The Triumphant Return of Seashore Rye

“My father-in-law Adair Mckoy started farming at the age of 14 in Sumter, SC. He moved to Wadmalaw Island in the early 1960s to take up commercial farming. By the early 1970s, he shifted away from row crop and ventured into commercial tomatoes, but one thing he carried over was rye for wind breaks. In the coastal region, we have a lot of sand. Rye is grown to protect and stop the sand from blasting a vegetable crop. After years of wind breaks, I asked my father-in-law if I could mill some. We were blown away with the flavor of this rye. No other rye compares with its texture and non-tacky quality. I am blessed that he has planted the rye for over 40 years. He never knew that his future son-in-law would make the rye into a finished good after all those years. Our goal is to preserve and continue to keep the strain. I am excited to link his beginning as a farmer with the future.”

Greg Johnsman, Geechie Boy Mills

(Quote from Slow Foods Site)

Pivot in a new kitchen. First couple of days and I’m trying to keep my head out of my backside, which, more often than not is a vain pursuit anyway.

My team mate Blake has quickly demonstrated his passion for cuisine. While looking at some different options for bread service, he produced some boules of pretty frkkn’ tasty rye. The kind the whole crew just stands there eating without any butter going “mmmm. gah. more.” Here’s Blake  & his boules:


and some gratuitous, unapologetic food porn of Blake’s bread:

Hands down some of the best rye I’d ever tasted. “Where’d you get the rye flour?” I asked. “Greg Johnsman?” “Yeah.Geechie Boy,” he said.

I recalled  the last meeting of the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation. David Shields was recounting the story of Seashore Black Rye and Greg stood up and said “I may have just what you’re talking about growing out on Edisto.”


I stuck my head in the walk in freezer and sure enough there was a bin labeled “Geechie Boy Heirloom Rye.”

The week after I get back from the James Beard House, Slow Foods Charleston is hosting an evening celebrating the Lowcountry legacy of Seashore Black Rye. The eyebrow raising lineup of chefs includes:

David Bancroft of Acre Restaurant, Auburn, Ala. – Tyler Brown of Southall Farms, Franklin, Tenn. – John Currence of City Grocery, Oxford, Miss. – Reid Henninger of Edmund’s Oast, Charleston, S.C. – Joe Kindred of Kindred, Davidson, N.C. – Jacques Larson of Wild Olive & Obstinate Daughter, Charleston, S.C. – Matthew Raiford of The Farmer and the Larder, Brunswick, Ga. – Nathan Richard of Kingfish, New Orleans, La.

For further information, reach Carrie Larson 404.312.0789carolynmlarson@gmail.com

Hope to see you there! 

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Lowcountry 2.0: Reimagining a Cuisine

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Cuisine: a style of cooking characterized by distinctive ingredients, techniques and dishes, and usually associated with a specific culture or geographic region.

Glenn Roberts talks about SC’s culinary history

Here in the South Carolina Lowcountry, our very well documented cuisine has deep roots that pre-date First Contact. Our shared cuisine has overcome Diaspora, wars, disease, plague, pestilence, earthquakes, hurricanes and enemy occupation (twice.) Our great strength is the profusion of cultural influences that have shaped who we are today: Native American, Spanish, West African, Italian, English, Huguenot French, German, and many many more. Our Lowcountry repertoire is testament to the blending of these waters: BBQ, shrimp & grits, pirlou, okra gumbo, benne seed wafers, coconut layer cake.

Late 19th Century truck farming helped pull South Carolina out of Reconstruction, and while it grew our economic engine, it also favored portability over flavor. By the mid 20th Century, agricultural products that had been the standard bearers of flavor for centuries diminished and, in many cases, disappeared.

If a cuisine is defined as above,  how do you reset an entire cuisine when many of the components have gone missing? You sit up straight and pay strict attention.

More to follow…

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Arrival

“should be interesting to see how this picture progresses in the future…”

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In the daily miasma of operations, occasionally things get stuck in your head. This is from the first post by Sean Brock on his blog Ping Island Strike, back from when he first arrived at McCrady’s in 2006.

This post in particular always resonated with me for reasons I can’t explain.

img_5241 Arrival.

Stay tuned…

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Forrest Parker’s Dispatch From Seed Saver’s Conference

As originally appeared in the Charleston Post & Courier, 7/22/16.

