Where for art thou, my sugar cane? On the grill with sugar cane citrus glazed shrimp… and an oink!

sugar caned shrimp wrapped in bacon

My trip to the local Farmers Market (Port Royal) this past weekend was quite successful. Not only did I snag some tasty and beautiful greens, carrots and radish but also something that is probably unusual to most folks, although I would bet most Americans eat it in one form or another every day. As I turned the corner at the market after my inaugural “once through” I spied a few pieces of something carelessly laying in the back of one farmer’s pick up truck.

I have been on the look out for this specific item since I started this blog and there it was! I immediately beelined it for the farmer, inquiring about said item. “Oh yeah, sure they’re for sale. A dollar a stalk.“ he replied. My heart leapt with joy…finally I have a whole stalk of real sugar cane!

Once I procured the “cane” I made my way through the jammed packed crowd, and felt many eyes on my sugar cane. I’m sure I heard at least one “What is that?” as a stalk of sugar cane is large – a good 5 feet plus. Not something you can tuck into a reusable market bag. But my head was reeling with ideas and I had to get back home. No time to strike up a conversation and besides the next question would be, “So what DO you do with that?” and honestly at this point, I had no definitive answer.

During my formative years there always seemed to be sugar cane around our house or at our neighbors, who were real honest-to goodness farmers by the way. As kids we would eat it as a snack – it’s basically pure sugar after all, so of course one did not refuse sugar cane. You could also use it to whack the ever lovin’ you-know-what out of someone. Even then it was more of a novelty, although I have been to a few folk-life festivals in Georgia where they actually go through the sugar making process to get (sulfured) molasses and well, sugar. Let’s just say it is a long, arduous, process. Be grateful for the 5 lb bag (Now 4 lb!) conveniently purchased at your local Publix or Kroger or Whole Foods or what have you.

Anyway, my sugar cane and I proceeded home where I tested Dear Hubby on knowing what this ‘thing’ was that I had purchased, and by golly, he got it right. Then I showed Girly Girl the sugar cane, explaining that the white sugar I make cookies and cupcakes with comes from this plant. Needless to say she was flabbergasted. She was further surprised when I whacked off a section with a large knife and a hammer, peeled back the bark and chewed on the pulpy inside. Let’s just say Mommy earned some coolness points with all this!

So after some thinking and pondering and a trip to the seafood market I came up with the idea of using the sugar cane to skewer some shrimp (which is not new, I realize) and making a glaze from the sugar cane juice. The fact that our weather was a lovely 75 degrees, added to our keen urge to grill so we were off to the races…

I served the shrimp with a super fresh and healthy “slaw” featuring those local carrots and radish from the farmers market plus under ripe pears and a light coriander dressing. If you dislike mayo or cook for someone who does (like me – Dear Hubby hates mayo) then this will make everyone happy. Plus it makes me feel better about indulging in these bacon-hugging shrimp!

stalk of sugar cane

Girly Girl with the stalk of sugar cane.

cutting sugar cane from the stalk

To get at the good stuff, use a heavy, sharp knife and a mallet or hammer.

sugar cane, peel the bark

Use a smaller sharp knife to cut away the “bark” – this part is fairly easy compared with stripping the “bark”.

sugar cane pulp

Here is a piece of sugar cane with a strip of bark removed. The inside is slightly spongy.

raw sugar cane

Here I have cut the sugar cane into chunks and spears (for the skewers). The chunks go into a pot with some water to cook out the juice.

cooked sugar cane pulp

Once the sugar cane has cooked down (it will still be in chunks and quite firm) grind it in a heavy duty food processor until it is very fine. Then squeeze out the juice by hand over a strainer.

Use that sugar cane "juice" to make the glaze for the shrimp. Vindaloo seasoning from Penzy's Spices and fresh citrus juice makes a flavorful glaze.

Use that sugar cane “juice” to make the glaze for the shrimp. Vindaloo seasoning from Penzy’s Spices and fresh citrus juice makes a flavorful glaze.

wild American shrimp

Here are the WILD American shrimp. These had been frozen but thawed they they were still beautiful, LOCALLY caught and tasted superb!

skewered shrimp

Use the sugar cane sticks to skewer each shrimp. To make it easier make the skewers narrow and …

Cut both ends of each stick at an angle. Cut a few more than you'll need in case a couple break.

Cut both ends of each stick at an angle. Cut a few more than you’ll need in case a couple break.

Prepare the bacon by cutting away the fatty part and just use the more meaty strips. You don't need much bacon per shrimp and less fat will means it will catch on fire less easily!

Prepare the bacon by cutting away the fatty part and just use the more meaty strips. You don’t need much bacon per shrimp and less fat will means it will catch on fire less easily!

bacon wrapped shrimp

Wrap each shrimp with the bacon and use a toothpick to secure, if needed – no one will tell, just remember to remove them before serving!

