Monday, June 18

Hashing It Out

From the sauce-splattered keyboard of guest blogger Robert Moss. 

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.

-Robert Moss
You can follow Robert on Twitter at @mossr.