(Editor’s note: South Carolina Chef Ambassador Forrest Parker, most recently of Old Village Post House, sent this report from Iowa.)

 

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by Forrest Parker

It’s a testament to seed savers’ enthusiasm that when David Shields posted on Facebook a speech he planned to deliver at one of their most anticipated annual meetings, he could be sure many of them would read it in advance. “I think I’m going to deviate from the script,” Shields joked when I asked him about it. “That may shake things up a bit.”

Shields, Carolina Distinguished Professor at the University of South Carolina, was in Decorah, Iowa with Glenn Roberts, founder and chief visionary of Anson Mills, the Columbia, S.C.-based heirloom grain company. They came for the annual Seed Savers Exchange Conference and Campout, a June 15-17 gathering of “impassionistas” dedicated to the preservation and exchange of heirloom and vegetables, grains and legumes, sometimes known as “landrace.”

 

“Landraces are the cultivars that embody the wishes of hundreds of generations of human culture; they are the books of preliterate societies, the selections of seeds that have come down to the present age,” Shields said.

 

Seed exchangers and preservationists convened from across New England, the Midwest and from as as far away as Napa Valley. They’ve been gathering for 36 years to hear high-level overviews of apple culture; attend workshops on tomato breeding and take deep dives into preserving seed biosecurity. Seemingly all of the attendees waited eagerly for the keynote address by Roberts and Shields.

 

The head of the Seed Savers Exchange, John Torgrimson, arranged for them to deliver the keynote address. “We really hit the jackpot!” he said after seeing Roberts on the Charleston episode of Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown.”

 

In his introduction, Roberts illustrated the importance of seed saving by noting the cataclysmic 1816 “year without summer.” He drew a parallel between the crop failures of that year (due to the volcanic eruption of Mount Timbora in the Dutch East Indies) to the crop failures in South Carolina during last year’s floods. He noted that until now, he has never been reduced to critical seed reserve levels.

 

Shields described the South Carolina Lowcountry as home to a great cuisine and a culinary reputation that extends beyond the region, reflecting interplay between sophisticated and countrystyle cooking, and unique methods of cultivation.

 

In his 1992 treatise “Hoppin’ John’s Lowcountry Cooking,” John Martin Taylor shared that while recipes could be resurrected, Lowcountry farmers of the time were growing little more than okra and collards specific to the canon. Taylor, whom Shields regards as the “John the Baptist” of the moment to come, inspired Shields. In 2003, along with Nathalie Dupree, Marion Sullivan and others, he hosted an interdisciplinary conference in Charleston; that meeting gave rise to the group that would become the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation.

 

The next hour was a recap of familiar success stories from Charleston that remain unknown elsewhere: the Bradford watermelon, the Carolina African runner peanut, Purple Straw wheat, Purple Ribbon sugarcane, Sea Island flint corn. For those from off, these stories remain legendary, but the connecting thread of restoration resonates with Mid-westerners whose own historic flavors may wait to be restored.

 

There are many questions for the South Carolinians: Attendees ask about seed sourcing, preservation, grafting and cloning methods. There’s strong interest in the Palmetto State’s wheats, the return of seashore rye and in particular the Bradford Watermelon. “Excuse me,” says a voice behind me. “I have some questions about that melon. Would it grow in Napa?” I turn to see a gentleman roughly my height, a little younger. His hand is extended with a business card: The familiar clothes pin icon of the French Laundry.

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Carolina Day, June 28, 2016

Today marks the 240th anniversary of the Battle of Fort Moultrie. In the American Revolution, this pivotal moment became embedded in the DNA of our Palmetto State. Though I have written about this previously Here and Here, there’s still something that resonates within myself, within so many of us that call South Carolina home.

Recounting the battle later in life, Col. William Moultrie said of the fight

“It may be very easily conceived what heat and thirst a man must feel in this climate, to be upon a platform on the 28th June, amidst 20 or 30 heavy pieces of cannon, in one continual blaze and roar; and clouds of smoke curling over his head for hours together; it was a very honorable situation, but a very unpleasant one.”

 

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Layout of the Unnamed Fort on June 28, 1776, just 6 days prior to the Declaration of Independence

With the heat of the mid day Charleston sun, the de rigeur humidity, smoke and heat from the cannons you can just imagine how debilitating the heat must have been. But we emerged triumphant, and many would say that the resulting victory convinced patriots in Philadelphia that a fight against the British juggernaut was indeed winnable. So basically it was the efforts of South Carolinians that indeed enabled  the Declaration to be signed.

