Sunday, June 21, 2015

Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of America-Galveston, Texas

The Location: Galveston, Texas

2013 census: 48,733 people. Per capita income: $37,154. 45.2% white, 31.1% Hispanic.
The city was originally part of Mexico, and was named after Bernardo de Galvez y Madrid, the Count of Galvez in Spain. It was built in or around 1816 by a French pirate in order to help the newly-formed Republic of Mexico fight against the Spanish. The Port of Galveston was built in 1825 by the Congress of Mexico after winning their independence from Spain. During the Texas Revolution, it would be used by the Texas Navy and eventually became the capitol of the Republic of Texas. During the 19th century, it would become a vital port for commerce.

In 1900, a major hurricane came through the Port and an estimated 6,000-8,000 people were killed. It remains, to this date, the largest natural disaster in American history. After the hurricane, the Galveston Movement, an immigration plan to help repopulate the city and region, would bring in about 10,000 Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, as well as many Italians and Germans. It would permanently altar the racial background of the entire region.

During the 1920's and 1930's, tourism would become Galveston's major form of income, which remains so to this day. During Prohibition, Speak Easies and gambling houses would become a major draw to people. Add to this a robust sex industry that had been going on since the Civil War, and it was a winning combination. Since the 1950's, however, the tourism has become much more family-friendly...

During the Second World War, the Port would become home to a major Army-Air Corps base, which would also bring with it an increase in population and change the type of industries in the region. Today it is still well-known for its tourism, but the insurance and health care industry also contribute a lot to the city's success.

The Event: 150th anniversary of Juneteenth

What is "Juneteenth"? you may be asking yourself right now. And how can it be 150 years old and I've never heard of it before? Juneteenth is celebrated in some parts of the United States more than in others, so you might not have been exposed to it before. Juneteenth is a contraction of the words "June" and "Nineteenth" and represents the date of June 19, 1865. This date is significant because it is the day that Major General Gordon Granger, leader of the Union Army, reached Galveston, Texas on his mission to occupy the state of Texas at the behest of the federal government. While the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the end of the Civil War had all occurred already, some states were still holding out on freeing their slaves and needed the federal government to step in and force them to. Texas was one such hold-out. The last hold-out, in fact.

On June 19th 1865, Major General Granger made the announcement that slavery was over with and would no longer be tolerated or allowed. This was the last area in the country to free their slaves, so this event marks the true ending of slavery, something that the 13th Amendment, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the end of the Civil War, were all unable to do by themselves.

Juneteenth is a community celebration, with barbecues, parades, prayer services, and games being held to enjoy. It has had its ups and downs over the years. It lost popularity during the Great Depression since people couldn't afford to celebrate. But during the 1950's and 1960's, it had a resurgence due to the Civil Rights movement. In 1980, Texas became the first state to declare it a holiday. Today, nearly half the states in the country do this as well.

The Food: Two foods have become synonymous with Juneteenth: Barbecue and Strawberry Soda Pop, and that is what I made to honor the day. I'm not sure about the pop, but the idea behind the barbecue is that a, it's delicious, and b, it creates a pleasing smell that, when cooked outdoors, wafts up to the heavens. This wafting to the heavens is so that your ancestors can then partake in the meal and the celebration with you. Juneteenth is a day of remembering your loved ones, the ones who left too soon, and your ancestors. Particularly if you, or they, ever lived in a time when they were unfree. You celebrate your freedom with them as they look down on you from above. In a way it's almost like El Dia de Los Muertos that way. Connecting then and now through food. It's beautiful to me.

Strawberry Pop/Soda/Soda Pop
I tried to think of how to make homemade soda pop without using sugar or corn syrup, so I looked around the internet for recipes that I could alter. I found a generic one using a simple syrup flavored with strawberries that you then add to sparkling water. This made me think about making my own syrup without adding sugar. I didn't bother to keep track of the original recipe since I would be turning it entirely into my own. I think it turned out pretty tasty! I used a recipe I've done before for one of my "pie bites" I like to make, using strawberries and lime juice to create a strongly-flavored fruit pulp. It's so easy it's ridiculous. Here's how to do it:

In a small frying pan, with a box grater, use the side with the smallest shred and grate 4-5 very ripe strawberries, leaving out the leaves. This will basically create strawberry pulp. Heat it over medium-low heat until most of the water has evaporated and it's concentrated to a thick paste. Add a few squirts of lime juice and mix.