Place the bacon wrapped shrimp on the hot grill and rush with the glaze.

Place the bacon wrapped shrimp on the hot grill and rush with the glaze.

shrimp wrapped in bacon and skewered with sugar cane

Cook the shrimp on each side and brush with more glaze. When the bacon is cooked they’re ready!

Sugar cane citrus grilled shrimp – with an oink!

  • ¼ cup sugar cane “juice”
  • juice ½ of a large fresh lemon
  • juice of ½ of a large, ripe fresh lemon
  • ½ tsp (or more!) Vindaloo seasoning
  • 1 dozen extra large or jumbo fresh shrimp, peeled with tails left on
  • 12 sugar cane ‘sticks’
  • 6-12 slices thick bacon, excess fat removed*

To make the cane “juice” chop up about 2 sections of peeled sugar cane. Place this is 2/3 cup of water in a saucepan and heat until boiling. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook like this for at least one hour. Stir occasionally and when the liquid has reduced to about ¼ cup remove from the heat.

With a heavy duty food processor grind the sugar cane stalks and the liquid using the highest speed to get a fine pulp. Place a mesh strainer over a medium bowl and pour the sugar cane pulp/liquid into it. With clean hands squeeze the pulp to release the juice (much like squeezing cooked spinach). Discard the dry pulp left in the strainer. You should have about ¼ cup juice.

Mix this juice with the lemon and orange juices and the Vindaloo seasoning. Set aside.

Skewer each shrimp with a sugar cane stick (cut ends of each stick at an angle for easier skewering). Skewer all the shrimp and then wrap each with bacon securing with an extra toothpick if necessary. Place the shrimp in the refrigerator while preparing your grill.

When grill is very hot, remove shrimp from the frig and place on the hot grill. Brush with the vindaloo/sugar cane mixture and grill about 3 minutes. Turn over and again brush with the vindaloo/sugar cane mixture. Continue to grill until the bacon is cooked, avoiding burning them or over cooking the shrimp. Take off the grill, remove any toothpicks and watch them disappear! And the sugar cane skewers are edible so that’s a conversation topic for your next dinner party!

* On a diet? You can also leave off the bacon and simply grill the shrimp on the sugar cane skewers without the added “oink” calories and fat. It is still excellent!

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No excuses not to love Sea Island Okra Gumbo.

Being a holiday here the good ‘ole USA, I’m taking the day with my family so a shortened post but a good recipe nonetheless. It’s a gumbo from my friend Sallie Ann Robinson, cookbook author and Daufuskie Island native. This recipe is from one of her cookbooks, Gullah Cooking the Daufuskie Way. I apologize in not having step-by-step images from the recipe – actually I took pictures but somehow, when “cleaning” my laptop all but two of my finished shots were deleted. Excuses, excuses…

Too bad too, as the ham hocks were gorgeous that I used, as were the veggies and the fresh shrimp. Pinky promise to make this again and capture the process on “film”. Also a promise to share more about the talented Sallie Ann and unique and mysterious Daufuskie Island, which is the Lowcountry locale depicted in Pat Conroy’s novel, The Water is Wide (also the movie Conrack). Sallie Ann was one of the students Mr. Conroy taught in little Mary Field’s one room schoolhouse on Daufuskie. And he wrote the forward in her first cookbook too. So perhaps I’ve piqued your interest…come back for more good stuff soon.

This recipe is incredibly fresh with authentic Lowcountry flavor – use the freshest shrimp you can get and it’s still okra season- so no excuse not to make this simple, and hearty gumbo. Happy Labor Day!

Here’s a close up – I ladled this gumbo over some rice – traditional Lowcountry style!

Sallie Ann Robinson’s Sea Island Okra Gumbo

2 pieces fresh ham hock
3 pieces fresh pig tail*
1-2 cans diced or stewed tomatoes
4-5 cups of water
3 cups okra, washed and cut up
1 cup of fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
Corn, fresh green beans (optional)
Salt & pepper to taste
Hot sauce, to taste

Put pig tails and ham hocks in medium pot, half full with water. Boil 20 minutes, then drain. This will clean the meat. Rinse the meat again, twice. Return the meat to the pot, add the tomatoes (more or less, as you prefer) and 4 to 5 cups of water, and boil slowly until the meat tender and the tomatoes break down in the soup (30 to 60 minutes). If you wish, pre-fry the okra with a dash of oil to reduce the slime. Add the okra, pre-fried or not, along with the shrimp, to the tomatoes and meat. If you like add corn, green beans, or any other vegetable, canned or fresh. Serve as a soup, over rice, or with stiff grits.

* Note: I could not find fresh pig tails so I dissolved ½ tsp. gelatin in about 1/3 cup water and added it to the meat/tomato/water stew. It thickened perfectly although if I could have found fresh pig tails I would have used them!