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excerpts from What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking

1881: Mrs. Abby Fisher

Abby Fisher was probably the first African-American to author a cookbook, What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking (San Francisco: Women's Co-Operative Printing Office, 420, 424 & 430 Montgomery Street; 1881). She describes herself as having thirty-five years of experience at the time her book was published. She was born a slave in Alabama, and moved to San Francisco with her husband sometime after the Civil War. There she worked as a cook or caterer and also was in the business of making pickles and preserves with her husband.


What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking

San Francisco: Women's Co-Operative Printing Office, 420, 424 & 430 Montgomery Street; 1881

Jumberlie - A Creole Dish

Take one chicken and cut it up, separating every joint, and adding to it one pint of cleanly-washed rice. Take about half a dozen large tomatoes, scalding them well and taking the skins off with a knife. Cut them in small pieces and put them with the chicken in a pot or large porcelain saucepan. Then cut in small pieces two large pieces of sweet ham and add to the rest, seasoning high with pepper and salt. It will cook in twenty-five minutes. Do not put any water on it.

Oyster Gumbo Soup

Take an old chicken, cut into small pieces, salt and black pepper. Dip it well in flour, and put it on to fry, over a slow fire, till brown; don't let it burn. Cut half of a small onion very fine and sprinkle on chicken while frying. Then place chicken in soup pot, add two quarts of water and let boil to three pints. Have one quart of fresh oysters with all the liquor that belongs to them, and before dishing up soup, add oysters and let come to a boil the second time, then stir into soup one tablespoonful of gumbo [filé powder] quickly. Dish up and send to table. Have parsley chopped very fine and put in tureen on dishing up soup. Have dry boiled rice to go to table with gumbo in separate dish. Serve one tablespoonful of rice to a plate of gumbo.

Ochra Gumbo

Get a beef shank, have it cracked and put to boil in one gallon of water. Boil to half a gallon, then strain and put back on fire. Cut ochra in small pieces and put in soup; don't put in any ends of ochra. Season with salt and pepper while cooking. Stir it occasionally and keep it from burning. To be sent to table with dry boiled rice. Never stir rice while boiling. Season rice always with salt when it is first put on to cook, and do not have too much water in rice while boiling.

Chicken Gumbo

Salt and pepper chicken before frying it. Take a chicken, separating it from all the joints and breaking the bones, fry the chicken in one and a half teaspoonful of lard or butter. First well mix the chicken in dry flour, let the fat be hot, put chicken to fry until brown, don't burn chicken. After fried put it on in soup kettle with half a gallon of hot water, one and a half quarts of green ochre cut into thin pieces, throwing the end away, and let boil to three pints; season with pepper and salt. Chop half of an ordinary sized onion fine, and fry it with the chicken; chili pepper chopped fine if added is nice when liked.

Corn Fritters

To one dozen ears of corn add three eggs, half a teacupful of powdered crackers, one tablespoonful of sifted flower. Cut off the corn very lightly from the cob -- say half of the grain -- and then scrape the other half clean with a knife. Add the crackers to corn and beat together light. Beat the eggs light and add with the flour and a quarter of a teacupful of sweet milk. Season to taste and beat the whole light. Have your lard or butter hot when you go to fry, and drip the batter into the hot fat from off the end of a spoon, letting it fry quick and brown. Have young and tender corn. The fat ought to be hot enough to brown the fritters in two minutes.

The Rare Recipes pages contain African and African-inspired recipes from antique and out-of-print cookbooks.

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