First Published: 19th of January, 2021 by Patrick CarpenLast updated: October 17, 2023 at 14:05 pm
Before delving into this recipe, we should note here that there are two entirely different foods called pepperpot by people of different cultures or in different geographical locations of Guyana, South America. The indigenous peoples in Region 9, for example, refer to a fish cuisine as pepperpot. This is also called tuma pot. But people in the capital city of Georgetown, as well as along the coasts, refer to a preparation of beef (or other meat) boiled in casareep, together with other ingredients, as pepperpot.
For disambiguation purposes, I will choose to refer to the pepperpot made by the indigenous peoples with fish as tuma pot, and the pepperpot of meat boiled in casareep with other ingredients as pepperpot. The pepperpot that will be explained in this article is the one made with beef, chicken, etc boiled in casareep and which can be preserved for weeks, perhaps months, without refrigeration, but with reheating under sanitary conditions.
Pepperpot has graced the tables and satisfied the stomachs of all races and classes of Guyanese on a wide variety of occasions – from Christmas season to the everyday grind. During the Christmas season, it is often served with cassava bread and complimented with ginger beer. Although it is not clear at this time which ethnic group introduced pepperpot to Guyana, it might be a blend of two cultures – a tradition adapted by the Africans using casareep – an indigenous creation. It was then adopted and modified by all other ethnic groups in Guyana making it a truly Guyanese flavor.
While it is not clear which ethnic group introduced pepperpot to Guyana, the powerful preservative properties of casareep, on which pepperpot relies for both taste and shelf life, is a gift from our indigenous brothers and sisters who introduced its use to us.
Because of the amazing preservative properties of casareep, the pepperpot can remain unspoiled for weeks or even months with just a simple onetime reheating every 24 hours without the need for refrigeration. Yes! That’s how powerful the preservative properties of casareep are! Personally, I wouldn’t want to keep it in the pot for more than two weeks without washing out the pot and starting afresh – but if you don’t contaminate the pot, it can be preserved for months, or, according to some people, “indefinitely.”
If you are going to preserve the pepperpot for any length of time, you should bear in mind the following important points.
- Do not dip a dirty spoon into the pepperpot after you have cooked it. Use a clean spoon every time – one that was carefully washed and dried. Avoid letting your fingers touch the spoon that will go into the pepperpot as this may increase the risk of contamination and spoilage.
- Do not let any contaminants such as rice or bread or any other foodstuff fall into the pepperpot as this too could cause it to spoil.
- You must reheat the pepperpot once every 24 hours – thoroughly. While you do not want to boil it over, you need to reheat it thoroughly. Here’s the key. Put the pot on the stove with high heat until steam starts rising from the top of the pot. When the steam starts to rise, turn the heat down to low and leave it to steam for about 25 minutes with the cover on. This process will ensure that the food remains unspoiled for the next 24 hours.
Pepperpot is an amazing dish, and aside from being scrumptious, it goes well with a wide variety of staples such as bread, rice, provisions, cassava bread, etc.
The main ingredients of pepperpot are the meat of your choice (beef, chicken, pork etc) and casareep. You can choose one type of meat or a combination of two or more. Cow heel, tale, and face are most ideal for making pepperpot since the normal flesh part of the cow sometimes loosen to threads after being preserved and reheated for about one week. The skin of cow’s neck is also a good ingredient for making pepperpot. A mixture of heel and tale is ideal, but the meat of any part of the cow can be used.
With that being said, here’s a simple recipe explaining how to make pepperpot.
- 4 pounds of cow’s meat.
- 2 pieces of ginger (thumb size).
- Two sticks of cinnamon spice (about 2 inches long).
- A cupful of chipped celery (not compressed; about 4 branches of celery)
- 1 bulb of garlic.
- 12 pieces of clove.
- Pepper to suit your taste. (about 5 big, hot, chilli peppers are recommended)
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 1 pot spoon of sugar
- 1/2 pint of cassava casareep
Orange peel of half an orange. Please note: you cannot use fresh orange peel: If necessary. put the orange peel in the sun to dry for a day or two.
Wash the meat with water. You may use lime or vinegar to wash the meat if you feel it’s necessary – depending on the state of the meat.
Blend with 1/2 cup of water: one bulb of peeled garlic, 4 branches of celery, 2 pieces of ginger, and the five chili peppers, then mix it thoroughly into the meat to season the meat well.
Allow it to rest for about ten minutes in the meat if possible.
Do not put onion or shallots in the pepperpot. These seasonings have a tendency to spoil the dish.
Put the orange skin, spice, and clove into the empty pot.
With your fingers, lift the washed and seasoned beef and place it on top of the orange peel, spice, and clove. Pour whatever seasoning is left over into the pressure pot.
Note: You may use a pressure pot or a normal pot to make pepperpot. However, a normal pot will take longer for the beef to soften. A pressure pot is a better option since it also locks the ingredients into the pot airtight.
Level the beef in the pot and throw water to slightly cover the beef by about two inches. This is an important step. The water should just cover the beef by about two inches. About twelve cups of water should be enough.
Now add the 1/2 pint of cassava casareep. Pour it over the ingredients in the pot.
Note that some casareep are mild (tastes like marmite) while some are bitter. The bitter ones are thicker and blacker. If you lean it, it takes longer to come out of the bottle. Mild casareep flows easier. Mild casareep is preferred to make pepperpot.
Now light the stove and put the pot on the fire. Do not stir the pot because you want the ingredients at the bottom to release their flavor into the pot.
Put the cover on the pressure pot and leave to cook on high heat for 1 hour. This is assuming that you have soft beef from a young cow. If you have harder beef from an older cow, you should let it cook for about two hours. Please note that these timings may vary depending on your heat source.
Now turn off the stove and allow the pot to cool down. Open the pot and stir the ingredients well. Add one tablespoon of salt, and one potspoon of sugar, then stir the ingredients before closing the pot and putting it back on the fire for about 30 minutes more.
Now your pepperpot is ready to eat, but it tastes much better after 4 days.
Note: After cooking, it is recommended that you leave the pepperpot to cure for about 4 days before eating. After this time period, the pepperpot develops a better taste.
If the pepperpot has spoiled because of contamination or failure to reheat, you will see tiny bubbles at the top. In earlier stages of spoiling, you may not see bubbles, but the sauce will become slimy.
If you continually reheat and reuse the pepperpot for several weeks, the casareep sauce may eventually dry up. In this case, you can easily replenish it. To do this, put a pint (or more if necessary) of water to boil and pour 1/8 pint casareep into it. Stir well. Pour into the pot. Close the pot and reheat for about thirty minutes.
Dear Reader? Have you tried this recipe? If so, how did it work for you? How can we improve it? Tell us in the comments below.
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This article was reprinted in the Guyana, South America Monthly Magazine, June 2022 Edition.