syrup

by Spencer Valdespino

This is a commodity that goes with pancakes, waffles, ice cream and it’s even used for marinades. Actually, the list is endless of what people put it on. From the kitchen of residential Louisiana homes to the fanciest of shelves in chef’s restaurants, cane syrup is essential in the south. Specifically, Charles Poirier’s Cane Syrup.

Sugarcane can be found in most backyards around the state. If you have ever lived here or even traveled here for vacation, it’s something the eye catches as you look out the window on the highways. And with a plethora of this specific item, companies look to find ways to use it.

Poirier’s Cane Syrup has done just that. This time consuming process of making the product is well worth the wait. The labor put into it shows the true passion that the workers embrace while making the syrups.

The process can be grueling. Growing the sugarcane takes time and there is little to do to hurry the process up. Cultivating is the first step once the sugarcane is fully grown. The employees of Poirier’s go out and manually cut the cane, which is then put it into 60-gallon syrup kettles until it comes to a boil. Afterwards, they examine the sugarcane, skim off all impurities and cook it down. The last step in the process is to bottle the syrup to bring it from the factory and onto people’s breakfast tables.

This syrup is meant to be lighter when it comes to both taste and color. The reason the time is longer for certain batches is so that there is full control of how much is being caramelized. The idea of making cane syrup was something of a dying truth in the area. Youngsville, home of Charles Poirier Cane Syrup, wasn’t producing as much as it had in the past. The small town used to have a syrup mill but it shut down. It seemed to be time for a change and maybe a reboot from the local community.

Thirteen years ago, Poirier’s father told him of the great business back in the early 1900’s that his great grandfather had started in the sugarcane industry. In 1941, his great grandfather has passed away and the business had slowly followed suit.

“Throughout the years, no other family members had interest in starting the business back up until my father told me of the past business,” says Poirier. “Twelve years ago to this season is when I decided to start the business back up.”

Poirier started from scratch with mills dated 100 years old. No machines from the older times seem to work anymore and new equipment was needed to upgrade. It started as bringing a hobby back into the family because he was basing it out of his backyard. The biggest batch in the kettle was 15 pounds. He would only make it for himself, family and friends. As time passed, though, more people became interested and he figured he’d sell it to the public. Now, bigger batches are needed to be made in shorter periods.

Years later and he is still going strong with his business. Selling to residents and only Louisiana businesses, mainly in New Orleans and Lafayette, he still is able to double his profits every year. With something that seems to be on a continuous wave of falling down and gaining momentum, Poirier isn’t going to stop the cane syrup making anytime soon.

“I am just going to keep making syrup until I can’t make it anymore,” Poirier says. “I see where the demand is and I take care of the people year by year. As long I am making money from it and make a living, I am going to keep this process going and hope for the best.”

Find Poirier’s Cane Syrup:

by Claire LeBeouf
Writer & Special Sections

When Kimber Ratcliff, Chris Ledet and Nancy Bernard discussed the idea of opening a local garden, they never expected that two months later they would break ground with the help of Catholic Charities and quickly become one of the most successful charitable organizations in the area.

The original St. Francis Vegetable Garden, which is located behind the Thibodaux CivicCenter, has grown into the size of a football field that is home to fresh fruits and vegetables and lots of underlying meaning. The garden, which was started in memory of founder Chris Ledet’s father who was an avid gardener, now serves the community in more ways than one. It offers not only a place for volunteers to come together, but a place where food is grown with the purpose of helping those in need. All of the food grown in the garden goes directly to the local food bank as a way for the needy to receive healthy food choices.

While most people think of a garden as a small patch of land in a backyard, Ratcliff sees it as an opportunity to build a sense of community. With the garden now expanding to different locations, Ratlciff, Ledet and Bernard are seeing their dream come to life.

“When we started our organization, we wanted to make it possible for gardens like ours to be in parishes across the state. With the addition of the Southdown location in Houma, the food banks in Terrebonne Parish will have fresh produce to distribute at the food bank,” says Ratcliff. “Teachers in Terrebonne Parish now have a free living outdoor classroom to visit with their students.”

The success of the garden is something that Ratcliff believes is not only a reward, but something that is very important to share with the younger generation of garden enthusiasts.

