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Chitlin Shopping Tips
Southern food is a mixture of Native American, Creole, and European influences. Staples of this comfort food include corn (in all its forms), honey, chicken, pork, and seafood, all easily found at any neighborhood grocery store.
Chitlin Cooking Tips
Southern and comfort food is often rich and heavy, be sure to include lots of greens and vegetables with these dishes.
Doing the Chitlin Strut
My daddy first told me about the Chitlin Strut when I was a teenager. We were driving inland from Charleston, our gold F-150 heavy with watermelons to sell at our produce stand back home in Spartanburg. We meandered down one-lane country roads, taking our time and eating pork skins, drinking RC Cola, and telling one another stories—mostly half truths about things we'd heard, trying to top each other with our outlandishness, but getting mired in the details.
But as we passed the sign for Salley, South Carolina, he told me a new story, one his mother used to tell him: how, on the Saturday after every Thanksgiving, my grandmother would join the thousands upon thousands of people who converge each year on Salley in celebration of the notoriously stinky preparation of hog intestines known as chitlins. Mired in the stench, people danced, drank, shared stories, and fell in love, all in the name of a single iconic dish. And, though he himself had never been, to hear him tell it, you could catch a whiff of the Chitlin Strut all the way from the interstate.
I didn't doubt him for a second: When I was growing up, folks used to say that the odor of chitlins cooking was so strong that even the leaves on the trees would turn the other way to escape it. The cleaning and cooking process does indeed produce a constant, unmistakable funk, an ever-present blend of fecal matter and hot fat, heightened by sulfur and tinged with sweat. But none of that mattered to my father, who was raised on chitlins. He loved them until the day he died, almost three years ago.
His affection for chitlins was hardly a surprise. For my family, nose-to-tail, farm-to-table dining has never been a trendy movement—it's how we've sustained ourselves for hundreds of years, and my paternal side has raised and eaten hogs as long as anyone can remember. But despite his passion for chitlins, Daddy never did make it to the Strut he was never in the right place at the right time. Which is part of why I'm headed to Salley this late November weekend, more than a decade after that lazy afternoon drive. It's an homage of sorts, but I'm also just plain curious.
Even though I've lived in rural South Carolina for the majority of my life, as an Ivy League-educated, upwardly mobile African-American woman, my world and my taste buds have always been far removed from chitlins. Both my paternal and my maternal grandmothers cooked chitlins, but my mother—the primary cook in our house—refused to make them for my father, so I didn't grow up with the smelly soul-food staple. My mother has always insisted that there are better, healthier, and sweeter-smelling things to consume than what she and many other black middle-class people demean with the term "slave food."
In fact, I'd only tried chitlins once before, as a child, courtesy of a church friend named Miss Ruby, who'd brought over a plate for my father. It was piled with turnip greens and chitlins in gravy, liberally spread over Carolina rice and so heavily spiced that it smelled more of peppers and vinegar than anything else. Ruby told me she used cinnamon to take away the "stank" normally associated with the food. Daddy urged me to try some, and, after a bit of cajoling, I finally picked up a slice and put it in my mouth. Only then did the smell emerge from the veil of spices, pungent and ripe. I gagged, struggling to chew through the rubbery bite. Face flushed, feeling thoroughly disgusted, I decided chitlins weren't for me. For many years, that was that.
Certainly nobody pressed me to try them again. With plenty of more palatable, socially acceptable options available on the cheap, it's become easy for younger generations to reject chitlins, not only for their texture and aroma but because, for many, the dish can serve as a strong reminder of the hardships the generations before us endured. Chitlins belong to the American food landscape that existed before the national highway system, chain restaurants, and frozen food. In many ways, eating them today means reckoning with the past, and with an inheritance that none of us asked to carry.
