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The Philadelphia Pepper Pot Story

The conventional story goes that Philadelphia Pepper Pot was invented during the American Revolutionary War while George Washington and his troops were marooned at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-78. Both morale among the soldiers and their food supplies were low; but, Washington ordered the camp cook to prepare something special for his men. A nice story. However, Philadelphia - the City of Brotherly Love - was also for long the main base for the northern slave trade. This dish is clearly a direct descendent of the Caribbean callaloo ; itself derived from what is virtually a national dish in much of West Africa . Sometime after American independence, this fantastic soup migrated into Pennsylvania Dutch country; where it was quickly adopted and has become a mainstay in their diet.

There are almost limitless ways to improvise with this hearty and spicy soup. A suggestions, I offer here two recipes: the first is a bit complex. Much simpler variants are often made and are quite tasty. This recipe also requires two days for preparation; although, most of that period is for simmering and cooling. The second recipe is also a historic one: direct from the White House. Finally, I wrap it up with a traditional recipe for callaloo . Enjoy!

Philadelphia Pepper Pot

(12 servings)


3 pounds tripe

1 knuckle of veal with meat

2 pounds marrowbone, cracked

2 large onions, sliced

soup bouquet: use several parsley sprigs; 2 sprigs thyme (or = teaspoon dried thyme); 1 bay leaf; 1 carrot in chunks

= teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 teaspoon allspice

6 whole cloves

4 potatoes, finely diced

2 teaspoons dried marjoram

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

salt and black pepper, to taste

6 dumplings (see below)


1. Wash tripe and place in a large pot with 4 quarts water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 6 to 7 hours; or, until the tripe is very soft.

2. Cool in the broth. Cut into very small pieces when cool enough to handle.

3. Pour broth into a container.

4. While tripe is cooking, put veal knuckle in a second pot with 2 quarts of water. Remove the marrow from the marrowbone with a knife or spoon and heat until tender. Combine with the veal knuckle and the demarrowed bone.

5. Add the soup bouquet, red pepper, allspice and cloves and cook over very low heat for about 5 hours or until very tender.

6. Cool veal in broth until meat can be handled comfortably; then, chop veal into small pieces (discard bones). Add to chopped tripe. Pour broth into a separate container and refrigerate both the meat and the two broths overnight.

7. The next day, remove and discard fat from tripe and veal broth. Combine the two broths and add the chopped tripe and veal, diced potatoes, marjoram and salt and pepper. Cook over a low heat for about 45 minutes. Add parsley, drop dumplings into the broth; and, cook as directed.

Dumplings. Either use your favorite dumpling recipe or the following.

(6 servings)


1 cup flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon shortening

6 tablespoons milk (more or less)


Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Add shortening and pinch it in with your fingers until it is well distributed. Gradually stir in milk with a fork - just enough to make a soft dough. Drop by tablespoons into simmering soup, cover tightly, and cook 15 minutes.


The dumplings are limited to 6 servings because your kettle or pot is unlikely to accommodate more. It is crucial that the dumplings all cook together in the simmering broth. If you wish, you can make a second batch of dumplings when your serve the leftover soup.

Adapted from: The American Heritage Cookbook . New York : American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc. 1964: page

Philadelphia Pepper Pot

Put two pounds of tripe and four calves feet into the soup pot and cover them with cold water; add a red pepper and boil closely until the calves feet are boiled very tender; take out the meat, skim the liquid; if there is not enough liquid, add boiling water; add half a teaspoonful of sweet marjoram, sweet basil and thyme, two sliced onions, sliced potatoes, salt. When the vegetables have boiled until almost tender, add a piece of butter rolled in flour, drop in some egg balls, and boil fifteen minutes more. Take up and serve hot.

Source: Hugo Ziemann and Mrs. F. L. Gillette, The White House Cook Book . New York : The Saalfield Publishing Co. 1903 (page 37).


(8 or more servings)


= pound pickled pigs foot or tail (= 1 large foot or tail)

1 pound beef or pork stew meat, cubed

2 tablespoons oil

= pound tripe

5 cups water

1 onion, medium or large, peeled and chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 pound callaloo (taro) leaves; or, substitute kale or spinach

1/4 teaspoon fresh habanero (scotch bonnet) chilli , chopped

5 ounces coconut milk, canned or fresh

salt and black pepper, to taste

1 pound rice of choice

= cup red bell pepper, chopped (garnish)


Put the pigs foot or tail in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 hour. Drain and set aside. Brown beef in oil; then add tripe and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat; and, simmer for about 1 hour. Add pigs foot or tail and continue cooking until the broth has been reduced to about 3 cups. When cool enough to handle, cut tripe into small pieces. Cut meat from pigs foot. Return meats to pot.

Add onion, garlic, taro leaves, chilli, coconut milk and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add rice. Cover the pot and reduce heat. Simmer for another 30 minutes. Garnish with chopped, sweet red pepper.


This dish is often made with seafood; especially crab. Chicken can be substituted for the tripe; but, that will radically alter the texture. Okra and numerous other vegetables are used as opportunity and taste dictate. Coconut milk is not essential: it is but one of several variations in this highly versatile soup.


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Last updated February 2, 2005