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“Watching children who visit the garden eat veggies they just picked, learning about where their food comes from, and healthy eating is rewarding,” says Ratcliff. “Not only are they learning about health and wellness they are learning to help those most in need in their community.”

The garden’s mission to serve and build community has spread from Thibodaux to Houma. The garden’s produce is featured in the weekly Rienzi Market and gives people in the surrounding areas an opportunity to access fresh, local foods and support the ones who grew them. Also, with the garden branching out to locations in different schools, it is able to bring the teachers, parents and students together for a good cause.

“Teachers and parents use the garden as place to teach lessons in science, nutrition and community giving,” says Ratcliff. “Children see up close how food grows and have the opportunity to pick vegetables, snack on them and take some home to share with their family.”

The St. Francis Vegetable Garden serves many purposes and strengthens families, schools and communities. Working for the greater good of the Thibodaux and Houma areas, the garden proves that it is certainly special and one of a kind.

Find St. Francis Vegetable Garden:

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Potato Salad
Servings
Servings
Instructions
  1. Boil cubed potatoes and eggs in a large pot with liquid crab boil.
  2. Drain potatoes and peel eggs. Remove the yolks and set aside in a medium bowl.
  3. Add the potatoes and chopped egg whites to a large bowl
  4. Smash yolks and add mustard, garlic powder, relish, mayo and a generous amount of salt and pepper to the bowl.
  5. Add the mixture to the potatoes and eggs until desired consistency.
  6. Finely chop green onions and fold them into the potato salad. Serve warm or refrigerate and serve later.
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gumbo

by Andetrie Vicks

Today when family and friends in Louisiana get together to enjoy each other’s company the style of cooking is still Cajun/Creole. Traditional comfort foods are on the menu, like red beans and rice, fried catfish and most importantly gumbo. Gumbo is extremely diverse and every family makes it slightly different with their preference of meats, spices, and thickener.

In the beginning this tasty elixir was made by the people of South Louisiana, but it was just a simple soup using meats and vegetables cooking in water. Gumbo history reveals that African American imported okra found its way into the Louisiana kitchens, and provided gumbo with its name; Gumbo is the African word for okra. It was discovered that okra boosted the flavor, but more importantly it added some texture in the way of a thickening agent.

Later people found that flour browned in pig lard added a great color, texture and taste. This is where roux first made its appearance and changed gumbo history. Since then roux has become the dominant agent to thicken this famous Louisiana dish as nothing can match the colors and flavors as deep.

Another way of thickening is by adding the ground leaves from the sassafras tree: Filé. This fine seasoning was adopted from the local Choctaw Indians. The powder is added right before serving and adds a hearty taste that gumbo lovers seek.

Gumbo differs from bowl to bowl but one thing always remains the same, it is a Louisiana classic enjoyed by many. This is a recipe for a chicken sausage gumbo, one of the many variations of this dish.

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Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
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servings
Ingredients
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat, add in the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture is smooth and brown. This forms the Roux. The roux will burn very easy if it’s not moving.
  2. Once roux is brown add onions, and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the bell peppers and celery, and cook for 5 more minutes.
  4. Stir in the Kitchen Bouquet, garlic, sausage and Cajun seasoning and cook another 5 minutes.
  5. Add the chicken broth and bay leaves to the pot and bring it to a boil. Let the gumbo simmer for one hour.
  6. After an hour add parsley and cooked chicken to the gumbo and simmer 1 more hour
  7. Remove excess oil from the top of gumbo.
  8. Serve hot over white rice. People often add Filé, hot sauce, and salt and pepper to their individual bowls.
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Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat, add in the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture is smooth and brown. This forms the Roux. The roux will burn very easy if it’s not moving.
  2. Once roux is brown add onions, and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the bell peppers and celery, and cook for 5 more minutes.
  4. Stir in the Kitchen Bouquet, garlic, sausage and Cajun seasoning and cook another 5 minutes.
  5. Add the chicken broth and bay leaves to the pot and bring it to a boil. Let the gumbo simmer for one hour.
  6. After an hour add parsley and cooked chicken to the gumbo and simmer 1 more hour
  7. Remove excess oil from the top of gumbo.
  8. Serve hot over white rice. People often add Filé, hot sauce, and salt and pepper to their individual bowls.
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Beignets
Servings
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Ingredients
Servings
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Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl combine warm water and yeast. Let sit for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Beat eggs and add them to the bowl along with milk, sugar and salt.
  3. Add the shortening to the dough mixture and combine.
  4. Use an electric mixer or a whisk and slowly add the flour. The dough should be sticky, stop adding flour when the dough gets sticky.
  5. Transfer the dough into a larger greased bowl and cover with a towel. Allow the dough to chill in the refrigerator for 5 hours.
  6. Cover a large work surface with a thin layer of flour. Drop the dough onto the work surface and roll it until it is about ½ inch thick.
  7. Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into 2 in. squares.
  8. In a fryer of your choice heat oil to 360°.
  9. Slightly stretch and drop each beignet into the oil. Cook 2 minutes on each site, or until the beignets are golden brown.
  10. Drain excess grease on a paper towel and cover immediately with a generous layer of powdered sugar.
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Grillades are usually served over creamy grits.