For slaves on the edge of starvation, poor-quality food and leftover scraps like innards were too useful to be ignored or thrown away. Instead, slaves made do with unpalatable items that were often bland, tiresome to prepare, and somewhat indigestible. They did their best to turn offal into flavorful and nutritious dishes by supplementing meager rations with peppers, spices, and vegetables like okra. In other words, they made the most of what they had, even when all they had was the intestines of a pig. For some, like my mother, this makes chitlins slave food. But for me, the fact that these recipes have been handed down from generation to generation, through political, economic, and racial struggles, speaks to a cultural tenacity and vibrant oral tradition that I'm determined to honor—even if it stinks to high heaven.
It's early afternoon when I park my car on the edge of an embankment right outside Salley town limits. I brace myself for a sensory assault, but the air is crisp and fresh—only later do I find out that the town has passed a new ordinance prohibiting anyone who isn't associated with the festival from cooking chitlins on the grounds. Relieved that my meeting with what I've dubbed "The Smell" has been delayed, I hustle toward the parade route, eager to see what the event has in store.
The sun is out, the winds are fair, and it's a beautiful day. Thirty thousand people are set to descend on Salley (population 398). People cluster around the edge of the road as decorated golf carts and fire trucks stream by, showering the crowd with candy and beaded necklaces. The parade is a small, unorganized affair—the vehicles start, stop, and occasionally idle, which gives the operators plenty of time to interact with the crowd. Trucks adorned with holiday bows are full of cheerleaders and football players, decked out in their Friday-night best. Salley's version of the Clampetts ride by in a golf cart, hillbilly music blasting from a jerry-rigged speaker, shotgun lashed to the windshield and a sewing machine attached to the roof. The air is filled with whoops and hollers daredevils on souped-up golf carts and motorcycles whiz past to the tunes of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Michael Jackson.
I hadn't been sure how racially diverse the event would be—even though chitlins are often thought of as an African-American foodstuff because of their origins, the Chitlin Strut was founded by a caucasian mayor who was looking for a new way to raise money for the town's Christmas decorations. At the time, Ben Dekle—a local white radio DJ and friend of the mayor's—declared that he'd always wanted Salley to host a chitlin-themed strut, but nobody had had the "guts" to do it. The city council decided Dekle's idea was crazy enough to work—chitlins were cheap, and besides, what did they have to lose?
From his dare emerged the first Chitlin Strut, a bit of tacky Southern bravado that people were unsure would last, but wanted to be a part of while they had the chance. And so, on November 26, 1966, 600 pounds of chitlins were served, along with platters of barbecued pork and chicken. The event was featured in Southern Living magazine and in newspapers as far away as Paris. It proved so successful that it became an annual celebration, run by the local government to raise funds for municipal purposes. According to Salley's town clerk, this year's festival-goers will consume over 10,000 pounds of pork intestine.
The hosting organization is still predominantly white, but as best I can tell, the crowd is easily three-quarters black. Cars sparkle, men flex, and music pours out of stereo systems the way liquor will flow later. The cast of Lizard Lick Towing pose for pictures and sign autographs, and The Black Cowboys, the final act, gallop down the street on their horses in full regalia.
When the parade is over, the fairgrounds open up and massive lines form: It's chitlin time. One by one, people hand the cashier $10 and head for the fully enclosed shed on the edge of the fairgrounds, appropriately dubbed "the chitlin house." There, the intestines are cleaned and cooked—an efficient setup when it comes to containing The Smell. I take my time, though, circling the grounds while The O'Kaysions prep the crowd for an afternoon of old-school R&B and jazz.
Two songs into their set, the fairgrounds are packed, and it's standing room only for the rest of the day. Lines stretch along the fence and toward the exit for various food vendors. For those uninterested in the plat du jour, there are smoked turkey legs, fried fish, and barbecue on which to feast. Chefs display ornate desserts in bids for attention from those looking for something sweet to balance their palates. Bass thumps, lines form, and friends greet each other with a "hey y'all" before launching into the latest bits of gossip. While standing in line for lemonade, I learn that Ricky ran off with Ella, Troy blew his finger off with fireworks, and Rita won't stay unless George gets her a new dog and fixes the deck. More than once, somebody's momma cries, "Hold my purse, this is my sooooong!"
