice, a longstanding favorite in Louisiana

    • Seven-layer salad

    • Swamp cabbage (heart of palm)

    • Summer Squash - often cooked down with onions or fried like okra

    • Tomatoes - sliced ripe, also eaten at breakfast

    • Fried green tomatoes

    • Sweet potatoes - often "candied" with butter and brown sugar

    • Tomato aspic

    • Vidalia onion - a sweet onion grown only in the state of Georgia, sold and popular throughout the South

    • Wilted lettuce- with dressing, an Appalachian speciality

    • Yams: see Sweet Potatoes

  • Breads

    • Biscuits - traditionally prepared with buttermilk

    • Cornbread - sometimes served in a glass of milk or buttermilk

    • Cracklin' Cornbread - has pork cracklins in it

    • Corn pone - also called hoecake, Johnny cake

    • Hush puppies

    • Cornmeal mush - also known as Coush Coush in the Deep South

    • Spoonbread - a traditional colonial dish

  • Side dishes and complements

    • Apple butter

    • Barbecue sauce - numerous varieties throughout the region, sometimes even within same state; most use a primarily tomato, vinegar, or mustard base

    • Cayenne peppers

    • Chow-chow

    • Cole slaw - cabbage salad/relish, typically made with mayonnaise and sometimes sugar, except in parts of North Carolina and Virginia, where it instead may be vinegar-based and savory ("barbecue slaw")

    • Cracklin' - fried pork rind

    • Deviled eggs

    • Gravy served liberally over meats, potatoes, biscuits and rice

    • Red-eye gravy - made with black coffee and meat drippings (usually ham), typically served with country ham and grits

    • Sausage gravy - milk-based country gravy typically served over hot biscuits

    • Grits

    • Cheese grits

    • Fried grits

    • Hot sauce

    • Texas Pete - hot sauce made in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

    • Tabasco sauce - trademarked, aged hot sauce made in Louisiana

    • Mayhaw jelly

    • Muscadine jelly

    • Macaroni and Cheese

    • Old Bay Seasoning - made famous in Maryland

    • Peanut butter

    • Pepper Jelly

    • Plantains

    • Pickled or brandied peaches

    • Rice

    • Red rice

    • Cornbread dressing - similar to traditional stuffing, but using cornbread as a base and prepared separately from the meat

    • Cane syrup

    • Sorghum molasses

    • Watermelon rind pickles

  • Miscellaneous

    • Boiled peanuts

    • Cheese straws

    • Fatback or hog jowl

    • Frito pie

    • Muffuletta sandwich

    • Peanut butter and banana sandwich

    • Peanuts in Coke

    • Pickled pigs feet

    • Pimento cheese sandwich

    • Po' boy sandwich

    • Steen's cane syrup

    • Vienna sausages

  • Desserts and sweets

  • Cakes

    • Butter pecan cake

    • Caramel cake

    • Coconut cake

    • Hummingbird cake

    • Italian cream cake

    • King cake

    • Lane cake

    • Peach shortcake

    • Pound cake

    • Red velvet cake

    • Stack cake

    • Smith Island cake

    • Lady Baltimore Cake and Lord Baltimore Cake

  • Candies

    • Benne seed candy - such as Benne Brittle, found primarily in the coastal regions of Georgia and South Carolina

    • Bourbon balls

    • Goo Goo Cluster

    • Kentucky Cream Candy - a pulled candy that is made usually during the colder months (40 deg or below) of the year when humidity is low

    • Moon pie

    • Peanut brittle

    • Pecan brittle

    • Pecan Divinity

    • Pralines - a specialty of New Orleans

    • Squirrel Nut Zippers

  • Cobblers

    • Apple Brown Betty - a traditional colonial dessert

    • Blackberry cobbler

    • Dewberry cobbler

    • Peach cobbler

  • Cookies

    • Tea cakes - similar to sugar cookies

    • Butter pecan cookies

    • Moravian spice cookies - especially in North Carolina and Virginia

  • Frozen

    • Bananas Foster

    • Blackberry Ice Cream

    • Peach Ice Cream

    • Pecan-Praline Ice Cream

    • Snow cone

  • Pies

    • Apple pie

    • Chess pie

    • Dewberry pie - from the native blackberry ripening in early summer

    • Fried pies - peach, apple, cherry and chocolate are most common

    • Grape Hull pie - Scuppernong or muscadine grape pie

    • Key lime pie

    • Lemon ice box pie

    • Mississippi mud pie

    • Pecan pie

    • Peanut butter pie

    • Shoo fly pie - found in parts of the South where Pennsylvania Dutch settled, such as the valleys of Virginia

    • Sweet potato pie

    • Buttermilk pie

    • Squash pie

  • Puddings

    • Banana pudding

    • Bread pudding

    • Corn pudding

    • Trifle

  • Pastries

    • Creme sticks

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