Located on the east coast of the United States, Maryland is a small state that borders Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Maryland also borders the Atlantic Ocean to its east, and its proximity influences many of its most iconic food dishes. Many of the food dishes symbolic of Maryland are linked to the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay. Discover the food dishes symbolic of Maryland and where these recipes developed in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S.
1. Steamed Blue Crab
If you have ever met anyone from Maryland, you know that they take their crab very seriously. People have opinions about the best crab, and do not attempt to get into an argument with them about imitation crab! However, the simple steamed blue crab is Maryland’s most famous crab dish. People in Maryland and throughout the Mid-Atlantic region enjoy blue crab every day. However, this crustacean also has an important place in the food chain for red drum, croaker, blue catfish.
2. Crab Cakes
If steamed blue crab takes first on the list of iconic Maryland dishes, crab cakes need to follow right behind it. The huge crabbing industry in the Mid-Atlantic led to many unique recipes using crab. However, crab cakes remain the most popular. In Maryland, the main ingredient of crab cakes is jumbo lump steamed blue crab meat. Any recipe that adds extra ingredients is most likely not Maryland-style. This symbolic Maryland food dish may be seasoned with the popular Old Bay Seasoning.
3. Old Bay Seasoning
This popular seasoning is not strictly a food dish but deserves a place on a list of iconic Maryland dishes due to its use throughout the state for fish and more. Originally created in Baltimore, Maryland, Old Bay Seasoning is a bold blend of herbs and spices, including paprika, celery salt, and other spices. Folks in Maryland put it on just about anything, from crab to shrimp. Marylanders also shake Old Bay Seasoning into clam chowder, oyster stew, and on top of popcorn, eggs, corn on the cob, and much more.
4. Pit Beef
Pit beef is the best meat dish if you do not have a lot of time to spare. Unlike slow-cooked and slow-roasted dishes in other states, Marylanders cook pit beef quickly and efficiently. People prepare this roast beef sandwich with top round beef cuts over a charcoal fire. The result is rare slices of meat with a smoky flavor. Pit beef most likely originated in working-class, immigrant neighborhoods in Baltimore, with influence from German and Jewish cuisines.
5. Smith Island Cake
Maryland’s official dessert, Smith Island Cake, is Maryland’s sweetest symbolic food dish. A yellow cake between eight and ten layers, Maryland bakers finish this decadent, multi-layer cake off with chocolate frosting between every layer and all over the top and sides. The story of Smith Island Cake goes back to residents of Smith Island, who made this cake to give to men heading out for days at a time to fish on the Chesapeake Bay. The layers were the result of necessity because Smith Island did not receive electricity until the 1950s. Thin layers were easier to bake on wood stoves.
6. Beaten Biscuit
Tough like hardtack, beaten biscuits were once popular throughout the American South. Marylanders also historically baked beaten biscuits, which people called “sea biscuits.” With origins in the early 1800s, people could cook beaten biscuits easily, even when yeast was not always available. The popularity of these biscuits has declined over the years thanks to its labor-intensive recipe.
7. Stuffed Ham
Stuffed ham, a popular holiday dish in southern Maryland, may have originated in St. Mary’s County. St. Mary’s County was first established in 1637. That means stuffed ham has a long history in Maryland. According to the Maryland Office of Tourism, most recipes for stuffed ham have gone unchanged for almost 300 years.
This snack food has unknown origins but remains a popular staple in Baltimore, Maryland. Various recipes point to the Czech region of Bohemia or to African-American slaves in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. Coddies became popular in Baltimore thanks to a Jewish merchant named Louis Cohen, whose family served the dish until the 1970s.
9. Chicken Maryland
Many families with a long history in Maryland have their own recipe for Chicken Maryland. The typical dish features fried chicken with cream gravy. However, instead of a typical fried chicken in oil, cooks pan-fry this chicken in a cast-iron skillet with a lid to encourage steaming. Other additions to this food dish symbolic of Maryland include bacon, corn, and even bananas.
10. Everything Crab
If you enjoy crab in any iteration imaginable, head on over to Maryland. You can find crab chips, crab dip, cream of crab soup, and just about every other possibility you can dream of in Maryland. According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, blue crabs harvested in Chesapeake Bay equal over 50% of total U.S. landings each year.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Eli Wilson/Shutterstock.com
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