(A succinct and well written account of the battle may be found on the Halsey Map site of the Preservation Society of Charleston Here.)

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As a licensed tour guide, I recounted many times the story of how a messenger flew to the city like the famed runner from the battle of Marathon. He spread word of the victory by playing “Three Blind Mice” from the steeple of St. Michael’s Church. Though I had heard this was played every year, I had never been able to actually witness it.

Until today. So here, in its own relative glory is the steeple of St. Michael’s, and the bells playing “Three Blind Mice.”

Dum Spiro Spero.

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Lots Going On This Weekend

and a new menu at the Post House.

April is a special time in the SC Lowcountry. Get Outside!

Mount Pleasant Blessing of the Fleet

The 29th Annual Blessing of the Fleet & Seafood Festival presented by East Cooper Medical Center and Harris Teeter is one of the most highly anticipated events of the year! The festival pays tribute to Mount Pleasant’s local shrimping and fishing industry, offering a boat parade, live music, craft show and lots of free activities with the picturesque Ravenel Bridge and Charleston Harbor for a backdrop!

Colleton County Rice Festival

The Colleton County Rice Festival in Walterboro, South Carolina is an annual event featuring arts and crafts, food, fireworks, music and other entertainment.

Since it first arrived in 1685, rice helped create enormous wealth for the Lowcountry, and Colleton County was perfect for growing it. During the annual Rice Festival we celebrate the heritage of rice in this community and the beauty of the people and land that continue to bless this great country.

Come enjoy a fun-filled week of family activities in the warm Carolina sun. The Rice Festival has all the elements that make it fun for the entire family. Central to the festival is an arts and crafts area with a wide array of handcrafted items. The queen of the Rice Festival is crowned in a special pageant and she takes her rightful place of honor in the Rice Festival Parade as it meanders through downtown as a kickoff event to the festival. A 5K run, rated one of the top races in South Carolina, is another signature event for the festival. And what Carolina Festival is complete without a food court? Sprinkle in activities such as fireworks, music and other entertainment, and you’ve got an event sure to please the entire family.

Lowcountry Strawberry Festival at Boone Hall Plantation

The Lowcountry Strawberry Festival has grown to become one of the premiere special events held in the South Carolina Lowcountry each spring. The event combines wholesome family fun on the farm with over 35 exciting thrill rides, attractions, and festival type activities.

It’s HUGE!

Lowcountry Local First Chef’s Potluck

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If you’re a passionate eater of local, seasonal Certified SC Foods, the annual Chef’s Potluck out at Middleton Place is a must! 2016 Chef’s Potluck restaurants include:
Caviar & Bananas, CRU Cafe and Catering, Cypress / Artisan Meat Share, The Drawing Room, Edmund’s Oast, EVO Pizzeria, FIG / The Ordinary, The Glass Onion, The Grocery, High Cotton, The Macintosh / Oak Steakhouse, Middleton Place Restaurant, Monza / Closed for Business, Poogan’s Porch, Ted’s Butcherblock, Two Boroughs Larder.

2016 Chef’s Potluck participating farmers / purveyors include:
Abundant Seafood, Altman Ranch, Bull’s Bay Saltworks, Charleston Artisan Cheesehouse, Clammer Dave, Compost in My Shoe, Cordray Farms, Darling Farm, Geechie Boy Mill, Green Grocer, Gruber Farm, Hickory Bluff Berry Farm, Holy City Farms, Jeremiah Farm & Goat Dairy, Joseph Fields Farm, Keegan-Filion Farm, Limehouse Produce, Lowcountry Creamery, Lowland Farms, Middleton Place Organic Farm, Murray Heirlooms, Olinda Olives and Olive Oil, Rooting Down Farms, Rosebank Farms, Spade and Clover Gardens, St. Jude Farms, Sweetbay Produce and Nursery, Wildhaven Farm, Wishbone Heritage Farms.

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Your Palmetto State Dairies

There’s a great read in this week’s New York Times Food Section about small, local dairy farms. Of course here in the Palmetto State, we’ve been doing it since before it was cool.

A few dairies stand out in my mind:

Happy Cow Creamery in Pelzer, SC.

