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Beyond Grits & Gravy Wie Geht's,Y'all? German Influences in Southern Cooking BY FRED R. REENSTJERNA While a great deal has been made about Celtic and English influences in southern culture, less attention has been paid to other significant European influences. Most especially, German culinary traditions were established in several key regions of the South by the mid-1700s, and these traditions continue to this day. German settlement in the eighteenth-century South was the result of English colonial policy in the Carolinas and Virginia. South Carolina planters lived in Courtesy ofthe North Carolina Collection, University ofNorth Carolina at ChapelHill. 106 fear of Native American and slave uprisings, and they wanted colonies of white militiamen available on theirCooklTlQ flîpS borders. They devised a Township Plan, recruiting colo- rii ,1 1 · , 1 nists from German Europe to settle in an arc rangingJ from along the Savannah River over through ColumbiaWith Cl hßddy, and down to Orangeburg, South Carolina., , ,¦vi + ca* + ufij· u .uherbal aroma. Most or the townships tailed, in part because they were put down in swampy landscapes bearing little resem- ........................ blance to the homelands of German settlers. One settlement that did take hold, however, was Saxe Gotha Township. The region between the Broad and Saluda Rivers is known as the Dutch Fork even today, reflecting its German origins. Comprising modern Lexington County and Saluda County (and the land now under Lake Murray), this setdement took root as a center of evangelical Lutherans—and their food. Take, for example, chicken and dumplings. This mainstay ofmountain culture, which is actually served throughout the non-German South, is a stew of chicken and vegetables covered with a thick flour paste that is cooked by the steam ofthe boiling broth. In the Saxe Gotha region, by contrast, "dumplings" are flour noodles about two inches square. The region has become so homogenized since 1970 that food stores no longer carry dumplings in that size, but they did in my youth. I know this because my mother, once assigned to bring the dumplings to a family dinner and too busy to make a batch by hand, bought a package of prepared dumplings and sprinkled some flour over them to make them look homemade. Nobody knew the difference. Today, however, the only "extra-wide" noodles in food stores are barely an inch across. These kinds of "dumplings" are only one German culinary tradition. Liver pudding, quite a distinct food from pork sausage, is another characteristic ofSaxe Gotha. Its distincdy South Carolinian feature is thatit combines rice with ground pork organ meats, mixed with red pepper and other seasonings, all stuffed into casing. Commercial liver pudding in food stores is pretty bland, but "real" pudding is available at Caughman's meat plant oudet ("The Meat'n Place") and Four Oaks Farm. Both of these places are within a mile of each other in Lexington County and are operated by old Saxe Gotha families (the Caughmans and the Mathiases). But the most distinctive German food to come out ofSaxe Gotha is liver nips. Clearly of Central-European heritage, liver nips are still cooked in central South Carolina. Basically, "nips" are a paste of ground beef liver, stew beef, eggs, and flour, spooned into boiling beef broth. Cutting into the paste with a spoon was referred to as "nipping" some of it off—hence liver nips. They are also called liver dumplings nowadays—an interesting reminder of the southern-style chicken and dumplings discussed above. As the nips cook, some of the material falls Beyond Grits & Gravy 107 off into the beef broth, producing a kind of thick sauce (or a really lumpy gravy, ifyou're disrespectful). Two critical elements in liver nips are the seasonings and the amount of flour. Nips are heavy on thyme and odier herbs; cooking nips fill the kitchen with a heady, herbal, almost sausage-like aroma. The amount of flour is critical in final consistency, and recipes vary from family to family. Some people prefer a "tight" nip, made with lots of flour, while others prefer a looser nip. The finest nips ever, at least according to our family tradition, were made by Mrs. Clara Harmon. Regrettably , her grandson does not like...


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