The odor of chitlins comes and goes—never brutally obtrusive, because, this early in the day, people are just passing through with to-go plates, the musty funk leaking from the crevices of their Styrofoam containers. I find myself torn, determined to immerse myself but utterly unprepared to order my own plate of chitlins, let alone take a seat in the house itself. Cautiously, I walk around the side of the shed and press my face against the glass, watching as people dab vinegar over their plates of boiled chitlins, and dunk fried bits like potato chips into hot sauce. From my side of the window, things don't seem so bad. Here, I think, I am safe.
I smell the plate of chitlins from behind me before I can stop myself from breathing. I choke at the shock, the overwhelming onslaught of funk. I turn as a tall, pecan-tan gentleman with graying temples apologizes for startling me. He introduces himself as Ronnie. I don't have the extra air to explain to him that his presence isn't my problem. "Want a bite of my chitlins?" He thrusts the box toward me.
Allow me to be clear: I never turn down food. I snap up every chance I can to stimulate my taste buds, and I'm generally an adventurous eater. But, despite months of anticipation and mental preparation, I'm paralyzed. If Miss Ruby's chitlins, diluted with sauce and smothered with spices, engendered such disgust, how would I handle them now, bare-bones as can be? Southern social protocol dictates that whenever somebody offers you something to eat, you accept it and try it, regardless of whether or not you're really in the mood. I should smile politely, take the box, and have a bite. I smile politely. I take the box. And then I stall.
Ronnie tries to make small talk while I gather the nerve to put the pale mixture in my mouth. I kill time by adding hot sauce. I don't like hot sauce, but it's something to do with my hands, and I tell myself that the tang and spice might cut through the thick, rubbery meat. The presentation is slightly sloppy juice runs down the edge of the Styrofoam container and drips onto my boots. White-knuckling my fork, I dig into the box and come up with a scoop of wiggly, jiggly intestines and onions clinging to bits of rice. I shove the forkful into my mouth before I have the chance to second-guess myself. The roof of my mouth burns my tongue flounders. Eventually, my mandibles take over, chewing madly, wildly, trying to get the food into my digestive tract before my brain can initiate my gag reflex.
Ronnie pretends not to notice and keeps chatting me up—about his hometown of Rock Hill, and how he comes to the Strut with friends every year to recover from the stress of Thanksgiving. My forkful finally swallowed, I thank him, and promptly ask him why on earth he eats chitlins.
"I grew up eating them, so I like them all right," he says. "But you can't eat just anybody's chitlins. You gotta trust the cook you're eating them from." I explain to him that this is my first time at the festival, and only my second interaction with chitlins.
When he asks if I've been to any of the block parties and jazz squares outside of the festival, I give him a look of befuddlement. I didn't know there was anything going on outside of the festival grounds. "Baby girl, do you think all these people come here for a couple of slices of meat and some rice?" Ronnie gives me a grin. "Let me show you where the real Chitlin Strut is."
Sidestepping motorcycles and cutting through the thick smoke from barbecue grills, he tells me all he knows of the history of the Strut. Beyond the fairground proper, there's a sea of black faces as far as the eye can see. Ronnie shows me around, hopping from block to block, waving at people playing spades in front of their RVs. The sizzle of warm fat meeting hot coals greets our ears, and at the local gas station, a DJ has the area packed to maximum capacity. The crowd sways and rocks so hard that the signage bounces against the building every time the beat drops. The whole town is a party, and it feels like all of black South Carolina has come here to celebrate. This is the type of environment my father thrived in. He would've been shuffling cards and making friends—a plate of chitlins at his left elbow and a cup of sweet tea at his right. I wish he could've seen this. I blame my tears on the unexpected grill smoke.
We make our way to the edge of town, where a church is selling plates of food—here, and a couple of other secret houses around the town, Ronnie tells me, is where you get the good stuff. The church is closing down their operations for the day, but I vow to get here earlier next year.