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Grillades
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Ingredients
Servings
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Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a medium size bowl combine a half a cup of flour and creole seasoning.
  2. Coat each piece of meat evenly with the flour and set aside.
  3. Heat oil in a skillet. Place the meat in the pan and let each side cook until the meat is browned on the outside. Remove the meat from the pan.
  4. While the pan is still hot sauté the onions, bell pepper, and celery until they are tender and the onions are browned.
  5. Add the garlic and tomatoes and sauté for 5 minutes.
  6. In a pot create a roux by melting the butter and adding the flour. Stir the mixture continuously until the roux turns the color of peanut butter.
  7. Add the broth and whisk on medium heat until the liquid is thickened.
  8. Add the meat and vegetables to the pot and season with salt and pepper.
  9. Let the food come to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Let the meat simmer for 1-2 hours.
  10. Add parsley for the last 10 minute of cooking.
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Red Beans and Rice
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Ingredients
Servings
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Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Soak red beans in water overnight.
  2. The next day, drain and rinse the beans to remove starch.
  3. In a deep pot sauté olive oil and trinity together over medium until they are tender and slightly browned.
  4. While vegetables are cooking slice Andouille in to small rounds. Cut each piece in half and then in have again.
  5. Add Andouille and garlic to the pot and cook for 10 minutes.
  6. Add chicken stock, water, bay leaves, and Cajun seasoning to the pot and bring it to a boil.
  7. Boil for 5 minutes, then turn heat down and simmer for two hours, or until beans are soft.
  8. Turn off the heat and cover for 15 minutes. Some beans will remain whole and others will fall apart to create a thick sauce.
  9. Serve with white rice and season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste.
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Pastalaya
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servings
Ingredients
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a large pot bring box of chicken broth to a boil. Add in rotini pasta and cook until al dente. Cover and allow the pasta to soak up the remaining chicken broth.
  2. Add one tablespoon oil to a pot. When the oil is heated add onions.
  3. Cook until clear and add remaining oil, bell peppers, and celery.
  4. Cook until vegetables are tender. Add Rotel and garlic and simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. In a frying pan cook sausage until fat is rendered and sausage becomes slightly brown. Using a slotted spoon move the sausage out of the pan, leaving the sausage oil behind.
  6. Add chicken and Cajun seasoning to the frying pan and cook thoroughly.
  7. Add can of soup and instant roux powder to the pot of vegetables.
  8. Combine the components of all three pots together in the largest of the 3 pots.
  9. Now the pastalaya will need a small amount of liquid to be added to create the right consistency. Add the heavy whipping cream to create a creamy pastalaya OR add the can of chicken broth to create a traditional pastalaya without changing the flavor.
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Crabmeat Au Gratin
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. In a saucepan melt the butter and add flour. Stir continuously until combined into a light roux.
  3. Add the chopped onion and cook until onions are soft.
  4. Stir in the can of evaporated milk until the ingredients are combined into a sauce. Season with Cajun seasoning and pepper.
  5. Add the American cheese and stir until cheese is melted.
  6. Fold the crabmeat into the sauce slowly, allowing some of the crap meat to stay together.
  7. Transfer into a shallow baking dish.
  8. Cover the top with the shredded cheddar cheese and green onions.
  9. Cook for 15 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.
  10. Serve warm with toast or crackers.
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