Sunday, March 10, 2013

Philadelphia Pepper Pot Soup (Gluten Free)

On afternoon Friday after my acupuncture session, I decided to drive up to Eastern Market and get the ingredients for Pepper Pot soup. The big thing unobtainable in supermarkets these days is tripe. Tripe is the lining of the stomach of the cow. It is white, due to being washed (by a tripe washer, says Wikipedia) and is honeycombed. Wikipedia says tripe used to be popular in the UK up until the 1950s. I made another tripe dish from this cookbook in the early 1980s. I suspect I bought it at the grocery store, but I might have gone to a traditional butcher shop in Georgetown where I also used to buy sweetbreads.  Anyway, organ meats are now out of favor with the powers that decide what gets sold in supermarkets.
Union Meats at Eastern Market sells tripe frozen in white blocks cut up by a band saw. If you want to buy tripe, you have to get there before 6:00 pm because that is when they take the saw apart to clean it. I also bought 5 pounds of what was labeled "veal bones." The recipe calls for veal knuckle. I am not sure what I got was actually veal knuckle because those are the long shin bones of the calf. What I got was joints, but it served its purpose.
Veal bones from Union Meat at Eastern Market
If you are, like many people going "Euwww!" at the idea of eating calves' stomach, or wonder what it tastes like, it didn't have much taste at all. I have eaten it when it had a stronger flavor. My husband, Bob, says it tastes like rubber bathmats. The Guardian blog, Word of Mouth,, says it tastes like ripe manure. (How would they know?)
This is tripe. The flecks on it are bits of chopped vegetable. It was frozen and I put it in the soup to thaw it out.
After hanging out in traffic on North Capitol Street for an inordinate amount of time, I made it home and got out the stock pot. I thought about letting the tripe thaw out, but then I decided, since we were going out Saturday and Sunday nights, I had better get moving. This has to cook for some four hours, so one needs a chunk of time.
I dropped the tripe in whole and fished it out 20 minutes later to cut it up. It is supposed to be cut up into small shreds. Twenty minutes was enough to thaw it.
The pepper in pepper pot is twofold. There is a green pepper, and one small hot pepper. I used a largish jalapeno pepper, but it did not result in any heat. I would be interested in readers' experiences with pepper pot soup. Is it supposed to be hot? Word of Mouth says Pepper Pot is a Caribbean dish, and yes, according to them, it is supposed to be spicy.
Word of Mouth also related a tale that Pepper Pot soup was the soup that saved George Washington's Continental Army at Valley Forge. The Father of our country was about ready to throw in the towel when his "baker general" devised this stew. Who knew? The author also says the soup has lost popularity in Philadelphia and is available only at a few restaurants.
Lost popularity or not, it summered away Friday night, and again Saturday morning when I telephoned Bob to put the potatoes in and start it cooking again. I had it for lunch on Saturday, exactly the thing on a cool, windy day after riding. It has a pleasant meaty taste. The tripe did not taste of manure. I encouraged Bob to try it. He painstakingly picked out all the tripe and drank the broth. His verdict was, he didn't like it, so I have been eating it for lunch all week. Two quarts went into the freezer.

Philadelphia Pepper Pot

1 pound honeycomb tripe
1.2 cup diced salt pork
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 green pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrot
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 small hot green pepper pod, trimmed and chopped, or more to taste
12 cups water
5 pounds veal knuckles (or veal bones. What the hell!)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme or one-half teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup diced potatoes
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour (use gluten free flour or potato starch if needed)
1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Rinse the tripe under cold running water. Drain.
2. Place the tripe on a flat surface and cut tripe into thin shreds. Chop the shreds into one-inch lengths. Set aside.
3. Heat the salt pork in a kettle. When salt pork is rendered of fat (when all the fat is fried off), add the onion. Cook stirring until onion is wilted. (soft) Add the tripe, green pepper, celery, carrot and garlic and cook briefly. Stir in the hot pepper and water and add the knuckles, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring to a boil and simmer three hours.
4. Add the potatoes and continue to cook about one  hour longer, or until the tripe is thoroughly tender. It should not be chewy. Sprinkle with the paprika.
5. Blend the butter with the flour and stir, bit by bit, into the soup. When the mixture is thickened slightly and boiling, stir in the cream. Makes about three quarts.

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