On our way back to the fairgrounds, Ronnie links up with some of his friends, and they start sharing stories of nights brimming with moonshine, riding with the Black Cowboys, and fish frys on the edge of Lake Greenwood. They pour a little home brew into my lemonade as guitars twang and thrum onstage. Jimi Hendrix got his start in venues like these, and at events centered on chitlins. When he played with the King Kasuals, they started working a series of black music clubs a few hundred miles outside of Nashville. The joints often had potbellied stoves and served chitlins to the crowds. As a group, these small southern clubs were known as the Chitlin' Circuit. Hendrix perfected his showmanship in those spaces, brushing elbows with the likes of "Gorgeous" George Odell, Aretha Franklin, and the Isley Brothers.
As afternoon fades into evening, many of the Strut attendees start filtering out toward block parties. I part ways with my guide and his friends, exchanging hugs with folks who were strangers that morning. I spend some time wandering about town, eventually ending up beside the pond on Hartley Drive, thinking about all I'd seen in a day.
South Carolina's state motto is "While I breathe, I hope." In many ways, South Carolina—where both my parents and I were born and bred—is still seen as a backwards, off-the-beaten-path state, high in domestic violence and low in economic opportunities. As always, the numbers don't tell the whole story. South Carolinians—and the Southern foods they love—are more nuanced and particular than that.
After my day at the Chitlin Strut, I realize the term "chitlin" really means "a sense of belonging." Throughout history, spaces that held chitlins at their center allowed black people to laugh uninhibitedly at a time when white faces conjured up intense anxiety. Through years of racial segregation and persecution, these places—whether a small juke joint or a cluster of RVs—served as our safe spaces, where people of color could socialize, get a decent plate of food, relax, and enjoy themselves. The Strut, and the events around it, served up soul-nourishing hospitality that I didn't know I needed. Chitlins might not be my offal of choice, but my experience at the Chitlin Strut has made me feel part of a larger community that has little to do with the actual food and everything to do with my ancestry. When I get back in the car, I look at the calendar in my phone and add an event: November 26, 2016. Next time, I've got to try the fried chitlins.
Chitlin Loaf Recipe
- Author: Steve Gordon
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 3 - 4 servings 1 x
- Category: Main Dish, Pork
- Method: Stove Top
- Cuisine: American
Follow our step-by-step, photo illustrated recipe to prepare Chitlin Loaf. Whether you call them Chitlins, or Chitterlings, we’ll show you how to enjoy them. Chitlin Loaf is probably the easiest and best way to try them.
- 2 lb Chitterling Loaf, fully cooked
- ½ teaspoon Black Pepper
- 2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon Texas Pete Hot Sauce
- Chop the chitlin loaf into small pieces, as desired.
- Place chitlins in a medium sized stock pot, on your stove top, over Medium heat.
- Bring to a low simmer.
- When the gel has melted, pour about half of the gel off , leaving enough to cover chitlins.
- Discard the removed gel.
- Add the black pepper.
- Add the vinegar.
- Add the hot sauce, stir well.
- Reduce heat to about medium-low.
- Simmer for about 45 minutes, until chitlins are fork tender.
- Serve warm.
Keep in mind that this is a fully cooked chitterling loaf. You may find “cleaned chitterlings” in your local grocery store that will need to be further cleaned and then cooked.
Keywords: Chitlin Loaf Recipe, chitterlings, soul food recipe, Nahunta Pork Center, southern recipes
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Easy Crock Pot Creole Style Chitterlings/Chitlins
Take it easy on the apple cider vinegar, 1-2 tablespoons per 5 pounds is enough or skip it. Add 4 potatoes to absorb the fat and the smell, pre-boil for 15-30 minutes before adding to crock pot. I don't simmer on the stove. Leave in for 2 hrs max, 3 hrs is too long, they will be too mushy.
Do NOT cut the potatoes, just add with skin on when cleaning, washing and cooking to control the smell. It worked pretty well, but I also had an air purifier on with a couple of candles.
You can throw potatoes away or eat them but be mindful they have absorbed any fat in the juices and not a healthy potato but tasty. I also added two banana peppers, slit for flavoring.