Put a spoonful at the bottom of a glass and top it with sparkling water, or club soda and stir. The strawberry mixture is flavorful enough to flavor the entire glass and color it as well, but you've added no sugar to it besides what was in the berries. This amount of fruit paste is enough for two servings. Increase the amount based on however much you need to make. It is really delicious!

I made two, actually three recipes for this one, and tried it out on two separate cuts of meat with two different cooking methods. I think they both turned out really great!

Citrus Roundup BBQ Rub-if I recall correctly, this came from a Disney Insider email and is what they use at the BBQ place in Disneyland. I will write it out exactly as it's written, but will put in notes of what I changed for myself.

2 1/2 tsp. lemon pepper
2 Tbsp. seasoning salt
2 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. sugar(I reduced this down to 1/2 Tbsp.)
1 Tbsp. brown sugar(I reduced this down to 1/2 Tbsp.)
1 Tbsp. ground cumin(I reduced this down to about 1/2 tsp. because I really don't like a strong cumin taste, but that's just my personal preference.)
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir to combine.

That's it for that recipe. I used it to coat a small rack of baby back ribs and baked them in an oven. I put them in a shallow dish, put water in the bottom, covered with foil and baked it for about 2 hours. I turned the ribs and put in more water half way through. The seasoning flavored the water to create a bit of a jus that I spooned over the ribs when I served them. I think this worked out pretty well, though I think the seasoning was a bit too thick. Next time I would use less. The flavors were fine, but the seasoning created a thick crust I didn't care for. And the recipe makes enough for leftovers, so you can use this on other things too if you make it. It should keep at room temperature for quite some time, so make it once and keep it until it's gone. It was really simple but delicious!

BBQ Sauce for Chicken or Pork
This was also a recipe card, though I don't know the source, unfortunately.
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. grated, peeled ginger
3/4 cup chili sauce(I found a recipe, the link will be in my sources, and made the chili sauce by scratch. The only alteration I made to the recipe was to cut the sugar listed in half. Feel free to use commercially-prepared chili sauce if you'd rather.)
1/2 cup ketchup(I don't eat ketchup anymore and used 1/2 cup tomato sauce and it turned out just fine)
1 Tbsp. sugar(I reduced this to 1/2Tbsp.)
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. soy sauce(I used reduced sodium)
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1.) In nonstick 10" skillet, heat over medium heat. Add onion and ginger; cook 10 minutes or until onion is tender and lightly browned.
2.) Stir in chili sauce, ketchup, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, Worcestershire, and 1/3 cup water.(I actually didn't see this part about the water and didn't add it. I think it was just fine without probably because I used tomato sauce instead of ketchup. Ketchup is thicker and would need to be watered down. If you use tomato sauce like I did, I wouldn't recommend adding the water. It would be too watered down.) Cook 5 minutes, partially covered, to blend flavors.
3.) Brush sauce onto spare ribs, pork roast, or chicken during last few minutes of cooking. (Makes enough for 4 lb. spare ribs or 2 chickens.) Cover and refrigerate sauce if not using right away. Sauce will keep up to 1 week in refrigerator or up to 2 months in freezer.
Makes about 2 cups. Per 1/4 cup: 70 calories, 2 g. fat

I made the sauce ahead of time but didn't have time to saute the onion or ginger, so I did that after I got home from the birthday party I had attended yesterday. Once the sauce was assembled, I place a few spare ribs in my crockpot and covered it with the sauce. Not all of it, but just enough to cover it. I cooked it on high for several hours and it came out amazing! Though, I think it needed a bit more vinegar for my tastes. Next time I'd add more vinegar. The meat was flavorful and tender and I used the sauce to cover the plain rice I had made to accompany it. This was a winner dinner! I highly recommend trying these recipes out. The sauce and rub made enough that I might have to use them again for the 4th of July.

City Map

City Info

City Pic

Homemade Chili Sauce Recipe

Juneteenth History

 More Juneteenth History

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