Charleston Okra Soup

I hope everyone had a great weekend! Wheat was playing in a golf tournament out of town, so the boys and I had a nice little weekend to ourselves. I watched football on Saturday at Maggie & Greg’s house, ate some amazing homemade pizzas they made for gourmet game day fare, as well as some killer browned butter & sea salt rice crispy treats she made. I’ll be talking game day food all week this week (after today) as I prepare to go to Gainesville (and drag my Dawg-loving husband along with me) for the Tennessee game! I also canned pears (I’ll post on it later, unless anyone is really antsy about it), put up pumpkin, and made Maggie’s pumpkin pasta recipe! You may have already seen it on Instagram. I made a couple changes, and I will do a post on it at some point as part of my Operation Eat All The Pumpkin campaign. I picked 15 more last week, and have more coming! It was a nice, productive weekend, but we were all ready for Wheat to get home!

When I was in Greenville a couple weeks ago, I had the chance to pop into Charleston Cooks! It’s a great little (or not so little, rather) kitchen store. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to pull the trigger on The Lee Brothers’ Charleston Kitchen cookbook. So I did. And now it’s my new, possibly all-time-favorite cookbook. I like to read my cookbooks like a novel, and this one did not disappoint. Each recipe is accompanied by a story about the person or place they got it or adapted it from, and there is a plethora of Charleston history intertwined with the recipes on its pages. I enjoyed reading every bit of it, and so far, I’m really enjoying the recipes, too.

I started off making the Okra Soup, because our okra plants are actually making enough okra for us to legitimately eat it. That, and the Low Country holds a little special place in my heart. My dad’s family is from Beaufort, South Carolina, which is just a hop and a skip down the coast from Charleston, and I grew up eating deviled crab and she-crab soup due to my dad’s roots there. When I read about this soup, between our little garden and family connection, there was no way I wasn’t making this soup.

Okra Soup | Oysters & Pearls

It was delicious, and thanks to our prolific okra garden, the only thing I had to purchase was the meat. I have a strong suspicion I will be making this again before the frost gets the okra.

I mean, I almost can’t believe we grew this beautiful veggie!

Home Grown Okra for Okra Soup | Oysters & Pearls

A bowl full of perfect fresh okra hand picked from my backyard is a beautiful thing to me, anyway.

The commentary from the Lee Brothers on this recipe was really interesting to me. Apparently Charleston Okra Soup is just as traditional as She-Crab Soup in the low country (as is the beef-okra combo), and is often paired with pimiento cheese sandwiches. That is a combination I can SO get down with, but Wheat claims he doesn’t like pimiento cheese, so I served it with Baked Cornbread instead, which was awesome.

A cook’s note: I went to Jones Meats, our wonderful local butcher shop, for beef shank, and they didn’t have any. Apparently, it’s the kind of thing that you have to let your butcher know you want ahead of time. This is something you’d probably want to consider, but in a pinch, I used “soup ribs” which are beef ribs cut into large chunks, and the soup was really, really good.

Charleston Okra Soup
(via The Lee Brothers’ Charleston Kitchen)
made 6 main course servings for me

ingredients

– 1.5 pounds of beef shank or “soup ribs,” cut into 1 inch cubes, marrow bone reserved
– Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
– 1 tablespoon canola oil, plus more if needed
– 2 cups chopped yellow (I used Vidalia) onion – about 2 medium onions
– 3 bay leaves
– 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
– 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
– 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
– 1 pound okra, trimmed, cut on the bias into 1/2-inch thick ovals
– Fresh parsley for garnish (option)

instructions

Season the beef (bone included) with salt and pepper. Bring to room temperature, about an hour. Pat the pieces dry with a paper towel.

Pour the oil into a large dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, and when it shimmers, brown the beef in batches, if necessary. Don’t crowd the pan or you won’t get a good sear on them. Add oil by teaspoonfuls if the pan gets too dry. Remove the browned beef to a bowl with tongs and set aside.

Turn the heat to medium and add the onion, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, paprika, and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt. Cook, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan and add a teaspoon of water or oil if the pan gets too dry (I didn’t have this problem at all). Cook until the onion is soft and transparent – about 6 minutes. You don’t want the onion to char.

Add 1 quart (aka 4 cups) of water and the tomatoes, return the beef to the pan, and cover. When the soup simmers gently, uncover and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender – about an hour. Add the okra and continue cooking until the okra is just tender – about 25 minutes.

The Lee Brothers suggest removing the bay leaves and salting and peppering to taste, but I just let us salt & pepper at the table and left the bay leaves in there. I figured we could eat around them just as easily as I could dig around in that big pot to find them. I also wanted them to stay in to continue to season the leftovers.

The soup ribs were probably a little too fatty, and I wish I had trimmed them up a bit before using them.

Soup Ribs for Okra Soup | Oysters & Pearls

The soup was still somehow not really greasy, and was SO good.

Home Grown Okra for Okra Soup  | Oysters & Pearls

Okra may be my favorite vegetable.

And this soup may be my new favorite soup! It was hearty and felt very fall-ish without weighing you down like a chili or other wintry soups. It was somehow light but hearty at the same time.

Okra Soup Recipe | Oysters & Pearls

A few more shots of my new favorite soup.

The Lee Brothers' Okra Soup Recipe | Oysters & Pearls

Makes me want some right this minute!

Charleston Okra Soup Recipe | Oysters & Pearls

What’s your favorite soup?

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22 thoughts on “Charleston Okra Soup

  1. Pam Hand

    Natalie, I really enjoy reading your blogs. Even though cooking is not something I enjoy I like reading about your garden and recipes. I really like to hear about your dogs.

    Reply
    1. oystersandpearls Post author

      Thank you, “Miss” Hand! I really enjoy having the creative (and writing) outlet, and it’s so neat to hear from people I haven’t seen in years, and meet new ones, too! I will try to include more gardening and puppy posts. :) thank you for commenting!

      Reply
    1. oystersandpearls Post author

      Thank you – it was SO good! I only modified it by using the “soup ribs” as I noted, and next time I will let our butcher know ahead of time so that I can use the beef shank the recipe called for. Enjoy!

      Reply
  2. Debbie

    That looks delicious, I really like tomato and okra together! The cornbread as the companion would have been my choice also!! Very pretty okra you have there, seems like lots of folks are growing that this year. KEEP up the good work!!!!

    Reply
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  7. Kristen

    I just finished making this and it is DELICIOUS!! I’ve been accruing more and more okra from my garden and finally it got to the point where I couldn’t ignore them anymore in the fridge. I found your amazing recipe and it’s a smashing success!! Love the smoked paprika and the heat in the sauce, too. My local grocery didn’t have the beef shanks or ribs so I switched it out for country style pork ribs. The soup had to simmer longer to get them to the fall-apart stage but wow, what a great meal, and super inexpensive, too! Love it!

    Reply
  8. Yonge Watson

    Okra is my favorite summer veggie and this Okra Soup is on my list to do soon. Just plain fresh okra, corn and tomatoes is my favorite dish so adding meat and some interesting seasonings is a natural. My family immigrated from England in the 1600’s to South Carolina and sure this soup or stew was probably on their table cooked by the African kitchen help back in those colonial days pre-USA.

    Reply

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