From New England. The Chesapeake Bay, and Louisiana, to Georgia and South Carolina, one hugely traditional common thread joins us. We love our seafood boils. And, having lived in South Carolina’s Lowcountry for decades, we’ve done our share of boils and been to more than I can count.
Depending on the region, the boils vary, but all contain shellfish and a variety of sides indigenous to the area. Of course, most of the time these seafood boils are sometime between Memorial Day and Labor Day with July 4th being the holiday for having a boil that’s as popular as a the traditional BBQ.
If you’re going to have a Lowcountry Seafood Boil, then there’re a few simple priorities:
1. Lots of friends and family. It’s a big gathering. You don’t make just a small pot of seafood boil.
2. A big table. A great big pot for cooking with a full tank of propane. A paddle and a big draining scoop. Lots of shellfish—shrimp, crabs, clams, mussels.
3. A few sides. Farm fresh salads. Fresh fruit. Coleslaw. There’s always buttermilk thin crispy cornbread that’s served right from the hot skillet(s).
4. Beer. Wine. Lemon Mint Water. Sodas. Sweet Tea.
5. No cell phones.
Our version of the seafood boil is to cook it all together in the large stock pot then ‘deconstruct’ it to some extent onto platters for serving making it easier for hungry guests to decide which shellfish they prefer and what they want to put on their plates. Then there’s a platter devoted to everything that won’t be separated—tender potatoes, onions, sausage, maybe some rogue shrimp, clams and mussels.
Sometimes, however, we shift to the more rustic version and spread newspapers on the harvest table. Then the tasty boil is piled high down the center and everyone dives in with their hands. No utensils or plates might be used.
Our seafood boils are a ritual each summer. It’s an extravaganza of indulging in the briny water’s most precious gifts. Everyone pitches in. Everyone enjoys. Elbows on the table. Eating with your hands. Corn kernels in your teeth. Filling your plates again and again.
As the sun sets and the temperatures cool, maybe a balmy breeze begins to gently blow, the conversation and camaraderie continue as we break bread and taste Mother Nature’s finest. And, what follows that? Well, there’s cornhole until dark sets in. Teams vying to take the bragging rights! Then there’s dessert. Something Southern. A peach cobbler. Homemade ice cream. Root Beer floats. A fresh blueberry pie or blueberry spooncakes with whipped cream. Maybe all of these things.