True South Carolina Hash is Liver & Lights Hogs Head Hash
April 5, 2020
For several years, South Carolina Hash has been popping up on some bbq restaurants that have opened up in the past 10 years. It has been on small mom and pop bbq restaurants across South Carolina, but the best hash I had growing up was made by people in my community and church, one of which was Ms. Julia Mae Chapman. However, I believe it is important at this time to define what is Hash in South Carolina, and it is not corn beef hash. I would loosely define hash as a meat gravy. In addition, hash in South Carolina in my community and culture, never had potatoes. Hash was a critical side to serve with BBQ, meaning whole hog BBQ. Hash can be served with Rice with BBQ but also goes equally well with grits. Just so you know Hash & Rice, and BBQ is a complete meal, even though. Hash only meat source was the hog in my community during my era and my parent’s era. As far as I heard in oral history and read in my research, it was always primarily hogs head, liver & lights.
For the backstory on BBQ Hash, one has to really understand that all parts of an animal is used if it has given its life for human consumption. The reality of this today, is that people just think they can just eat pork loin and get rid of everything else. Due to this way of thinking, the commodity hog farming system had to come on the scene to supply people wishes more than their needs. If you look at the old south, either during Hog slaughtering (future writing) in the Fall of the year or the barbecue, all edible parts of the hog were used in a dish and that is the story of BBQ Hash. In the latter for brevity, when one did a barbecue the carcass was prepared for the pit, but the head, liver & lights(lungs) were saved for the hash pot. For people to say it is a scrap slave food, I differ because if you eat hash, you know it is delicious, as well as nutritional. Liver is a rich source of iron and if you suffer from anemia, the doctor suggests eating meat or take iron supplements. The enslaved knew and understood, what they needed to survive and stay healthy.
The base preparation for BBQ Hash starts out with the head, liver & lights which are boiled down for hours until the meat falls off the bones in the head, the liver and lungs until really tender. In the water, you will have salt, pepper, and onions for sure, but other seasonings are per a family and community tradition. This boiling down may take all day on the stove and during the old days it was boiled in an open fire in a wash pot. After the meat is taken out of the broth and meat is separated, it goes into the next step of preparation.
In the traditional since, there are two types of a hash in terms of texture, a chopped hash and grounded hash. The deboned meat for the grounded hash is run through a meat grinder, in many cases it was the hand crank one that you clamp to table. Today, I am very thankful for KitchenAid for making the attachment to go on the mixer as it makes the hash job easier. The deboned meat for the other hash preparation is chopped and I have heard people say they would cut it up with scissors. Once you have the meat prepared by either grounded or chopped, you go into the next variations of hash, where I would say a second set of seasonings are applied and cooked down to help in getting a hash of uniform consistency and a homogeneous mixture(sorry I am an engineer). Some people like to add a mixture of tomato, sometimes ketchup, & mustard combination like a bbq sauce to the hash, while others do not but they add another set of seasonings to finish it up. In both of these preparations, they add a vinegar, some people like apple cider and some people like white. It is just really up to the person and their family. It is cooked down for a little while longer and it is generally seasoned per how the cook want its to taste. The meat products in a traditional hash makes a big impact on flavor, the liver adds a bit of ironiness and the lungs adds a flavor that it is hard to quantify but you know if it is missing. The last most important ingredient in the traditional hash is the love that comes through the hands of the preparer, each step of the way.
Today, it is nearly impossible to get a liver and lights hash even at home, unless you are slaughtering the hog yourself at home. The USDA does not allow you to keep the lungs when you go to a commercial disease because of a disease this particular organ “carries.” I don’t know if during the old days, farmers had to worry about these diseases because the hogs were raised on dirt and they were hardier than commodity hogs. Hogs raised in confinement in commercial facilities tend to have more respiratory problems, where dirt raised hogs may have another set of pathological problems. This alone is why you should know your farmer in 2020, because they care about you.
In restaurants, you may see hash, but you will not likely find a traditional hash. The meat substitutions may range from pork shoulders to beef shoulders, no heads, and no organs. I have heard of potatoes and beef in bbq restaurants, but most of these restaurants are white from my understanding. Also, the hash may contain left over pulled pork from the previous day. My vantage point, comes from the perspective of the black experience in the south and its barbecue culture. If you understand barbecue in its truest form, African Americans really shaped barbecue culture and most of the southern food. They were that combined things from the indigenous community and the European culture, but since they control the pot, they were also putting African flavors, ingredients, and seasonings to create a new cuisine in America.