Saturday, December 25, 2010

Pepperpot on Christmas Morning

If you are Guyanese, then more than likely, you will be having Pepperpot for breakfast on Christmas morning- unless of course, you're a vegetarian. Pepperpot is a unique type of stew that is made with casareep and some type of red meat or pork (some people use chicken, but that seems to be the exception, not the rule here).  The stew is cooked with a handful of ingredients and tends to taste better over time. It is served alongside slices of plait bread and is typically enjoyed during the holiday time, but is also made throughout the year. 

Pepperpot is Guyana's national dish and one that was made popular by the indigenous people known as the Amerindians. It is believed that the Amerindians concocted this dish as a means to preserve their meats since they did not have refrigeration. The meat needs to be lean and is therefore steamed to remove all fat. The stew itself is flavored with cinnamon, orange peel, clove, brown sugar, hot pepper, and the main ingredient- cassava casareep.  The casareep is what allows for the meat to be preserved for weeks.  My dad used to make a  pot of this and just leave it out on the stove top for days.  We would just reheat it when we were ready to sap it up with bread.


The Main Ingredient: CASAREEP



Casareep is used widely in Guyanese cooking.  It is a brown sauce made from extracting and boiling the juices from the cassava root.  The cassava that is used to make casareep is a specific kind; one that is bitter and has a certain age.  Once the cassava is grated, it is placed in something to squeeze the juices out of it.  The juices are then boiled with sugar to achieve a dark syrupy looking liquid. The finished product smells like burnt sugar and has the consistency of molasses.  Casareep contains preservative agents, which is why pepperpot can be left out on the stove top for days without spoiling and does not need to be refrigerated.  The dark brown color that the casareep gives the meat might not be so appealing to the eyes, but the flavor is really quite unique. This is why casareep is used in various ways in Guyanese cooking-the intricate flavor and color it adds to a dish is unmatched by anything else.    I have never made casareep and most people don't.  Generally no one makes this at home, it is mostly store-bought and the reason is because making it is a very long process.    

As a home cook and someone who likes to experiment in the kitchen, I am telling you that some things are better off being bought and casareep is one of them. You can buy bottles of this stuff these days and in many different sizes.  An 8-ounce bottle would run you about $5-$6 US and can be found at local West Indian stores.  This is not something you would typically find in an ethnic aisle of a grocery store, but if you do, please feel free to let us know where by leaving a comment in the bottom section of this post. 


Prep ingredients and set aside.


Here is my dad's pepperpot recipe.  The best one I have tasted in my life.  Some people put onions and garlic and all sorts of other seasonings into their pepperpot, but to me, the more you add to this dish the less it becomes pepperpot.  That being said, since there is a variety of ways to make this dish, don't let anyone tell you that your family's recipe is wrong.  We base our taste of dish on the way we first enjoyed it.  For me, this is how I have known pepperpot to taste because it is the way my father always made it.  He adapted this recipe from his mother.  They are from Berbice. I am not sure what that has to do with anything, but I just thought I'd let you know :). 

Merry Christmas to all of you and no matter how you make your pepperpot, I hope you enjoy every last bit of it on Christmas morning!  








Dad's Guyanese Pepperpot

Ingredients
  • 3 lbs of meat- beef, lamb, pork, or goat (we used goat for this recipe)
  • 1 cup casareep
  • 4-5 cinnamon sticks (not ground)
  • 1 1/2 inch orange peel
  • 6-8 cloves
  • 1-2 wiri wiri peppers 
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 16 cups water 
Directions:
  1. Steam the meat for about 20 minutes so that all the fat can be removed.  You want your meat to be very lean and this step will help you achieve that.  Once you have steamed the meat, remove any dangling pieces of fat.  Set aside.
  2. In a large pot, bring the 16 cups of water to a boil.  Add the casareep and all of the ingredients.  Add the meat and continue to boil until the meat is tender and until the broth has reduced by three-quarters. My dad usually boils the meat until it falls off the bones, but some people like their pepperpot meat a bit more on the tough side. It's all about preference. 

How to steam the meat
  • Place meat in a pot with enough water to cover just 1/4 way up the pot.  Let meat simmer on low heat until the fat congeals and can be removed from each piece.  Remember, you are not cooking the meat during this step, just heating the meat enough so the fat can be removed.  

Merry Christmas Everyone!


25 comments:

  1. As a Guju girl married to a Guyanese boy, I often venture out to make the difficult dishes. This is one that I have not tried yet as my mother-in-law takes care of it every year! I would love to try to make the plait bread though. I experimented this year and ended up with a super dense bread that I did not like! Do you have a recipe for plait bread that you can share?

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  2. Hey! Do u season the meat first and then add it to the pot?

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  3. Hi Anonymous- I do not season the meat, that would change the flavor of the broth, some people do, its a preference thing.

    Hi Krupa- I do have a plait bread recipe. You can email me at innergourmet@gmail.com and I would be happy to give you the recipe.

    Thank you both for visiting!

