Sunday, September 22, 2013

Now You Hush Puppy!

Hushpuppies are a Southern thang...  They are a sort of round, deep fried, cornmeal dumpling that frequently accompanies fried catfish and sometimes are served as the bread portion with other dishes.  I have friends visiting us next week and Derek and I are making them a "real Southern meal" of Chicken and Sausage Gumbo and Hushpuppies.  Hushpuppies are relatively new in my culinary experience - not a food I grew up with out West - and so I've been trying to learn a little bit more about them and find a base recipe we can start with to create something unique to our own taste.

 There are a lot of theories, though no one is certain, where Hushpuppies got their name including these:
  • Confederate soldiers fed their corn biscuit rations to their dogs to quiet them in order to avoid detection from Union soldiers, hence the phrase "hushing the puppies" or, smooshed together as we seem to do with language, "hushpuppies."
  • The dredging flour from catfish in the main house that would have been thrown out was sent down to the slave quarters by the cook and the women added a little milk, egg and onion and fried it up. It is said they tossed bits of this fried batter to the dogs to keep them quiet while the food was being transferred from the pot to the table. "Hush puppy! Hush puppy!"
  • While slaves or poor folks (or in some accounts hunters and fishermen) were cooking fried foods with batter outside, balls of the batter coating were fried and given to the dogs to keep them from begging or barking, thus the name "hushpuppies."
  • They were fried up to toss to the dogs to keep them quiet while the "revenooers" were snooping around looking for bootleggers' and their stills.
I kind of love that the name is so descriptive... however it may have come about, it seems to have something to do with keeping a canine companion quiet.

I could sure use some this morning.

Boys!!  What's out there that has your mouths working overtime?

This recipe [mostly] from The Southern Lady Cooks seems pretty representative of what I've found so I think we'll use it as a starting point and decide how to tweak it from there:


3/4 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup onion, diced (can be regular or green onions)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of cayenne or a few drops of hot sauce
1 egg
1/2 +/- cup beer (or buttermilk is an option)
Cooking oil to give 2-inch depth in your pot for frying

Combine cornmeal, flour, onion, salt, egg and milk.  The batter should be just wet enough that you can shape it into balls about the size of a walnut with your hands (or a couple of spoons) and it sticks together.  Have oil hot in a skillet and drop hush puppies into oil.  Cook about 3 to 4 minutes browning on all sides.   Remove and drain on paper towels.  Best served hot.  This makes about 10 to 12 hushpuppies.

I also thought this was an interesting little historical tidbit on the Savannah Food Company's website...
"And yes, the food created the name of the famous shoe company…
In 1958, Jim Muir was having dinner with a friend in Tennessee when he witnessed how his friend’s barking hounds were quieted down when given hushpuppies. Jim thought about how aching feet were commonly referred to as barking dogs. Wolverine shoes, or rather Hushpuppies, were the answer to soothing one’s aching feet. Thus a legend began!"

No comments: