When Carol and Vernon Jackson moved to Sale Creek from New Orleans nearly 30 years ago, they brought a taste of the Big Easy's Cajun culture with them. The couple threw a Cajun shrimp boil to meet their new friends and neighbors — a Low Country boil-style entree that fed 40 people.
"At the time it (the boil) was a new concept to our area," says Carol. "We fell in love with the whole culture in New Orleans, which pretty much centers around food."
And her friends fell in love with it, too.
The couple's fall Cajun shrimp boil became an anticipated annual tradition. The number attending grew every year — as did the shrimp in the stockpot.
The hostess explains that a Cajun shrimp boil varies from a traditional Low Country boil by the spices used.
"The Cajun boil uses cayenne pepper and Zatarain's seasoning as opposed to the Old Bay seasonings usually used in a Low Country boil."
Over two decades, the couple held pig roasts, steak cookouts and barbecues at their fall gathering, but it was the shrimp boils their friends loved most, she says.
Since her husband's passing four years ago, Carol has decided to close down their farm and move to South Carolina for the beach life. But before leaving, she threw "The Last Hurrah," a final farewell to gather all her friends, reminisce over 26 years of memories and enjoy a last Cajun shrimp boil.
"We had 80 people attend this year. They traveled from Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and Florida. Word always spreads and the party takes on a life of its own. Everyone pitches in to help. This year, our good friend, Bill Armour, coordinated all the cooking. He has lots of experience with catering for large groups and volunteered to be my Cajun chef for the day," she says.
Two 80-quart pots of shrimp boil were served in addition to barbecue, slaw and beans.
Amy York attended the first party in 1991 and was also at this last one. The Jackson shrimp boils were her introduction to the Cajun dish, she says.
"I'd never had one before that first year. I thought it was very authentic — they cooked all of it in a big pot, then poured it all out on a big table so everyone could help themselves."
Betty Jolly, who says she's attended a half-dozen or so of these parties, agrees the cooking and serving process makes a good conversation starter.
"Depending on the number of people, for some of them we'd spread newspaper on a long table, drain the water from the pot and dump the food out on the paper. It's fun to see people gather around the table and pick what they want. The parties are always fun."
Cajun Shrimp Boil
Salt, to taste
Garlic powder, to taste
Lemons, halved, to taste
Onions, peeled and quartered, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
32 ounces Zatarain's Crab Boil liquid
10 pounds small red potatoes, left whole and unpeeled
48 ears corn, shucked and either halved or cut into 4-inch sections
8 pounds Cajun sausage, cut into bite-size pieces
15 pounds shrimp in shells
Fill 80-quart stockpot with water, and bring to boil. When rolling boil is reached, add first six ingredients to pot, and bring to boil again.
Add potatoes, and bring to good rolling boil, then add corn and sausage. Continue to boil until potatoes and corn are done.
Add shrimp last. Turn off heat source. When shrimp turn pink (no more than 5 minutes), remove everything from stockpot. Yields 40 servings.
Note: For a smaller group, drain water from pot and pour pot's ingredients out onto layered sheets of newspaper on a table. For large crowds, which require big amounts of food, ladle food from pot and serve buffet-style in disposable aluminum pans.
— Carol Jackson
Contact Susan Pierce at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6284.