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Foodizen: How to Make Pepper Pot Soup

The soup hails from West Africa and the Caribbean but became a signature Philly dish in the 1800s

We recently shared the fascinating story behind pepper pot soup on our Foodizen podcast.

The soup was consumed by millions of Americans throughout the 20th century, but its history doesn’t begin with Andy Warhol’s iconic canned-soup paintings; nor did it get its start from Campbell’s Soup, which mass-marketed it for ages before halting production of it in 2011.

A common story says that the soup was first created by a white soldier in George Washington’s Valley Forge army, but that’s not true, either.

Pepper pot soup (or stew, depending on its origins) was first made in West Africa and the Caribbean before it became a signature dish in Philadelphia, where colonial Black women made and sold  ‘smoking’ hot servings as street vendors throughout the 19th century. There’s even a painting by John Lewis Krimmel that depicts a Black woman doling out pepper pot soup to a hungry crowd in Philadelphia.

Listen to our podcast to learn more about the history of pepper pot soup, and then try making a pot of your own.

Here’s a recipe for pepper pot stew by food historian and Foodizen podcaster Tonya Hopkins, who shared it on an episode of The Chew in 2017.

HOW TO MAKE PEPPER POT STEW

Ingredients

1 cassava, cut into chunks

3 strips thick-cut bacon, cut in 1 to 2 inch pieces

1 pound stew beef, cut into 1 or 2 inch cubes

3 teaspoons sea salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground clove

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon starch thickener, such as tapioca or corn

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 large onion, diced

1 bunch scallions, green part only, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 poblano pepper

1 red or yellow bell pepper

1 habanero

1 jalapeno

1 pound collard greens or lacinato kale, stemmed and cut into strips

2 or 3 sprigs thyme, leaves only

Beef Stock to cover

Steps

Bring salted water to boil in a medium pan, add cassava chunks. Simmer until soft and tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain, smash until consistency of chunky applesauce, set aside.

Meanwhile, Place large dutch oven over medium heat. Brown bacon on both sides until just crisp, remove and set aside, leaving rendered fat in the pan.

Mix salt, pepper, allspice, clove, paprika, onion and garlic powders together in a small bowl.

Season beef with half of mixture then lightly dredge in starch.

Add oil to pan with bacon fat, brown beef on all sides in a single layer, in batches if necessary.

Layer onions, scallions, garlic, peppers, remaining seasoning mix on top of beef. Cover and let steam until vegetables are softening and aromatic, about 5 minutes.

Stir in stock, fresh thyme leaves and cassava mash. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 5 minutes, add greens and continue simmering until just tender.

Adjust seasoning to taste.

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