For Meiko Temple, celebrating Juneteenth – the anniversary of the date in 1865 when the last remaining enslaved people in Texas were declared free – has always been part of her life. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, and raised in San Diego, Temple recalls attending Juneteenth parades and festivals every year with her family during her youth.
“It wasn’t until I became an adult that I actually started making a celebration of my own because I wanted to start my own traditions,” she says, noting that for the second year in a row, she is organizing a group of Black food bloggers for a virtual event called the Juneteenth Cookout Takeover. (Full disclosure: I have been involved with this and similar events in the past.)
The event features dozens of Black food content creators sharing their recipes in honor of the holiday. The dishes include barbecue baked beans from Marwin Brown of Food Fidelity, honey buttermilk biscuits with roasted strawberries from Britney Brown-Chamberlain of Britney Breaks Bread and a strawberry basil pineapple mocktail from Shanika Graham-White of Orchids + Sweet Tea.
The impetus for this event is twofold: representation and appreciation. “Over the years, we’ve seen from a blogger standpoint, as a content creator looking for business opportunities, a lack of representation in campaigns,” Temple says.
“And I think bringing together our collective power, making a statement about why our foodways are important and sharing our individual brands has given us an opportunity to show that we are here.”
Some might still think of blogging as a hobby, but many seek to or already have turned it into a full-time profession, and brand sponsorship deals can represent a significant portion of a blogger’s earnings. So the historical dearth of such opportunities directly affects Black food bloggers’ income potential, creating a gap between their success and that of their non-Black counterparts.
Following the murder of George Floyd and the protests that ensued, many companies have taken note of the need for broader representation in their influencer campaigns, and Temple’s initiative helps with connecting the two.
”As we see more companies creating policies around diversity … we make it easier for them to find us by doing stuff like this,” she says.
Also, Temple wants to inspire an understanding and more respect for the holiday. She hopes this emphasis will inspire people to share within their own circles, dig further and ask questions.
”I really want to drive a conversation and engagement, both in the community and outside of the community,” Temple says. “I encourage people to jump into some of these recipes, give them a try, make them your own. Learn the history of Juneteenth and why it is significant.”
”It not only helps Black people bring knowledge to people outside of our, I’ll say, ‘collective cultures’ – because Black people are not monolithic – but also it helps us take a second to sit back and appreciate where we come from and honor our ancestors and the people who have come before,” she says.
While people of all races have become more aware of Juneteenth in recent years, as with other aspects of Black culture and history, a younger generation is starting to champion the celebration. “We now are embracing and revitalizing this super important holiday,” she says.
Calling the event a “cookout” is a very specific choice. Whereas other cultures might refer to similar gatherings as barbecues or picnics, “I feel like Black people own the word cookout,” Temple says, as it evokes a very specific setting and a sense of nostalgia for many African Americans.
“My fondest memories are being with family outdoors, hanging out, eating food, laughing, playing dominoes, playing spades, a crazy uncle on the grill. That’s what a cookout looks like to me.”
Communal in nature, it’s a potluck where friends and family collaborate to create a joyous food-filled event. “The cookout is really about togetherness, family and food,” she says.
Speaking of food, “No cookout is complete without some sort of hot link on the grill,” Temple says, which leads us to her recipe for grilled hot links with chow-chow. The spicy sausage can be made of pork, beef or a blend. Temple recommends beef links as a nod to the protein’s popularity in Texas barbecue and the holiday’s birthplace, and Earl Campbell’s Beef Hot Links in particular to support the Black football star whose name it bears.
Chow-chow is a relish traditionally made in the South to preserve end-of-season produce that when properly canned can be enjoyed for the months ahead. Temple’s recipe doesn’t include canning instructions and is meant to be eaten more immediately.
But making it a day or two before when you plan to eat it improves the flavor. “What you’ll see is that as you let it sit longer, those flavors marry, and it just continues to get better with age like a fine wine,” she says.
This Juneteenth, you’re invited to Temple’s virtual cookout. Join in by making the recipe below and digging deeper into the holiday for yourself.
Grilled Hot Links With Chow-Chow
Adapted from blogger Meiko Temple of meikoandthedish.com.
For the chow-chow
1 large green tomato, chopped
½ cup chopped Vidalia onion
½ medium green bell pepper, chopped
½ medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 serrano chile pepper, stemmed and chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 cups chopped green cabbage
1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
2 ¾ teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon celery seeds
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
¾ teaspoon yellow mustard powder
2 cups white distilled vinegar
½ cup granulated sugar
For the hot links
2 pounds hot links, such as Earl Campbell’s Beef Hot Links or Johnsonville
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon butter, melted
6 hot dog buns
Make the chow-chow: In a food processor, mix the tomato, onion, green and red bell peppers, the serrano and celery and pulse until finely chopped.
Add the cabbage and salt and pulse 4 to 5 times, or until the cabbage is finely chopped. Add to a nonreactive bowl, such as glass, stir to combine, then cover with plastic wrap or a large plate and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
Strain the mixture in a colander set over a bowl and reserve the excess liquid.
In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the mustard seed, celery seed, allspice, turmeric and mustard powder, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a small bowl.
In a medium saucepan over high heat, combine the vinegar with ½ cup of the reserved vegetable liquid and bring to a boil. Stir in the sugar and toasted spices until the sugar dissolves, bring to a boil and cook until the mixture reduces slightly, about 3 minutes.
Add the vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture returns to a boil, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the heat as needed to maintain a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the mixture reduces by about a third, about 20 minutes.
Remove from the heat and let the chow-chow cool to the touch, about 15 minutes, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until needed.
Grill the sausages: If using a gas grill with two burner zones, preheat one zone to medium about 15 minutes before grilling. Leave the other zone off.
If using a charcoal grill, fill a chimney starter with charcoal, light it, and when the coals are red hot, dump them into your grill. Add more charcoal.
When all the coals have turned gray but are still very hot, about 15 minutes, your grill should be medium hot.
(Use a grill thermometer or test the heat by holding your hand palm down about 5 inches from the grill. If you can hold it there for 4 to 5 seconds, the heat should be medium heat or about 350 degrees.)
Then, scoot the coals to one side, leaving the other side empty. Replace the cooking grate. Cover the grill.
Lightly brush or rub the hot links with the oil, place over indirect heat on the grill, cover and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, flipping halfway through, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of a hot link registers 150 degrees.
Once cooked through, move the links over to the direct-heat side and sear until an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees, 1 to 2 minutes.
Watch them closely, turning them so they don’t burn. Fat may drip into the coals causing flare-ups; be careful. Remove the links from the grill and let them rest for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, brush the buns lightly with butter and place them cut-side down on the grill, directly over the coals, until toasted, a few seconds to 1 minute. Watch the buns closely so they don’t burn.
Add a hotlink to each warm bun, dress with the chow-chow and serve.
Yield: 6 servings
Note: The chow-chow’s flavor improves with an overnight rest. This recipe makes about 4 cups of chow-chow. Leftovers can be refrigerated for as long as one month.
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