Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Homemade Creole and Cajun Seasonings

Hard as it is to believe (I mean, it's not exactly strenuous, is it?) I get tired of taking multiple spices out of my kitchen cabinet to season the meat, vegetables and soups I prepare. It's sooo repetitive! So I'm making my own batch of Creole and/or Cajun spice mix. Let me explain how to tell  "Creole" from "Cajun."

Today it's not easy. The differences between Creole and Cajun cooking are subtle, as the two groups have blended together. Both are heavily influenced by French cooking. The Creoles tended to be city slickers, who migrated to New Orleans, while the Cajuns settled in rural Louisiana and lived off the land. Creole cooking picked up ingredients from Spain, Africa, the Caribbean, Italy and Germany. 

Think of Cajuns as country folks. Generally, Cajun cooking was more likely to use pork, chicken, crawfish and sausage, plus a heavier dose of cayenne pepper, while Creoles, with the Italian influence, were more likely to add tomatoes to the "Holy Trinity" of bell pepper, celery and onion -- the vegetable blend found in the cooking of both groups.

The Creoles tended to use more crab, shrimp and oysters in their dishes. But present day chefs often interchange the seasonings (and foods) of what was once purely Creole or Cajun cooking, since nowadays all the ingredients are readily available.

To show the similarities of the two heritages, I will list a spice mix recipe for each:

Creole Seasoning - Makes about 1 1/3 cups

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons sea salt
5 tablespoons paprika, regular or smoked
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon fresh black pepper (144 turns of the pepper mill)
1 tablespoon white pepper
2 tablespoons dried garlic
2 tablespoons dried onion
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried basil
1 tablespoon dried cilantro
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon dried thyme (Traditionally, thyme was more characteristic of Cajun cooking.)
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

Directions:

Add ingredients, one by one in a mixing bowl, blend and store in an air tight Mason jar.

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Cajun Spice Mix - Makes about one cup

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon fresh black pepper
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons dried garlic
1 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons dried onion
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons oregano (Traditionally, the Italian influence was more characteristic of Creole cooking)

Directions:

Blend thoroughly in a mixing bowl and store in an air tight Mason jar.

As you can see, the Creole and Cajun spice mix is nearly identical. So feel free to choose one. I had all of the ingredients for the Creole seasoning mix in my cupboard, so went with it. 

Now I can reach for a single spice mix and be done without skimping on flavor. 

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Savor The Salt Of The Earth

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