From time to time, you will see me add a Caribbean food and wine pairing post in here, as it is something I am pretty passionate about. In this post, I will pair a childhood favourite and time-honored culinary tradition with wine; Guyanese Souse.
Souse is a dish that makes you think of historical peasant cooking, with off cuts of meat, but today we see souse cooked mostly on special occasion and events. The same could be said of many foods that started with a humble beginning and are deeply rooted in tradition. What was once simple is now seen as a delicacy! More on the allure of souse; if you talk to anyone from the Caribbean, they will tell you that souse is a must at any party where a lot of libations are going to be consumed. There is something about souse that sobers you right up and rejuvenates you!
If you've never had souse before, the best way to describe it is to think of pickled meat that is obviously well seasoned, and in a nearly gelatinous broth. The meat used in souse can vary. It is commonly made with pig's feet, but some also use chicken feet and cow heel.
The origin of souse is European, but the Caribbean version is a clear adaptation of the original. It is said that souse is modelled off of the dish head cheese.
Let's get to how souse is made, so you get an idea of what to expect on the palate.
The meat is boiled until tender and then left to sit in a mixture of vinegar, water, thyme, onions, scallions, cucumber and other seasonings. A bit of wiri wiri pepper is also added, but that is done to add to the flavour of the dish and not to dominate it. The meat sits in this mixture and gets to room temperature, which then turns the soup like sauce the meat was sitting in slightly gelatinous. On the palate, you'll note the salinity. The vinegar will give off a feel of a herbed vinaigrette with a kick. The dish steps up in complexity as you will also pick up notes of the meat used in your souse, along with any dominant spice, such as broadleaf thyme.
The Wine Pairing
When looking for a wine pairing for a dish, there are a few things I focus on
The weight of the dish (thick broth consistency, richness, the meat used, etc...)
Spices used in the sauce
Understanding the elements above will help you to source the right wine!
With souse, we know we're going to have a bit of a kick with the wiri wiri pepper, a bit of weight given the slight gelatinous nature, plus the acidity in the dish from vinegar. Given this flavour profile, I usually run with an off-dry Riesling.
With an off-dry Riesling, you get:
Enough sweetness to counteract the pepper in the dish
Enough acidity to congruently support your high acid dish
Enough weight in the wine from residual sugar to support the weight of your souse
Aside from Riesling being a formidable grape, pairing it with a dish like souse really shows how food-friendly and versatile it can really be.
Enjoy and cheers!