Gumbo Z’herbes - Massachusetts Style

This version uses meat and a roux. If you’d like to make a vegetarian option, omit the meat and brown the onions and celery well to add a greater depth of flavor. If you wish to omit gluten, skip the roux step, but again, make sure the onions and celery are browned well. Serves 8.

5 or 6 small bunches of greens, cabbage, etc. (remember, odd numbers!)
⅓ cup oil
½ cup flour
1 medium onion, chopped into small dice
2 stalks celery, chopped into small dice
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ to 1 teaspoon Hungarian hot pepper or cayenne, plus smoked paprika to make 1 teaspoon total
⅛ teaspoon powdered mace
2 allspice berries
Reserved cooking liquid plus enough water to total 6 cups
1 tablespoon oil
1 pound pork (meat from thick-cut pork chops, country-style ribs, or pork shoulder), cut into half-inch cubes (leave country-style ribs whole and cut them off the bone at the end of cooking)
¾ pound kielbasa, cut into half-moons
Cooked rice (see our instructions for how to cook rice here)
Filé powder*
Chopped scallions, including the greens

Prepare the greens: Remove the stems from the greens and slice crosswise into inch-wide strips. You’ll end up with roughly 15 cups of greens.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, add large handfuls of greens to the skillet. Add a little water to the pan if the greens are dry. With a pair of tongs, stir the greens as they cook down. Stir remaining uncooked greens in as there is room for them.  

Remove greens from the pan, and gently squeeze out and reserve any cooking liquid. Add water to the reserved cooking liquid to make 6 cups.

When the greens have cooled slightly, chop them fine. (You can pulse in a food processor, but you want small pieces of greens, not a smooth purée.) Set greens aside.

Heat the oil in 6-quart pot over medium high heat and add the flour. Stir well and keep stirring until the roux is the color of peanut butter, about 5–10 minutes. (If you are omitting meat, you might cook it a little darker to add more depth to the soup.)

Add the chopped onions and celery to the roux and stir well. Cook until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes, then add the garlic. Add the thyme, hot pepper, mace, and allspice, mix well, and cook for another minute.

Stir in the reserved liquid, 1 cup at a time, and mix well to avoid lumps. Add the greens and mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.

Heat a large skillet (you can use the same one you cooked the greens in) over high heat, and add the 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the pork to the pan and cook on all sides to brown. Add pork to the gumbo. Simmer until the pork is tender, about an hour. Taste for seasoning and add the kielbasa. Cook another 10 minutes.

To serve: Place a half-cup of rice in a soup bowl, ladle in the gumbo, and sprinkle with filé power and chopped scallions. Make sure there is hot sauce and additional filé at the table.

* Find filé locally at The River Valley Market (Northampton) and The Southern New England Spice Company (Hadley).