Adjust for the amount you end up with. I used a quarter of an onion and a third of bell pepper, no celery. Creole seasoning has salt in it already so if need be, skip adding it.
How to Clean Chitterlings
Chitterlings are, in fact, pig intestines. As you can imagine, the intestines carry feces. So, obviously, you want to make sure to clean them thoroughly, but you also want to make sure you are not spreading any viruses or bacteria such as E coli or Salmonella. Like any other raw food, these things can be present in chitlins.
- First, you should boil them for five minutes prior to cleaning them to kill any bacteria. This will not change the taste of your chitlins and actually makes it easier to clean them.
- If you don&apost have time to boil-cool-clean-cook, then you can clean them using hot water instead of cold. This is the method that I use and no one has ever gotten sick eating my chitlins!
- Cleaning chitlins is one of those things you learn by doing. My first chitlin-cleaning lesson was given to me over the phone. Really! I bought the ones in the red bucket my first time. You will want to pick out the obvious-looking things. straw, hair, feces, anything that doesn&apost look like you would eat it. Don&apost be surprised by what you see: Pigs eat everything. Clean them inside and out, removing any fat as well.
For those of you that are more visual learners, I&aposve included a pretty good video below, showing what you need to do. It&aposs about ten minutes long. You only need the first three minutes or so to get the idea, but watching the entire video will give you some more background on southern cooking and southern family traditions (even if you&aposre not in the South).
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"Love this site. I get some many GOOD recipes.
"Chitterlings is a wonderful place. I have been a member for a long time and I have shared favorite recipes with others. I think the best part is learning new soulfood recipes that I had heard of but never tried.
Although I live in Ohio my father was born in Virginia and raised in West Virginia. His love of southern cooking encourged me to learn more and try more.
My German grand mother gave me the other side. She taught me dishes to die for, that are also inexpensive.
The people here who share foods from other cultures are so great. I have tried Mexican foods that are wonderful.
Everyone should at least give Chitterlings a try and read a few of the messages. If you aren't happy you can always unsubscibe but I can't imagine that happening.
Best wishes to Willie and Joleen.
Lois from Ohio"
"I came across Chitterlings.com quite by accident. I was searching for a recipe and Chitterlings.com was one of the sites
that the search engine found. The name was very unusual but to the point. I thought "this must be a soul food site", and it was. I was absolutely thrilled to find some of the food my grandmother cooked in recipe form. I love soul food and I like to cook it but could never seem to find the recipes that I wanted. I ordered the cookbook the first time that I logged on to Chitterlings.com. I have told all of my family and friends about the site and the cookbook.
"This recipe site has truly been a wonderful experience for me since first discovered it last year! MORE SOULFUL RECIPES stands in a class all by itself! I have not missed a day since I became a member to visit the site and to read new and old recipes. I have met new friends and found many wonderful recipes from all over the country. I have never experienced a site that had so much to offer to it's members!
"Dear Joleen, I want you and everyone else to know that I have thoroughly enjoyed the terrific recipes you send. Your's is the first one I look at every day
and I have tried quite a few recipesand they were delicious. I love southern cooking and look forward to receiving many many more. Let's sign up good people and you'll see what you have been missing.
"I look forward to new recipes almost daily.Different recipes I've never seen, I get compliments on the food I have prepared from the recipes.I would be disappointed if I did not have my email filled with great recipes.Please keep them coming. Pat Waller"
I have been a member for some time, and I just love this site! Its a great way of getting wonderful recipes (like grandma used to make) and to share some of my family favorites. Keep up the great job and keep them comin' Thanks so much for an easy way to stay in contact with some great cooks!
"JOLENE: Your cooking newsletter is most informative. The recipes are great! They are down home-cooking recipes that I grew up with. I can relate to each of them. Not only did I learn cooking from my mother, but I also learned from my grand-mother who lived on a farm. Their meals consisted of foods they grew themselves. A lot of the recipes are some I remember well, the others are some I had forgotten about. The section where people write in wanting recipes are interesting also. Each of us have different tastes and we are willing to share the recipes. I also lived in Louisiana and learned to cook everything CAJUN I could. I am sorry I do not have a photo available to send. It would be interesting to see face to face the persons you are sharing recipes with.
