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Okra Soup with Smoked Turkey


A true reflection of the various influences that have defined American Southern cuisine over the past three centuries, this soup is a staple of Gullah Geechee cooking. The key ingredient of the soup, Okra, is native to West Africa and was brought to the Americas by enslaved Africans, who continued to cultivate it and are responsible for its popularization throughout the South. The other crucial component is tomatoes. Native to South America and cultivated by the Aztecs, it was brought northward by Spanish colonizers in the 16th century. While these two ingredients are essential, the rest of the soup is up to the cook and depends on what's in season or on hand.


Our version, inspired by Amethyst Ganaway and her interview with Samin Nosrat for the NYT magazine, makes use of smoked turkey to lend depth and richness to the broth. We’re breaking with Gullah tradition by serving the soup with cornbread as opposed to rice, which is the normal accompaniment to okra soup. So if you’d like to try and stay true to Gullah cuisine, the soup would also pair well with the chicken perloo. Gluten free.


Okra Soup


A classic of Gullah Geechee cuisine, this soup is a hearty mix of okra, corn, tomatoes and smoked turkey simmered in a homemade stock.


Gluten Free


Section 1: Ingredients


Recipe yield = 2 quarts, 4-16 oz portions

  • 1 tablespoons neutral oil

  • 1 pound chicken backs

  • 1/2 pound smoked turkey leg or thigh meat

  • 1/2 medium white or yellow onion, quartered

  • Salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder

  • Pinch smoked paprika

  • Pinch chili powder

  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper

  • 8 oz can of diced tomatoes

  • 1/2 pound okra (fresh or frozen), trimmed and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces

  • 2 ears sweet corn, sliced off the cob

  • 8 oz can of cannellini beans, drained


Section 2: Instructions


  1. Set a 4 quart stock pot over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add oil. When oil shimmers, lay in chicken backs and sear until evenly golden brown, about 4 minutes per side.

  2. Add 12 quarts water, smoked turkey, onion and a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a heavy simmer, with the lid ajar to ensure the pot doesn’t boil over. Check pot every 30 minutes to remove any scum that forms, and add water as needed to ensure that the meat is always submerged. Cook for about 3 hours or until all the meat is tender and broth is flavorful.

  3. Strain the broth, remove onion and pick meat off bones and return meat to broth.

  4. Reduce broth to about 1.5 quarts, then stir in onion powder, paprika, and pepper, and season to taste with salt.

  5. Stir in tomatoes, then simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Taste, and adjust seasoning for salt, then add okra, reduce heat too low and cook until okra is just tender, not mushy, and still has bite to it, no more than 10 minutes. The okra will naturally thicken the broth as it cooks.

  6. Stir in corn and beans, cook for another minute or 2, and serve.

  7. Refrigerate leftovers for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 1 month. Return to a boil for 3 minutes before serving.



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