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Jamaican Pepper Pot Soup
If anyone from Jamaica tells you that this soup is the one “to die for,” believe it. And, of
course, I am biased because this mid-week Jamaican soup is one that can be prepared
with a choice of ingredients, and it also has an appeal that everybody likes.
This is so because pepper pot soup can be many things to many people. For example, the
Rastafarians make a very good Ital style pepper pot soup, and the “bald heads”
do just as well using their traditional ingredients.
The difference between the Ital style and old style is that the Ital style is made without
salt or meat…and tastes good, too. Yet I have had pepper pot soup made with different
kinds of ingredients that I would not call traditional…and tastes just as good.
The thing that has always puzzled me is the name of the soup…Pepper Pot. The truth is,
it not peppery of even spicy, sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, it can be made spicy hot
with Scotch Bonnet Peppers, or Bird Peppers…as I have been told. But I am not able to
verify that that had happen, because I have never had spicy hot pepper pot soup.
I can see where someone can get carried away with spices when making pepper pot soup, though...Yah Mon!
But just hearing the name of this soup from this Caribbean island does conjure up an image
of some tongue-burning-watery-eyes exercise. Truly, that image is far from the truth. The main
ingredient in pepper pot soup is callaloo. Yes callaloo, the green leafy vegetable that
tastes like spinach. Imagine that.
Engine cane (Indian kale), another green leafy vegetable, helps to give the soup more
color and extra flavor, but it is not absolutely necessary when making this soup, however.
Even though okras are apart of the green ensemble, too, which is responsible for the
soup’s thickening, I prefer to think of them as extra ingredients. Suffice it to say that if
you don’t have them (okra and engine cane) it’s no big deal.
I hope the Jamaican cooking traditionalists don’t read this or they will surely have my
Some people will also use the leaves from the dasheen bush in this soup, in my humble
opinion, that’s only a choice.
In the old days we use two kinds of meats to make this delicious soup, pork and beef.
Both were cured in brine. Just imagine the amount of salt we had to remove from these
meats by soaking them in water prior to cooking. This meat-soaking still goes on today
even though it’s not necessary because you can use regular beef and pork and then add
the amount of salt to your specific taste, however.
Like I have said many times before… it’s just a matter of choice.
Here is your Pepper Pot Soup Choice. (Kind of traditional)
2 lbs. Fresh Callaloo
2 stalks Scallions
2 sprigs Thyme
1 Scotch Bonnet Pepper (optional)
1 lb. Indian Kale or Kale
½ lb. Yellow Yam
½ lb. Irish Potatoes
8 oz. Coconut Milk
½ lb. Salt Beef
½ lb. Pigs Tail
6 Seeds of Pimento (Allspice berries)
1 Onion (finely chopped)
Soak the meats in water in the refrigerator overnight to remove most of the salt. Discard
the soaking water. Cut the meats into bite size pieces. Add 3 quarts of water with the
meats and finely chopped onions to a stock pot. Allow the meats to boil until medium
soft. Use a fork to check the meats.
Now add the coconut milk if the meats are medium soft, if not, let them boil some more
Peel the yellow yam and potatoes, wash them, and cut the potatoes in halves; the yellow
yam in quarters.
Remove the seeds from the callaloo plants and then wash them in a solution of salt and
cold water. Not too salty though.
Add the yam and potatoes to the pot and wait five minutes. Alright, now put the greens
(callaloo, okras, and kale) into the pot and let them cook for about 12 minutes.
Use a strainer to remove the kale and callaloo from the pot and then put them into an
electric blender and chop these ingredients.
Return them into soup with all the rest of the ingredients. Turn the stove to medium low
and allow the soup to simmer until it thickens.
Serve in soup bowls with small pieces of coco bread… It’s a matter of choice.
Here is the Ital version:
Use the same ingredients as listed above except the Beef and Pork.
Bring water to boil in a sauce pan. Add the yam and potatoes to the boiling water. You
may want to add more ingredients to the Ital soup such as young breadfruit, dasheen, and
coco at the same time you add the yam and potato.
Wait five minutes and then put the greens into the pot. Let the callaloo and kale cook for
another ten minutes and then remove them from the soup with a strainer. Blend them as
instructed above and return them to the soup. Use a fork and stir the greens into the soup.
Wait two minutes and add the rest of the ingredients, except the coconut milk. Wait
another five minutes before adding the coconut milk to the soup.
Let the soup simmer on medium low until it thickens. Serve in soup bowls with small
pieces of bammy. (Cassava cakes)
Let me know how your pepper pot soup turns out. Cool?
PS: If you cant get fresh calaloo, use the canned one, remember to experiment as much as you can because once you cook this soup, this becomes your recipe.
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