Piedmont Blues and Hash Bash
Abbeville, South Carolina - October 13 and 14 on Historic Town Square

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Hash - A Delicacy of South Carolina

by John Waldrop

Today, hash is a very popular complimentary dish to South Carolina barbeque and a favorite of many South Carolina Barbeque Association judges that get excited when they see it being offered as a competition category. Hash is another feature of South Carolina barbeque's uniqueness. Hash-making began with the by-products of 'hog-killing' time on the early farms and plantations of SC. In those days, the less desired and tougher parts of the pig were used to make this long cooking stew. In the low country, it was typically served to the slave populations along with Carolina Rice as a part of a high protein high carbohydrate diet. Many of the slaves that came to South Carolina by way of the Caribbean brought with them chilies and spices from that region. These creative African cooks added the imported ingredients along with a few potatoes and onions making it such a tasty dish that it soon became very popular in the 'Big House' as well.

Historically hash was cooked in large cast-iron wash pots and syrup kettles as it is still done for personal consumption today. Today most hash is made with pork shoulders or butts and beef chuck roasts. Like barbeque, the recipes vary widely from cook to cook and have become a source of competitive pride for these 'Hash Masters.' It typically takes about 24 hours to cook a pot of hash requiring a constant watch and frequent stir to keep it from sticking. Hash with rice is still the most popular way to serve it, but historically it was rice in the low country and with bread in the up-state. Hash is really good with grits for breakfast as well.

According to historian and Southern folk-life documentary film maker Stan Woodward, hash is a foodway that fed farm folk during good times and hard times.  After the Civil War, small farms struggled in the Low-country and at hog-killing time nothing went to waste. Land-owner and sharecroppers alike ate hash, and the dish spread into the Midlands and the Piedmont.

Because of its early provenance, this cross between a stew and a meat gravy became established as the South Carolina stew of choice long before Brunswick stew made its way down from Virginia or up from Georgia - whichever way the migration took place.

Hash masters became known locally for their hash and began cooking it on special occasions when farming neighbors were invited for a social time together and on holidays, when the hash would be sold to members of the local community.  In this way hash-making began to occur in screened-in "hash houses", where it was sold to satisfy the local community's taste for hash and to supplement the farmer's income. Today it is cooked ritually in black iron pots at family reunions, church gatherings, on holidays and as fundraisers for volunteer fire departments. And there are still a few barbecue houses where the traditional farm recipes for hash are cooked in burbling cast iron pots that are "grandfathered-in." It is served as an accompaniment to pit-cooked barbecue and can be found on most buffet lines.

Stan Woodward's documentary "Carolina Hash: A Taste of South Carolina" is pretty much the definitive answer on just about anything you'd like to know about hash. For information, go to: (www.stanwoodward.com) This quirky and lively documentary carries the viewer across South Carolina to uncover the story of one of the Palmetto state's most unusual indigenous folk heritage foodways - hash.

Two of the Up-state South Carolina festivals that feature a hash cook-off along side their barebeque cook-off are The Festival of Discovery in Greenwood, SC - July 13th & 14th and The Piedmont Blues and Hash Bash in Abbeville, SC. - October 12th & 13th.

 

Organized By The Greater Abbeville Chamber of Commerce, 107 Court Square, Abbeville, South Carolina
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