Saturday, May 10, 2014

Pickled Shrimp Two Ways

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As far as Southern recipes are concerned, pickled shrimp ranks up there at the very top.  There used to be a time when no Southern table would be complete without a chilled bowl of this iconic appetizer, and why not? They are obsessive, easy to make, great for a buffet or picnic and make for a great presentation.  I will have to say, though, that I had a hard time finding the recipe I was looking for and the one I used to make from the legendary food critic of the New York Times, Craig Claiborne, a Southerner himself.

In scrolling through the New York Times archives, I did find an article he wrote in 1967, Way Down South In The Land of...the Piquant Pickled Shrimp which featured the recipe of Mrs. Roy Hodges of Montgomery, Alabama.  Mr. Claiborne was known for getting behind a recipe and publishing it giving credit to the original source.  I thought that was really admirable of him, a real Southern gentleman.

There are many recipes for pickled shrimp, just as there are many for shrimp and grits.  Two of the ingredients that were missing from the ones I found in my cookbooks were two "staples of authentic Southern cooking, Worcestershire Sauce and Tabasco sauce." * When I read this in the New York Times article, I knew I had found my long lost recipe.

The only secret to this recipe is that the longer it sits, the better it tastes.  Plan on making it ahead of time so it can marinade for a couple of days in the fridge.  There is also a reason for making it in two steps or, better said, two layers.  With this amount of shrimp you want to make sure all of it gets coated evenly with the marinade.

*Craig Claiborne

Mrs. Rodgers Pickled Shrimp

3C vegetable oil
3 tsps. dry mustard (I use Coleman's)
4 tsps. sugar
2/3 cup vinegar (I used white)
2/3 cup catsup
Freshly ground pepper to taste
4 to 6 cloves of garlic (I mash them and chop fine)
4 tsps Worcestershire Sauce
Tabasco Sauce to taste
5 to 6 lbs of shrimp, cooked, shelled and deveined
3 medium size sweet onions, sliced wafer thin (I use Vidalia)
6 Bay Leaves


Combine all the marinade ingredients, including the Tabasco sauce.  Blend half the mixture in a blender.

Arrange half the shrimp in a layer in a deep serving dish.  Arrange half the onions and the bay leaves.

Combine the other half of the marinade ingredients.  Repeat the layer of shrimp, onion and bay leaf. Pour the rest of the marinade over the whole dish. Cover and chill for at least a couple of days.

Serves 15

And here's the other from one of my favorite new Southern cooks, Frank Stitts. As you can see, it is hard to choose one or the other;  but I like the use of coriander, lemon, and celery seeds which is what I am used to in pickled shrimp.  Both are authentic versions of this iconic recipe and that is my main concern.

I only have two suggestions...marinade in the refrigerator for at least one day.  Serve in a chilled bowl with toothpicks and leave the bay leaves in.   It's easier, unless you are thinking of serving it as a first course.  It works.

Frank Stitts Pickled Shrimp

Time: About 20 minutes with cooked shrimp, plus 6 hours’ marinating (I highly recommend at least one day)

3 pounds shelled and deveined shrimp, boiled or steamed just until pink
2 medium onions, quartered and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 lemons, preferably organic, thinly sliced
14 bay leaves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
4 dried hot chili peppers
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice.


1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss thoroughly. Transfer to a serving bowl or glass crock, cover, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
2. Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before serving. Remove bay leaves. Serve on small plates or with toothpicks.

Yield: 15 to 20 servings.

Adapted from “Frank Stitt’s Southern Table” by Frank Stitt (Artisan, 2004)
Photo Evan Sung

Both of these recipes can be halved or doubled.


  1. I have all of Craig Claiborne cookbooks, including his Southern cookbook which I flipped through yesterday as a matter of fact. The NY Times Cookbook was my bible when I first learned to cook along with Julia's The Art of French Cooking and Morrison Wood's Jug of Wine. Both pickled shrimp dishes are gorgeous and I would be happy with either, thought I doubt they would last long in my house due to someone nibbling from the bowl every time they opened the refrigerator door :) If I were forced to choose, I would probably like Frank Stitt's version because it doesn't sound as sweet as Mrs. Rogers due to the ketchup.

    Wishing you a very Happy Mother's Day.

  2. Thank you Sam, same to you.

    I was really surprised not to find a recipe for pickled shrimp in any of his cook books except in one of his less popular ones Cooking with Herbs and Spices. When it comes to recipes like this I like to go to a good source and no one is more authentic than CC. particularly coming for the South. I agree with you, nowadays I would definitely take Stitts although next time I make some I am going to try Mrs. R's again in a small batch and take a poll. Actually I am going to dig out some of my Junior league cookbooks and see what's around. A fun project for Mother's Day!


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