I have been a member of the list since about June and I have gotten some really great recipes. I was interested in some Eggplant recipes before I joined the list and I got several good ones. One thing I like is the fact that you get so many variations of recipes. You can pick and choose whichever one you like. Keep up the good work!
Chitterlings (Chitlins) History and Recipe
However, the volume sold for New Year’s dinners, with Christmas and Thanksgiving not far behind, attests to chitlins popularity in the United States. Chitterlings is the more formal name, but most people call them chitlins. They are usually part of a larger meal that includes collard greens, fried chicken, and other traditional Southern foods. Chitlins are not for the faint of palate or smell, which is why traditionally they were cooked outdoors at backyard hog killings in winter.
Chitlins take a lot of time and effort to clean. They are partially cleaned when they are sold, but require additional hand cleaning before they are ready to eat. The secret to good and safe chitlins is in the cleaning, not in the cooking. They are available in supermarkets in African-American neighborhoods, especially during the holiday season. They can also be ordered from a butcher, but be prepared to buy 10 pounds of chitlins to get 5 pounds to cook.
Photos courtesy of J. B. Coltrain, County Extension Director, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
History of Chitterlings/Chitlins:
Animal innards have long been treasured foods around the world. Scotland’s national dish is haggis (sheep’s stomach stuffed with the animal’s minced heart, liver, and lungs). Throughout Europe, tripe (cow or ox stomach) is popular, and French chefs in upscale restaurants serve dishes based on cow’s brains and kidneys.
In 1966, the town of Salley, South Carolina, inaugurated the annual Chitlin’ Strut. The first festival attracted about a hundred people. Today the festival draws about 70,000 people. It is estimated that more than 128,000 pounds of chitlins have been eaten during the festival’s history.
Eating chitlins in the rural South is not as common as it once was. In colonial times, hogs were slaughtered in December, and how maws or ears, pigs feet, and neck bones were given to the slaves. Until emancipation, African-American food choices were restricted by the dictates of their owners, and slave owners often fed their slaves little more than the scraps of animal meat that the owners deemed unacceptable for themselves. Because of the West African tradition of cooking all edible parts of plants and animals, these foods helped the slaves survive in the United States.
The informal circuit of juke joints and clubs patronized by African Americans has long been called the “Chitlin Circuit.” The Chitlin’ Circuit was a string of music venues in the South that sold chitlins’ and other soul food dishes. In the late 50’s and early 60’s these tours were crucial to Black artists. Because there was no media coverage for these artists, the Chitlin’ Circuit was the only way to perform for their fans.
By mid-century there were several active chitterling eating clubs – Royal Order of Chitlin Eaters of Nashville, Tennessee and the Happy Chitlin Eaters of Raleigh, North Carolina.
There is even a song on chitlins called Chitlin Cookin’ Time in Cheatham County:
There’s a quiet and peaceful county in the state of Tennessee
You will find it in the book they call geography
Not famous for its farming, its mines, or its stills
But they know there’s chitlin cookin’ in them Cheatham County hills
When it’s chitlin cookin’ time in Cheatham County I’ll be courtin’ in them Cheatham County hills
And I’ll pick a Cheatham County chitlin cooker
I’ve a longin’ that the chitlins will fill
Most families who love to cook chitlins have their own recipe passed down from generation to generation. My friend, Andra Cook of Raleigh, North Carolina, says her mother, Martha McCollum, always fried the chitlins after they were simmered.
Andra says, “If you can get past the smell, they have an interesting flavor. When my mother prepared them, the whole neighborhood smelled!”
- 10 -pound bucket chitterlings, fresh or frozen
- Cold water to cover
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 5 bay leaves
- 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
- 2 large potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 green or red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and coarsely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
- Hot pepper sauce
Cleaning Chitterlings: Soak the chitterlings in cold water throughout the cleaning stage. Each chitterling should be examined and run under cold water and all foreign materials should be removed and discarded.
