JUBILEE: Recipes from Two Centuries of African-American Cooking: A Cookbook
November 5, 2019
November 5, 2019
Toni Tipton-Martin is a culinary journalist and community activist, and author of the James Beard Award-winning The Jemima Code. Her vast collection of African-American cookbooks has been exhibited at the James Beard House, and she has twice been invited to the White House to participate in First Lady Michelle Obama’s programs to raise a healthier generation of kids. Tipton-Martin is a founding member of the Southern Foodways Alliance and Foodways Texas.
Toni Tipton-Martin, the first African-American food editor of a daily American newspaper, is the author of the James Beard Award-winning The Jemima Code, a history of African-American cooking found in–and between–the lines of two centuries’ worth of African-American cookbooks. Tipton-Martin builds on that research in Jubilee, adapting recipes from those historic texts for the modern kitchen. What we find is a world of African-American cuisine–made by enslaved master chefs, free caterers, and black entrepreneurs and culinary stars. It’s a cuisine that was developed in the homes of the elite and middle class as well as in the living quarters of the enslaved; that takes inspiration from around the globe; that is a diverse, varied style of cooking that has created much of what we know of as American cuisine.
African-American cooking is almost always talked about as soul food, and yet its history is much richer, more varied, and deeper than that one story. In Tipton-Martin’s hands, the history of this food unfolds as one of skill and ingenuity, adaptation and inspiration. Tipton-Martin’s Jemima Code opened a conversation in the food world about the role of black cooks in American food. Continuing that conversation through the intimate, engaging form of recipes, Jubilee enlarges that discussion in a moment when the issue of African-American cultural ownership is a very relevant topic.
Drawn from her extensive research and collection (more than 300 volumes) of African-American cookbooks published over two centuries, Jubilee connects the historical and cultural threads that have formed the fabric of African-American cuisine.
Serves 6 to 8
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Cut 3 slices of the bacon into 1-inch strips. In a skillet, cook the cut bacon until browned and crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove to paper towels to drain.
In the same pan, sauté the onion, bell pepper, and garlic over medium heat until tender and the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar, molasses, ketchup, mustard, vinegar, liquid smoke (if using), pepper flakes, black pepper, and salt. Mix well. Cook over medium-low heat until the sugar is dissolved, about 1½ minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the beans, their liquid, the sauce, and the cooked bacon. Pour into a 13 × 9-inch baking dish or a 3-quart casserole. Place the remaining 3 slices of bacon on top of the beans. Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover, increase the oven temperature to 425°F, and bake for 15 minutes more to brown the bacon slices.
serves 12 to 15
Booker T. Washington spent nine years of his life confined to a tobacco plantation in the Virginia piedmont, but he went on to become a noted author, orator, and founder of the Tuskegee Institute. In his autobiography, Up From Slavery, a vivid retelling of his upbringing in a cabin that doubled as the plantation kitchen house and the sweet potato bank, he described his passion for ginger cakes: “I saw my two young mistresses and some lady visitors eating ginger cakes . . . those cakes seemed to me to be absolutely the most tempting and desirable things that I had ever seen; and I then and there resolved that, if I ever got free, the height of my ambition would be . . . to eat ginger cakes in the way that I saw those young ladies doing.”
African American cookbooks also carry on the ginger cake tradition—from the “old-time ginger cake” Abby Fisher baked in 1881 to author Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor’s gingerbread in the 2001 cookbook Vertamae Cooks in the Americas’ Family Kitchen. Verta dedicated the recipe to Booker T. Washington in a 2001 NPR interview to celebrate June 19, 1865. Juneteenth, as the day is known, is the day that the enslaved in Texas learned that the Emancipation Proclamation had set them free.
The essentials for gingerbread are usually the same: flour, butter, sugar, eggs, spices, and molasses baked until dark and lovely. You can experiment with sweeteners such as cane syrup, maple syrup, honey, and sorghum molasses, or try moistening the gingerbread batter with different liquids, such as coffee, milk, or buttermilk. Despite the name, gingerbread’s mahogany crumb is light and cakelike, not at all dense like pumpkin, banana, or other quick breads.
This is my version of the recipe, developed with chef Joe Randall, which we published in A Taste of Heritage: The New African-American Cuisine. It is sweet and moist, fragrant with the scent of ginger and the distinctly bold flavor of molasses. Serve this gingerbread with a dollop of sweet Bourbon Chantilly Cream or a light garnish of warm Lemon Sauce.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 13 × 9-inch baking pan with butter or shortening. Dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. In a bowl or measuring cup, stir together the molasses and coffee.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the melted butter, brown sugar, and eggs on medium speed until light. Beat in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the coffee molasses mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat for 30 seconds longer.
Pour the batter into the pan. Bake until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 45 minutes. Cool the gingerbread in the pan on a wire rack, then cut into squares and serve warm with lemon sauce or bourbon Chantilly cream.
makes about 1 cup
In a small saucepan, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch until well mixed. Gradually whisk in the boiling water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce is thick and resembles syrup, about 5 minutes. Add the butter, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt, and stir until the butter has melted. Cool to room temperature to serve.
Bourbon Chantilly Cream
makes about 2 cups
In the chilled bowl of an electric mixer with chilled beaters, whip the cream to soft peaks. Sprinkle in the sugar and beat until blended, no more than 30 seconds. Add the bourbon, beating until stiff peaks form. Do not overbeat.
Reprinted with permission from Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking by Toni Tipton-Martin, copyright © 2019. Photographs by Jerrelle Guy . Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc.
Contact: Kristen Casemore