Charleston Receipts: James Island Shrimp Pie Recipe
From family-filled holidays to Sunday suppers, Southern traditions often revolve around a dinner table packed with your favorite foods, many of which are likely to have been passed down from one generation to the next. However, long before the table is filled with platters, dishes and laughter (and maybe some bickering), the most cherished memories are made in the kitchen.
Cuisine plays an important role in every culture, but in the South, we like to think of it as a main character. Passed down over the years, family recipes have defined our customs and values and continue to comfort and connect generations, during times of both great celebration and sorrow.
One of the most popular cookbooks in the Lowcountry (and across the South) is the Junior League of Charleston’s Charleston Receipts cookbook which illustrates the long histories of these family recipes.
Originally created as a fundraiser, Charleston Receipts was first published in 1950, making it the oldest Junior League cookbook still in print. Over time, it has become a gold standard among Charleston’s home cooks and culinary experts.
With a modest green and white cover and spiral-bound pages, the beloved book not only details traditional and eclectic meals, but also includes annotations honoring many of the original sources as a way to acknowledge the history of the cuisine and the individuals who influenced it. In fact, the word “receipts” is purposely substituted for “recipes” throughout the cookbook, as this is how recipes were referenced when the dishes were first created.
The current edition is nearly the same as the original, although supplements and revisions have been added to the index, including an explanation and translation of the original Gullah phrases. Written by Virginia Mixson Geraty, the excerpt, titled “Gullah: The Special Ingredient,” highlights the significance of the Gullah phrases used in Charleston Receipts which add a distinctive flavor of Charleston and contribute to its reputation as a classic in the world of cookbooks.
We’re excited to share some of our favorite “receipts” from the cherished cookbook in the upcoming months. For August, we’re celebrating shrimp season with a timeless dish that comes straight from our neighboring sea island, James Island.
James Island Shrimp Pie
This receipt came originally from Mrs. Robert Lebby, Sr. of James Island, about 1860.
1 cup of raw rice
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter
Pinch of mace
5 tablespoons tomato catsup [ketchup]
2.5 tablespoons Worcestershire
Salt and pepper to taste
2 pounds shrimp
1 cup milk (approximately)
Cook rice in salted water until very soft and stir butter into it. Combine all ingredients with cooked shrimp, adding enough milk to make mixture the consistency of thick custard. Put in buttered casserole and bake in oven at 325 degrees until brown on top (about 30 minutes). Serves eight.