Chitterlings should retain some fat, so be careful to leave some on.
Using a small soft brush, clean chitterlings thoroughly rinse in several changes of cold water. Cut into 1 1/2 to 2-inch pieces.
Place the cleaned chitterlings into a large pot cover with water and vinegar. Add bay leaves, onions, potatoes, green or red pepper, garlic, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil turn heat to low and simmer approximately 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until chitterlings are tender. Remove from heat and drain well.
Serve with your favorite hot pepper sauce.
Health Officials Issue Precautions for Preparing Chitterlings
by Virginia Health Department
Families across Virginia will soon be cooking holiday meals. If your meal includes chitterlings (pig intestines), the Virginia Department of Health has recommendations for preparation that will keep your family from getting sick.
"When preparing chitterlings the best way to avoid bacterial contamination and illness is to buy pre-cooked chitterlings," recommends State Health Commissioner Robert Stroube, M.D., M.P.H. "If raw chitterlings are used, they should be preboiled for five minutes before preparing as usual. Pre-boiling makes cleaning chitterlings easier and faster and does not change the taste."
Dr. Stroube warns that bacteria in raw chitterlings or pig intestines can cause severe diarrhea, especially in infants. Chitterlings, commonly called chitlins, may contain the Yersinia bacteria. The bacteria are spread from raw chitterlings by hands or by eating or drinking contaminated food or liquids.
"Preparing chitlins is a lengthy process. Contamination within the home is hard to avoid. Baby food or formula should not be prepared or handled while preparing chitterlings due the potential for contamination. Infant formula or food should not be placed anywhere near raw chitterlings in the refrigerator. The Yersinia bacteria are different than many bacteria, because they multiply and spread even in the cold," Dr. Stroube said.
Yersinia can cause severe diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever. The symptoms usually begin within three to seven days after contact with the bacteria. Infants and small children who contract yersiniosis may require hospitalization, although the illness rarely causes death. Older children and adults may experience appendicitis-like stomach pain.
The Virginia Department of Health recommends the following tips when cooking chitlins:
Wrap the container containing the raw chitlins in plastic wrap when thawing in the refrigerator.
Keep children out of the kitchen until the chitlins are pre-boiled and the kitchen is thoroughly cleaned.
Handle raw chitlins as little as possible until after they have been pre-boiled.
Keep raw chitlins away from all baby food and formula.
After touching the chitlins, wash your hands with warm water and soap, and clean under your nails.
Clean sinks and all places touched by raw chitlins or their juice with hot soapy water or a chlorine bleach solution.
Wrap all waste promptly and throw into an outside garbage can.
Clean all pots, pans, buckets and utensils in the dishwasher or in hot soapy water.
Why You Need to Try Chitlins
We eat some questionable things on this side of the Mason-Dixon Line that others would balk at—pickled pigs feet, boiled peanuts, hog&aposs head cheese, gator meat𠅋ut nothing is quite as quintessentially Southern as chitlins. Chitlins are the intestines of a pig, boiled down, fried up, and served with apple cider vinegar and hot sauce. This utterly unique delicacy represents one of the earliest values of Southern cooking: Use everything you&aposve got.
It&aposs understandable to have a love-hate relationship with chitlins, or "chitterlings," as our neighbors up North might call them. They don&apost smell great when you first start to cook them, and yeah, it is admittedly a little weird to eat an animal&aposs innards to that extent. But the true appeal of chitlins lies in the mentality behind it.
Chitlins come from a universal idea of waste not, want not. For centuries, cultures all around the world have had recipes for their own version of chitlins, using every piece of an animal they could manage—haggis in Scotland, ipaw in the Philippines, andouille in France. Historically, in the U.S., rich slaveholding families got first pick on the parts of a slaughtered pig (ever heard the phrase "livin&apos high on the hog?"). Consequently, chitlins were the parts of the pig left to slaves, along with the fatback, ears, and feet that also became featured facets of Southern cuisine. They remained a cultural staple, and cooking them became a show of culinary prowess, because they have to be cooked so carefully to be safely consumed.
