Charleston cuisine often blends African American, Native American, and European traditions. Okra soup is distinctively Charlestonian, a dish that resembles a gumbo, but is simpler to prepare.
The following recipe has been handed down in Theresa Singleton’s family for four generations. Serena Mitchell North (1888-1963), Theresa’s grandmother, taught it to her daughters. Serena learned it from her father, William Mitchell, who worked as a chef at the St. John’s Hotel, once a renowned eating establishment in old Charleston.
- 3 quarts water
- 1 large meaty beef soup bone
- 1 large ham hock
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 lbs. fresh okra, chopped fine
- 8 fresh medium tomatoes, peeled (Or 2 16 oz. cans of peeled whole tomatoes)
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
Bring water to a boil. Add soup bone and ham hock and cook on medium heat until meat separates easily from the bone (about two hours). Add okra, peeled tomatoes, bay leaf, onions, thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer for another two hours. Add more water if needed. Serve with hot cornbread or pour over rice. Serves 8-10.