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Southerners may be stereotyped as the genteel, laid back, easy-going types, but if there’s one thing they take very seriously—like, on your momma’s life and daddy’s honor, seriously—it’s food.
Traditional recipes and techniques are passed down from generation to generation and cherished like a prize; your culinary identity is something you take pride in. And with good reason, too.
The rich cooking heritage of the Dixie is made up of a unique melting pot of European, African, and South American influences, famously linked by this pervasive theme of “comfort food.” We’re talking rich, hearty, hug-you-from-the-inside and bring on the butter kind of food: biscuits, gravy, pies, barbecue, fried this, slow-cooked that. The types of dishes that are oh-so-very classically American, basically.
Here are the items you’ll need to have stocked in your pantry to make sure you’re always prepared to dish out some southern charm.
Because the southern pantry is all about indulging vices, you’re going to want to make sure you have a lot of sugar around to help whip up all those famous cookies, cakes, and pies. (And for that famous sweet tea, too.)
As the cooking fat of choice, it’s absolutely imperative that you are always well-stocked in the butter department. And if you’re really serious, you’ll also need some lard on-hand to fold into the crust of that prize-winning pie or to fry up that legendary chicken.
Cornbread, cornmeal-crusted X,Y,Z, dumplings, hoecakes—none of these southern favorites would be possible without the coarse, dried corn flour.
Once boiled and flavored with butter and/or cheese, this ground dried corn product transforms into a perfect, creamy, polenta-like accompaniment for runny-yolk eggs and boldly spiced shrimp.
Regional styles wills vary, of course—tomato-based in Texas, vinegary in the Carolinas, mustard-infused in Georgia—but the point is you’ll need to have some around to slather on your smoky ribs/brisket/sausage/chicken.
The bold, caramel-sweet, Kentucky-born booze is not only a must-have for its role in southern cocktail classics like the Mint Julep or Sazerac, it also works as a glaze for bacon and spiking bbq sauce.
The essential condiment needed to add a kick of heat to whatever you're grubbing on, but most especially fried chicken. I’ll leave the Tabasco vs. Crystal vs. Texas Pete, “who does it better?” debate up to you.
Because any southern chef worth their salt has a good pecan (ahem, that’s “pee-kahn” or “pick-ahn”) pie recipe in their repertoire.
Yes, that’s right, the essential southern pantry does include some vegetables. From pinto beans and butter beans to black eye peas, baked beans, red beans and green beans, legumes get a lot of love in the kitchen.
Not only should you always have some around for serving on those beloved biscuits, it better be homemade, too. In addition to the classic fruit varieties, tomato jam and sweet pepper jelly are a particular southern favorite, classically served with a little cream cheese on saltines.
When it comes to flavoring everything from meat and fish to flour dredge, this iconic Creole seasoning is totally clutch.
You’re going to need this thick, tangy liquid on hand to whip up the true southern delicacy that is a hot-out-of-the-oven buttermilk biscuit (as well as flavor dressings, enrich batters, and marinate meat).
Use it to sweeten desserts or add as a complement to savory and spicy flavors in barbecue sauces and marinades.
Because you’re going to be doing a lot of frying, you’ll want to keep a good amount of the preferred peanut oil around.
And not just any mayonnaise, any Southerner will tell you that Duke’s is the best choice to take your sandwiches, potato salad, slaw, and deviled eggs to the next level.
Used in braises and stews to add a delectable meaty, smoky flavor, it’s frequently partnered with vegetables (because, hello, southern cooking) like collard greens, and bean dishes.
Pickles in general are an important staple, accompanying any sandwich or fried food plate, but this mustard and celery seed-seasoned green tomato, cabbage, onion, and pepper relish is a cornerstone of a Mississippi table.
This powder made from dried, ground sassafras leaves will help make sure your gumbo game is on point.
Because you’re going to be doing a lot of baking and battering.
To help make sure that iconic gravy and pie filling comes out nice and thick.