Stories of community, told around a pot of gumbo

On Christmas Eve I make our family’s traditional Christmas Eve meal — gumbo. Seven miles from here, across the Bob Sykes Bridge, Barb Stahl cooks gumbo for her family on Pensacola Beach. We’re both using different ingredients and different recipes, but each pot of gumbo represents the spirit of community – and comes with a personal, family business story.

Sam Greenberg views the remains from the fire at Greenberg Turkey in Tyler, TX.

I’d never heard of Tyler, Texas, until a neighbor in Metairie, Louisiana, shared some leftover Greenberg Smoked Turkey with me – the best turkey I’d ever eaten. Greenberg’s turkey, along with roses, put Tyler on the map. Ten years later, after moving to Tyler, one of our favorite neighbors was a member of the Greenberg family. Firsthand, I witnessed how Greenberg’s serves as a vital part of the Tyler community. While family members enliven the spirit of the community, their family business boosts the economy. Greenberg’s distributes more than 200,000 turkeys a year, in part thanks to Oprah who added them to her Favorite Things list in 2003. Tragically, 2020 was especially cruel to the Greenberg Family. On November 6, a catastropic fire roared through their Tyler plant, ruining 87,000 turkeys and forcing the cancellation of almost all turkey orders. Fortunately, no one was injured.

We didn’t have a Greenberg Turkey this year. Instead, son Nick smoked a turkey for us. I used it to make Greenberg’s Smoked Turkey and Andouille Sausage gumbo.  While we dined on gumbo, we reminisced about our seventeen years in Tyler, where all three sons lent a hand working at Greenberg Turkey during the busy holiday season. Thank you, Greenberg Family, for both memories and wonderful turkeys through the years. We know you’ll be back, better and stronger than ever, making Tyler proud and prosperous.

and meanwhile on Pensacola Beach . . .

While our family was talking about the Greenberg Family, on Pensacola Beach Barb Stahl was cooking a pot of her prize-winning gumbo for her family. She credits a local business for her honors. Barb’s Olde South Gumbo won the People’s Choice Award and Overall Winning Recipe honors in Our Lady of the Assumption’s Gumbo Cook-off competition in 2019.  To make her gumbo, Barb uses frozen Olde South Gumbo Base, a specialty product created by Margaret Rainey of Fairhope, Alabama. Barb describes Margaret Rainey’s company as an awesome supporter of numerous charitable events in the area. The Olde South Gumbo owners won the Gulf Breeze Rotary Gumbo Cookoff in 2013 but have been supporting the Rotary’s cookoff much longer. Every year their small business donates gumbo base to the event as well as supporting other local charities in Northwest Florida and South Alabama. Gulf Breeze’s Rotary Gumbo Cookoff provides tens of thousands of dollars in college scholarships to local students, thanks to generous vendors like Olde South Gumbo Base and hardworking Rotarians like Barb and husband Mike Stahl.

Rainey invented her gumbo base from her own cooking experience. For years she caught her own seafood on Mobile Bay and knew the flavors of fresh seafood make the best gumbo. The base captures those fresh seafood and brown roux flavors. In 30 minutes, cooks can replace the hours often required to cook a gumbo base. It’s available at seafood markets and some produce stands. Here’s the recipe Barb cooked for her family on Christmas Eve, using Olde South Gumbo Base and some Conecuh (Kah-neck-ah) Sausage from a family business in Evergreen, Alabama.


Recipe reprinted with permission from Barb Stahl, as it appeared in Our Lady of the Assumption Food for Body & Soul, Vol. III Cookbook (2019)

2 (32 oz.) tubs of Olde South Gumbo Base

8 oz. Conecuh Smoked Sausage, spicy & hot, sliced in rounds

My Christmas gifts included a copy of this cookbook from the Catholic church on Pensacola Beach. The winning gumbo recipe is included.

8 oz. Conecuh smoked Sausage, regular, sliced in rounds

1 TBSP olive oil

1 1/2 cup chicken stock

1 lb. fresh crab meat, picked over

1 rotisserie chicken, dark meat only, shredded

1 TSP garlic salt

1 TSP dried thyme

1 TSP dried basil

Salt & pepper to taste

2 lb. small, raw shrimp (or larger ones cut in half or thirds)

Rice, prepared according to package directions

Directions: Thaw tubs of gumbo base in hot water. In a large dutch oven, saute both flavors of smoked sausage in olive oil and drain off excess fat. Add thawed gumbo base, stock, crab, chicken and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, for at least two hours. Add shrimp and cook, stirring often, five minutes or until shrimp are fully cooked. Serve over rice.

The Olde South Gumbo Base team took first place honors in the 2013 Gulf Breeze Rotary Gumbo Cookoff. PHOTO CREDIT Diane Skelton

About thegumbodiaries

On the search for the perfect gumbo!
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