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  4. Hi Alicia, thanks for sharing this recipe. Like you we had pepperpot and plaited bread for Christmas. I must confess that my mum made it for me and I've yet to try cooking it for myself. I'll be giving it a go soon and using some of your tips. Your photos are really lovely.

    Wendy

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  5. Hi Alicia, thanks for the recipe! My dad makes some of the best pepperpot you could ever taste! We sure did enjoy for christmas, and New Years! Instead to eat it with plait bread, we tried it with deli rolls from the grocery store, those tasted good, but the plait bread was missing :(. However, I do need a recipe for the Plait Bread. Like the one u get at sybils, or little guyana bake shop in queens NY! May I have the recipe for it? I have tried 3 different recipes (one potspoon of this, one handful of that) And none of them came out good. All were hard, dense, stiff, dry, and tasteless. HELP!

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  6. It's not too late. I am making pepperpot for my husband tonight. He loves it!

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  7. I made pepperpot tonight and it came out great!! Thanks Alicia :)

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  8. Yummmy for my tummy!! loving all ur recipes!! :-)

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  9. Hi Do you think Pepper Pot can be made with chicken? I'm a woman with Guyanese roots, first gen American and I would like to make Pepper Pot, but my auntie says she's never tried it with chicken, always, beef, and pork...never lamb or goat. They don't do goat... Anyway, let me know what you think of trying it with chicken. Thanks

    Monica & my daughter Gracie :)

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  10. Hi Monica,

    Thanks for visiting! I have never made pepperpot with chicken nor have I ever seen my dad make it with chicken. I do know of people that love it with chicken so I am positive you can try it and see how it turns out! I would love to hear about your results.

    Best,
    Alica

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  11. So....steaming the meat would mean What? How do I do that exactly?

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  12. Hi "Back to Black"!

    Steaming the meat just means putting it into a pot with a little water and letting it cook slowly. There are typically no seasonings added at this point, all of the fat will melt off of the meat during this process, which is what you want. Pepperpot is meant to have very lean meat. Hope this helps.

    Alica

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  13. Feel Like something is missing, but not sure I have all the ingredients and there is a take missing Hmm. Plait bread came out wonderful. How about Thyme?? I usually season the meat with Thyme before cooking

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  14. Hi Angelina,

    Everyone makes this dish differently. I know many people in my family that put onions, garlic, thyme etc. in their pepperpot, however, the ingredients you see above is all that my father puts into his pepperpot. My dad got this recipe from a very old Guyanese cookbook and we have used this recipe for many many years. Perhaps you can use this recipe as a base and add anything else you like :)

    Hope you have a merry christmas and a happy new year! Thanks for visiting!

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  15. Hi!!! There are so much souvenir coming to me right now.... I'm a 31 year old french guyanese girl, but my mum and all my mother family are from georgetown, demerara!!!!
    And this it's my favorite food.... For christmas or for all good occassion, and if i beggin (a little bit, no much) my mother) to prepare this recipe, i become a little girl^^. Now i live in france and i can't eat this; I will try to do my own pepperpot, but i know that it can't be more delicious than my mum. Thank you for this recipe.... (Sorry for my bad english)
    Marie-line

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  16. I am making it for my hubby right now so far it smells good the steps were easy to follow aswell

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    Replies
    1. Hi Melee,

      Thanks for your comment, hope you and your husband enjoyed it :)

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  17. ALICIA, I am so excited! girl, your are the bomb. this turned out so great! my family jealous of me now!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Jahann,

      Lol, I'm glad you enjoyed it! That's funny about your family! Merry Christmas to you!

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  18. It's funny that I know the person that commented the other day, lol.
    But Alicia I must say this recipe coincides with that of my Grandmother!
    I have one question, since I have no way of getting Wiri-Wiri peppers, other than friendly import from Guyana, here in MD, can it be substituted with scotch bonnet peppers instead?

    Other than that, appreciate the blog, the best that I've followed, by far. Must be a Guyanese thing!

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    1. Hi Melvin,

      Thanks for your comment! Is your grandmother from Berbice by any chance lol? I ask only because I've noticed people from different regions of Guyana have their own way of making this dish, and you mentioned her version is similar to my dad's version. As for your pepper question - yes, you can absolutely use scotch bonnets. When I can't get access to wiri wiris that's what I use as well. I would say a small one or even half would be enough for the amount this pepperpot makes. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

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    2. If I'm not mistaken she is from Bernice... But man oh man did it turn out well! Reminds me of home, and its been YEARS since I had "best pepper pot" (as the Trinidadians does say)!

      Thanks again

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    3. A bit off topic, but Melvin are you from Alexander Village? I have been looking for that person for a while.

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  19. Hi there. Came across this recipe recently and I am going to give it a shot tonight. Haven't had pepperpot since I was young :)

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  20. My husband is Guyanese we Just moved to Georgia with our family. FAAAAR away from his mom who always makes the pepper pot. I know its not Christmas but I'm trying it for the first time today.
    I was told I should not eat it the first day its better after 2 days

    Thanks for the recipes keep em coming !!

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