In the Caribbean we find (delicious) ways to use just about every part of the animal (and bird).. dishes you must try before passing judgement. Souse is traditionally made with pig trotters, ears and snouts when I was growing up on the islands. However, chicken feet are also used, especially by people who don’t dine with the swine! Souse is basically a spicy pickle, served cool (for the most part) with herbal and citrus notes, along with the kick of Caribbean Sunshine – scotch bonnet peppers.
You’ll find variations of this chicken foot souse recipe as you make your way up and down the island chain, so please use this as a beginners guide and don’t be afraid to personalize it a bit with your signature touch.
1 lb chicken feet (cleaned and trimmed)
1 scotch bonnet pepper
2 cloves garlic
water for boiling the chicken feet
3-5 cups of water for the souse
2 tablespoon shado beni (or cilantro)
1/2 large onion sliced thin
juice of 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch black pepper
1 medium cucumber
Notes: Remember to wear gloves and to wash your hands with soap and water immediately after handling scotch bonnet (or an HOT) peppers. If you don’t want the raw heat, do not use the seeds of the pepper. I used Shado Beni (culantro), but you can use cilantro if you cannot source it.
Hopefully your butcher will clean and trim the chicken feet for you. In my case I had to trim off the sort of toe nails off the feet, then wash and place in a deep pot with water. Bring to a boil, add the salt and let them cook on a rolling boil until tender (about 40 minutes). If you see any sort of residue on the surface of the water, skim off and discard.
As they cook, you can use this time to prep the other ingredients. Thinly slice the onion, scotch bonnet pepper, shado beni, cucumber, lemon, scallion and finely dice (or crush) the garlic.
Drain and rinse the cooked chicken feet, then place then in a deep bowl.
Top with the sliced ingredients, go in with the black pepper, water and lime juice and mix well.
For best results mix well, cover and let it chill in the fridge for a couple hours. All the flavors will start working to combine for a spectacular dish – served as you would soup.
If you want you can place the garlic, scotch bonnet pepper and shado beni in a food processor with a little water and blend until smooth.. that’s how you’ll find it when you purchase from vendors outside bars and night clubs. However I much prefer getting little bits of the fresh herbs and seasonings.
I’m not much of a drinker, though I do enjoy a good Scotch ever so often and I do appreciate a Guinness or two when I’m on the islands (stronger than the ones we get here in North America). So having to deal with hangovers is something that’s completely foreign to me. I recall my uncle making this dish quite often, as he was a true connoisseur of the “rum” and dealing with hangovers were part of his routine. Aside from souse, he also made a deadly fish broth, that I still crave to this day. Souse is traditionally made with parts of the pig that’s not really glamorous, but when I asked the butcher if she had any pig’s feet left, she told me they were all sold out. Imagine that!
Souse is basically a cold pickled soup, that’s marinated for a couple hours after you assemble it and it’s full of flavours from the peppers and pickling process. I guess it could be considered a light soup by our standards, especially since it’s not really filling (you’d have to eat a bucket full).
* Since I was unable to get the pig feet I went looking for I opted for the next best thing I could find, which was pork hocks. But I’m sure you could use pork bones or rib ends to make this with success. And if all fails, you can always use chicken feet.
1lb pork hocks
1/2 medium red onion sliced thin
juice of 4 limes
1 hot pepper sliced thin (use habanero or scotch bonnet for best results)
dash fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt (but do taste after marinating to adjust to your liking)
2 cloves of garlic crushed
4 cups water
1 cucumber sliced thin
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (traditionally shado beni is used, but I didn’t have any)
Wash the hocks or whatever parts you were able to source, then place in a deep pot with water – add the couple cloves of garlic and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer and allow it to cook for a couple hours covered – until the meat starts falling off the bones. If you have a pressure cooker, do your thing.
Then drain the cooked meat and give it a good rinse under cool water and set it aside to cool down. Now prepare all the ingredients for the sort of pickling process. Slice the onion, pepper, cucumber and cilantro. if you’re using shado beni, use about 4-6 leaves.
By now the meat should be cooled enough to work with. Strip away the meat off the bone in small pieces and place in a large bowl. Traditionally the skin is also added in some instances, but I’m trying to live a little healthier, so out with the skin… but I did keep the bones. Then add all the stuff we sliced, the salt, fresh ground black pepper, lime juice and water and give it a good stir.
Now here’s where you’ll need a little patience, since the smell will be alluring and you’ll be tempted to dig in right away. The combination of the lime juice, fresh sliced cucumber and hot pepper gives this an amazing aroma. Cover this and allow it to marinate for a couple hours. I’ve seen some people add the garlic just before the marinating process with the other fresh ingredients, but I much prefer to add it during the boiling of the meat, just to infuse the meat with it’s flavor and not over-power the main dish.
Thoughts? Leave me your comments below an do tell your friends about this and all the wonderful recipes on the site. And before you go, please join us on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook image on the right side of the page or here >>> Caribbean Recipes On Facebook.