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Happy Cow Creamery in Pelzer, SC. (Photo courtesy agriculture.sc.gov)

“Happy Cow Creamery is a unique on-the-farm milk bottling operation offering high quality fresh milk directly from its own dairy cows.  Whole Milk, Chocolate Milk, Cultured Buttermilk, and Strawberry Milk are just a few of the products offered…” Close to my old stomping grounds of Anderson, SC (Home of the T.L. Hanna Yellowjackets!) Happy Cow uses a low heat thermalization method for pasteurization. Technical stuff, but for a chef it means it just plain tastes gooooood. At the S.C. Ag expo in Florence last January, my buddy Graham & I were able to get in on that chocolate milk action. There, we also learned that Happy Cow Creamery owner Tom Trantham was named the 2015 SC Farmer of the Year!

  Happy Cow Creamery

332 McKelvey Road Pelzer, SC 29669

864-243-9699

864-869-8687 for Tours

 

 

 

Hickory Hill Milk in Edgefield, SC.

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#gotranch?

“The Dorn Family established at its current location in 1764, the start of a rich tradition of family and farming. Over fifty-years ago, long before anyone had ever heard of mega-farms or agri-corporations, Maysie and Marvin started the dairy farm. It was then passed down to Jim and Marie Dorn who continued raising Holstein cows and producing milk with their sons Jim III, Watson, and Frank. Jim was so involved in the dairy industry that he served on the S.C. Dairy Commission and the National Dairy Board.

Today, Watson and Lisa, along with their children, Daniel and Courtney, work those same Edgefield County pastures. Jim and Marie continue to be active in the farming operations. Together, they bring you Hickory Hill Milk, an exciting new beginning for their family.

Hickory Hill Milk produces old-fashioned whole milk – the way Nature intended. Whole milk and chocolate milk are available for private sale on the farm.”

We use Hickory Hill buttermilk for our biscuits and dressings at the restaurant and lemme tell you what- it’s pretty special! And if you should happen to pick up some of that Clemson Blue Cheese knocking around (I mean, it is kind of famous and all) keep in mind all of the milk for that cheese is coming from- you guessed it- Hickory Hill!

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Go Tigers!

Hickory Hill Milk
150 Faulkner Mountain Road
Edgefield, SC 29824

(803)275-6141(828) 388-1708 for tours.

 

 

Lowcountry Creamery in Bowman, SC.

Lowcountry Creamery

Lowcountry Creamery, South Carolina & the entire South East’s only vertically integrated dairy. O yeah- and it’s delicious! (photo courtesy Lowcountry Creamery.)

These guys are relative newcomers (especially in comparison to the Dorn family!) I came across their product in the coolers over at Growfood Carolina recently. Jessica, one of the managers, said “O. That’s the stuff we got in recently from Lowcountry Creamery. It’s delicious and you need some in your restaurant!” Jessica was right- it IS delicious. You need to check out what these guys are doing over there. For one, they are the only vertically integrated dairy not only in SC but in the entire Southeast. Vertical integration is pretty much the gold standard in farming sustainability. In short, it means that every element involved with raising that livestock is raised right there on that farm, so no outside sourcing. (Talk about terroir being an expression of the locale???) But as a chef, and most deliciously, their entire herd is composed of Brown Jersey Cows.  How does this translate to flavor? Low yield + high fat content = Delicious!

Sea Island Jerseys

Celeste Albers City Paper

…and then there’s Celeste Albers. Grand Doyenne of SC Slow Food. Practically royalty. Legendary. When I first got serious about cooking, working in Louis Osteen’s eponymous kitchen, I developed a pretty serious Charleston Farmer’s Market habit on my way in on Saturdays. There, I met Celeste as she sold whatever was at the height of the season. She might only have had radishes that day, but you know what? They were the most quintessential of radishes.

20 years later, Celeste applies that same passion to her Brown Jersey Cows that graze in verdant Wadmalaw Island meadows. How does that translate? Deliciously! It’s raw milk, meaning unpasteurized, so we can’t use it in SC restaurants, but you can buy it retail. You can find Celeste’s milk over at the Glass Onion and on weekends at the Farmer’s Market.

Sea Island Jerseys

I could keep going on about even more small family dairies in SC (talkin’ to you Split Creek Farm Dairy! Anderson! Woot! Woot!)

Are there any SC dairies you’re passionate about?

 

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