Chitlins are no longer as prominent a fixture in Southern cuisine as they used to be. Most people don&apost raise and kill their own meat, so preserving and using every edible part possible is no great concern. But that doesn&apost mean that there&aposs no place for chitlins on the table in the modern South. It&aposs still fairly common to see animal organs in meals, like beef liver and onions, and many families&apos Thanksgiving and Christmas food traditions still revolve around the use of turkey giblets.
Chitlins might not be a necessity, but they are certainly a delicacy, a piece of Southern history on display. So go ahead and indulge in this classic. You might hate it, you might love it, but hey—you&aposll never know until you try!
The Best Soul-Food Dishes, Ranked
Adrian “The Soul Food Scholar” Miller, is the author of the 2014 James Beard Foundation Award-winning book Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time. Follow him @soulfoodscholar
I'm a peaceful man, but sometimes I do things that are best described as "fightin' words." This is such an occasion—here, I've dared to rank the top ten essential soul-food dishes of all time.
Soul food—a cuisine that fuses West Africa, Western Europe and the Americas—is no stranger to controversy. Though the label floated around black culture at least a decade earlier, "soul food" had its breakout moment in the 1960s when Black Power advocates declared their independence from the narrative forced upon African Americans by white hegemony. Food was included in that ambitious project. Soul food was presented to the world as a cuisine wholly distinct from southern food, even though they shared common ingredients, culinary techniques, and history.
It was a brilliant marketing move, but it was ideologically incomplete for two reasons. Despite the conscious effort to create difference, the lines between soul and southern cuisine are blurred inside the American South—so much so that even African Americans call what they eat southern food. Secondly, African Americans were left to fill-in-the-blanks as to what soul food is. Soul food's malleable definition was sufficient to get buy-in from African Americans all across the country, but it also allowed for a lot of regional and personal interpretation.
Now, a half-century later, we can look back to see that a consensus has developed as to what should be on a soul food plate. Like many soul-food aficionados, my childhood memories of what I ate at home, at my grandparents, at church, and at restaurants have shaped the ranking that follows. I've endeavored to be as objective as possible by stepping back from my own personal preferences and adding what I have gleaned from the stupendous amount of research that I did for my book on the history of soul food.
Whatever follows, I'm certainly not trying to bad-mouth anything that any loving caregiver served you while growing up. Still, it's time to set the record straight. Here is a countdown of the best soul-food dishes.
Here&rsquos another pasta you can make with leftover chili: spaghetti! Just use the chili in place of your regular spaghetti sauce and you&rsquove got yourself a fusion of Tex-Mex and Italian cuisines. How lovely.
Aside from potatoes and sweet potatoes, here&rsquos another vegetable you can stuff chili into: bell peppers!
This healthy dish is super easy to prepare, especially when you&rsquove already got the sauce ready! Just fill your softened peppers (you can achieve this in the microwave) with chili, cheese, and rice, and bake until the cheese is bubbly.
How to Clean Chitlins
If at all possible, purchase pre-cooked chitlins from a butcher. This will help prevent the spread of germs in your household.
If you must purchase raw chitlins to prepare at home, there are some extremely important precautions you should take—food safety, when it comes to chitlins, starts before you even touch the meat:
First thing’s first: According to the CDC, it’s important to keep children out of the kitchen during the cooking process.
- Take out everything you’ll need to prepare the chitlins and to clean up when you’re done before you take them out of the packaging. This includes knives, cutting boards, seasonings, pots, pans, colanders, measuring cups, bleach, and paper towels.
- Once everything’s on the counter and within reach, you can boil the chitlins for at least 5 minutes to kill as many germs as possible. Drain in a colander.
- Thoroughly examine each chitlin for any debris. Look out for straw, hair, undigested food, and fecal matter.
- Rinse under cool water, making sure all debris is washed down the drain.