We had a discussion some time ago about the preparation of fresh shrimp, and in my case the preparation of a Low Country Boil, which to a resident of South Georgia or the Low Country of South Carolina means a combination of red new potatoes, pearl onions (if they are not available, Vidalia onions, cut in sections and sealed in a foil package with holes for ventilation) , Polish or other, hot, precooked sausage, small ears of corn, with an optional addition of baby carrots, and finally, about one half pound (or more) of fresh shrimp, in the shell per person.
The process is simple, into a large boiling pot of water (depending on the size of your crowd) Potatoes, onions, and sausage first, (and carrots, if used) until the potatoes are soft to a fork, then add the corn for three to four minutes and finally the shrimp until just pink. (usually about two minutes)
The question under discussion dealt with seasoning. Some people use Zatarains crab or shrimp boil with a fair dosing of Tabasco sauce, and some have other spice combinations. I advocate the use of Cajun Gunpowder (of which I may have to change the name because I have seen a product by that name for sale on the web.) . I learned to make Cajun gunpowder almost twenty years ago, when one of my Public Speaking students gave a demonstration of its manufacture in class. My recipe has changed slightly since that time because, at that time, almost all spices were packaged in two ounce packages, and the recipe basically suggested using “a can of—“ each of the ingredients. Currently, spices are packaged in one ounce packages, two ounce packages, two point sixty two ounce packages, one point seventy two ounce packages, two point twelve ounce packages, and frankly I have found that except for white pepper which is hard to find in any packages of more than one ounce, and you need at least two, I can get along just fine still putting in one bottle or can of each ingredient.
The ingredients are listed below in their currently common sizes.
Garlic powder: 3.12 oz
Onion powder: 2.62 oz
Cayenne pepper 2.0 oz
Paprika 2.5 oz
White pepper 1 oz (but you must use two of them)
Black pepper 2 oz
Chili powder 2.5 oz
Salt (0ne container = 1pound ten ounces, I prefer sea salt, but it is hard to find it granulated, and I prefer not to use iodized salt in this mixture.)
An optional ingredient if you are NOT going to put this in a shaker (which I do as Christmas gifts to friends who, if I forget, are wont to call me and ask me where is the Cajun gunpowder) is about an ounce of crushed red peppers. I used to always use it but, since I use it in a shaker, don’t use it much anymore.
A second optional ingredient which some folks really like and some actively dislike is an ounce or two of oregano. I like the fragrance more than the flavor. (Don’t get me wrong I use a LOT of oregano in cooking, just not in Cajun gunpowder. My two favorite sources of spices are at the World Mart Stores and at Wal Mart. (Don’t groan, their product moves so quickly that the spices are usually very fresh. Very fresh makes a big difference.)
To make Cajun gunpowder:
Empty the box of salt into a large bowl.
Empty each bottle of spice into the bowl. The spices are, Chili powder, Cayenne pepper, white pepper, black pepper (course ground black pepper is best), onion powder (Do NOT use onion salt or Garlic Salt), Garlic powder. the salt in the center, but I cover this with Paprika.
Mix together thoroughly. Do Not use anything mechanical (Mixer etc) because, if you do, the dust will drive you out of the house. You have never sneezed like you will sneeze if you get this up your nose. I prefer a large wooden spatula or a large serving spoon. After it is thoroughly mixed, I go through it very gently with a wisk to break up any lumps (usually paprika).
I save all the spice bottles.
They have shaker tops and I use them to hold the finished spice. (see illustration, all the containers have gunpowder in them). When I finish filling all the bottles, I usually have about a pint of spice left over. I store the bottles in the freezer until use, and use the “big” pint container first. If I am giving gifts I buy appropriate containers (see picture) and fill them from the “big” container.
About three to four tablespoons of Gunpowder spices a “turkey fryer sized pot” of Low country boil.
Some folks don’t thing that’s enough but until you have tried it don’t get carried away. I’ll have to admit that I use quite a lot in just boiling a couple of pounds of fresh shrimp.
This stuff will make you a better cook.
Sprinkle generously on any meat before it’s cooked. Sprinkle it on fried eggs. Add it to your marinade, especially with beef or pork. I like it (lightly) on salads. For some of the best pork you will ever eat, outside of The Little Pig barbeque in Columbia, S.C. or Vandy’s in Statesboro, GA. (actually there is one in Kansas City that comes close, but I can’t remember the name) take a ten or so pound Boston Butt roast. Mix two or three tablespoons of Cajun Gunpowder with a tablespoon or two of Tone’s Spicy Italian seasoning. Score the meat on the outside then rub it with Extra Virgin Olive oil. Then (being careful to wash your hands VERY thoroughly before you touch your face with your hands afterward—unless you like pain) rub the spice mixture thoroughly all over and into the roast. Put the roast in an open pan (I like a rack, my kids prefer it soaking in the “drippins”) . Put it in the oven at 500 degrees for half an hour then turn the oven down to just between 200 and 225 degrees and let it bake for eight to twelve hours. Eight hours makes a sliceable roast ( but be sure to take its temperature,) twelve hours makes the juiciest “pulled pork” outside a great barbeque house. Your biggest problem will be to get it to the table, because every one who walks past it will snitch some.