If recipes can have morals, the lesson that home cooks should glean from this one is “Don’t rush.”
Carolina Newton says the secret to her okra soup is letting it simmer for several hours, in part because it results in a more flavorful final product, but mostly because it creates more time for family members to congregate in the kitchen.
One of Newton’s fondest memories is of cutting fresh okra with her mother, Mary Clare McElwee, who always made enough soup to freeze and share. “I grew up as one of eight children, so having this special activity (as) our thing really meant a lot,” she says. Her father would contribute to the preparation too; she recalls he “was always more than willing to taste test it and make sure it was ‘okay for everyone to eat.’”
Now that both of Newton’s parents have passed away, she makes okra soup with her sister.
“Value the time you have with family,” she says. “You never truly know how much little moments like cooking soup and talking with your mom mean to you until they’re gone.”
MaMa’s Okra Soup
8-10 ripe tomatoes or 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes, with juice
8 ounces bacon
3 cups okra, sliced, fresh or frozen
Hambone with extra ham
2 cups corn, fresh or frozen
2 cups lima beans, fresh or frozen
If using fresh tomatoes, parboil and peel them. Quarter and mash. Set aside.
Cook bacon over medium heat in a 5-quart saucepan until crispy. Remove bacon and leave grease in pan. Crumble the bacon and return to pan.
Stir-fry the okra with the crumbled bacon in the pan for 5 minutes until cooked. Add the tomatoes and hambone. Bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce heat to low and simmer for several hours. Add the corn and beans and simmer for another hour or so. If soup needs more liquid, add tomato sauce.
Editor’s note: Caroline Newton's okra soup is one of four competing in The Post and Courier food section’s recipe contest for a category crown. Over the course of a year, the newspaper will publish four reader-supplied recipes for each of 12 iconic Lowcountry dishes.
Featured recipes have been lightly edited to conform with the newspaper’s style, but they have not been tested: It’s up to readers to choose a winner. To weigh in on the okra soup race, join us at bit.ly/PCfoodFBgroup.