mmmm, the heads the best part
mmmm, the head’s the best part

I don’t think that I’ve ever visited my parents home in South Carolina and not been served fried fish.  Bream, catfish, striped bass, carp, spots… if Dad can catch it believe me it will be dusted in cornmeal and spice and swimming in hot grease before you can say “pass the tartar sauce”…or “fix me some grits”.

Can't forget the greens. Dad sautes his collards in olive oil until they're tender then adds a pinch of sugar.
Can’t forget the greens. Dad sautes his collards in olive oil until they’re tender then adds a pinch of sugar.

He also makes a soup filled with porky deliciousness that he called “stone soup”. I first heard of stone soup in an old folk tale.  Here’s an abbreviated version of one such tale:  A poor traveler sets up a soup pot with water and drops in a stone.  Curious villagers begin to contribute bits of veggies and meat until they have a delicious meal.  What Dad makes is a little different. His version is what would have been made if that story took place in a small town in the South where the locals had bits of pig to spare, an ear here or a tail there and what you end up with is the most delicious concoction of a tomato broth with a hot sauce bite and a vinegar kick . Some veggies appear, some onion and peppers, but what’s most spectacular are the succulent pig parts. Everything but the squeal is in this soup and it’s all cooked for a super long time, until the most unruly part of the pig gives in.  I could not identify all the parts I ate but I’m sure there were some pigs feet, tails, ears and sausage.  And it was beautiful.  My favorite part of the dish is the sticky, gelatinousness that coats your lips and fingers after sucking the tender meat from the bones.

Can you see the ear?
Can you see the ear?

Stone Soup-Pork and Tomato Stew

Demetra Overton
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Total Time 5 hours 10 minutes
Cuisine Southern
Servings 8 servings


  • 2 pounds of pig feet tails and ears
  • 6 cups of water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 cans 10.75 oz cans Condensed Tomato Soup
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 pound smoked sausage cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • Hot sauce to taste


  • Wash the pig parts (singe off any hairs over an open flame if necessary) put them in a large stock pot and cover with 6 cups of water. Add the bay leaves, oregano, salt and vinegar and simmer for 3-4 hours, until the pig parts are tender.
  • Add onions, red bell pepper, sausage and condensed tomato soup and simmer for 15 minutes more.
  • Add hot sauce to taste

We get together for a fish fry at my parents house a few times a year. Family fish fries with traditional foods like fried fish,  greens and stewed pork remind me of family members that have passed on. All these dishes have been passed down through generations and I imagine my ancestors sitting around a table sharing food like this and stories of struggles and success.

Now that our bellies are full it’s time to take a garden tour. My Mom has the greenest of green thumbs and puts everything she grows to good use. Mom makes delicious pear relish from the trees in her garden, I’ve got to get that recipe. She’s got a little bit of everything in her garden but here are a few highlights.

Fig Tree in Mom's Southern Garden
Fig Tree in Mom’s Southern Garden.  I wish I could be there when the figs ripen, I’d eat them with brie in warm puff pastry

I was born in New York but both of my parents are from South Carolina. Many of my ancestors have worked this sandy soil. From slavery to sharecropping to finally owning their own land we have certainly come a long way.. Still though, we have far to go. My parents grew up as sharecroppers where they would work someone else’s land for a share of the crops. Often having to pay exorbitant fees to the land owner for seed and tools, many sharecroppers owed money to the land owner making this a less than ideal situation.

They moved away from S.C. to N.Y. (my Dad spent some time in the Army before settling in the Bronx) to seek opportunities for work and education, which they found. They raised three children in Queens and then moved back to South Carolina, right back to their home town to retire-grow gardens and go fishing.

Scuppernong trellis in Mom's garden
Scuppernong trellis in Mom’s garden
Mimosa tree at my parent's house.  I believe the flowers are edible (the seeds are not) but I haven't gotten up the nerve to try it yet
Mimosa tree at my parent’s house. I believe the flowers are edible (the seeds are  poisonous) but I haven’t gotten up the nerve to try it yet.  The scent of the Mimosa tree is HEAVENLY, so light and sweet.
The most beautiful hydrangea, not edible but I just had to include it
The most beautiful hydrangea, not edible but I just had to include it
Fresh rosemary bush right by the door for easy picking
Fresh rosemary bush right by the door for easy picking
An unripe pomegranate still on the tree
An unripe pomegranate still on the tree

This is part of the #LetsLunch series topic of #Memorial. Please read the lovely posts by our #LetsLunch family:

Betty Ann Besa-Quirino – How to make Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Butter Cream Frosting and “Roses” for Mama

Lisa Goldberg – Remembering Yolan Frank and her Legendary Chiffon Cake

SpiceBox Travels –  Khoresht-E Bademjan (Persian Eggplant and Lamb Stew)

Free Range Cookies – Lemon Pie Ice Cream


10 Comments on Stone soup…and other musings on South Carolina

  1. Marisa
    February 18, 2016 at 5:00 am (8 years ago)

    On the net specifically looking for this stone stew recipe as a few of the “gas stations” here in SC serve this on Friday. I wanted to learn how to make it for myself and yours was the only recipe I found that is seems true to the delicious stew I find in my neighborhood, thanks so much!!! I’ll let you know how it turns out.

    • Demetra Overton
      February 18, 2016 at 2:27 pm (8 years ago)

      Fantastic Marisa, I’m looking forward to your feedback after you make it. I love this recipe it but I don’t make it often. I usually wait until I visit my parents so my dad can make it for me

  2. Trinka Polite
    May 19, 2015 at 4:09 am (9 years ago)

    I love reading about family stories and traditions. This was a beautiful post. It almost brought me tears….when I read the description of the stone soup. lol

  3. Crystal
    May 11, 2015 at 5:51 pm (9 years ago)

    Your mom’s garden is gorgeous but I have to admit, I’ve never knowingly ate those parts of a pig before.

  4. Betty Ann Quirino @Mango_Queen
    May 10, 2015 at 10:59 pm (9 years ago)

    OH how delicious this stone soup is. I must try making it. Thanks for the blog visit. Nice to do Let’s Lunch with you!

  5. Theresa
    May 9, 2015 at 3:31 am (9 years ago)

    Your mom has quite the garden! I lived in South Carolina as a child, but I don’t remember my parents ever doing a fish fry. That would have been quite fun, I think!

  6. Annabelle
    May 8, 2015 at 8:38 pm (9 years ago)

    I love that gelatinous texture too; never tried it with pork but I will definitely have to put that on the list!


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