Meet food and drink writer Robert F. Moss, panel discussion planned
By: ST. CLAIRE DONAGHY
The making of kettle-cooked hash is a culinary tradition unique to the Palmetto State, according to food and drink writer and culinary historian, Robert F. Moss.
"It's something you can only get in South Carolina," Moss said. "It's one of the great barbecue stews. It's sort of like a really delicious, thick, slow-simmered meat gravy.
"It really developed in South Carolina as part of fall hog-killing time, as a way to use up all the pieces and parts of the hog," Moss added.
It was cooked in huge cast iron pots, outdoors, until it all rendered down, Moss said.
In contrast, Moss said modern kettle-cooked hash, especially that served in restaurants, is more likely to be made with cuts such as pork shoulder and, sometimes, beef. Water, onions, spices and sometimes, potatoes are definitely still in the mix.
"Now, it's most commonly served over rice," Moss said.
Moss is contributing barbecue editor for Southern Living magazine, the Southern food correspondent for Serious Eats and a contributing writer to numerous other publications, including Charleston City Paper.
Moss' most recent book is "Southern Spirits: Four Hundred Years of Drinking in the American South," and he has also authored "Barbecue: The History of an American Institution" and "Going Lardcore: Adventures in New Southern Dining."
Moss has a doctorate in English from University of South Carolina and said he got into food and drink writing from "an academic perspective" and that he has "always enjoyed cooking and food."
Moss, 46, who lives in Mt. Pleasant now, but grew up in Greenville, has an undergraduate degree from Furman University.
"Barbecue in the South has a huge, long, history, going back to the Colonial days," Moss said. "Almost any kind of livestock would have been pit-cooked...In days before commercial refrigeration and availability of ice, animals would have been slaughtered on-site and cooked in the pit and then enjoyed, because there was no way to preserve it."
The Midlands of South Carolina is distinguishable in barbecue circles with the region's mustard-based sauces, Moss said. And, much of the state is unique for the barbecue "side dish" known as hash, Moss said.
"When people come from other parts of the country to eat barbecue in South Carolina, they often wonder, 'Why is a sauce yellow and what is that hash stuff?'" Moss said.
Moss said he's looking forward to being part of a hash panel discussion 5-6 p.m., July 7, at The Museum, 106 Main St., during the South Carolina Festival of Discovery, along with documentary filmmaker Stan Woodward.
Moss said he's familiar with Woodward's extensive documentary work on Southern foodways.
"When barbecue restaurants started in the South, how hash was made started to change," Moss said. "People started to cook it indoors and steer away from using organ meats. But, there are a few places who still cook it outdoors, in big, old pots."
South Carolina eateries to try for authentic hash and barbecue on Moss's list include: Jackie Hite's Bar-b-que in Leesville; Big T's BBQ in Gadsden, especially for a hash with a rich flavor and texture, thanks to liver; Cannon's in Little Mountain; Wise's Barbecue House in Newberry, if you want hash with mustard sauce, and Midway BBQ, in Buffalo, South Carolina, near Union.