History of Carolina Gold Rice

Considered the grandfather of long grain rices in the Americas , Carolina Gold (which emanated from Africa and Indonesia ) became a commercial staple grain in the coastal lands of Charles Towne in the Carolina Territory by 1685. Possessing superior flavor, aroma, texture and cooking qualities (and a beautiful golden hue in the fields), Carolina Gold rice brought fortunes to those who produced it and created an influential culture and cuisine in the city of Charleston . Though the culture and cuisine disappeared with the Civil War, Carolina Gold continued to set quality standards for long grain rice well into the 20 th century. In fact, the terms “Carolina Rice” and “long grain” became interchangeable worldwide, underscoring the impact of Charleston ’s contribution to Colonial Carolina Gold Rice production.

After the Depression Carolina Gold rice lost its prominence to new varieties and became virtually extinct. But in the mid 1980s Dr. Richard Schulz, an eye surgeon and plantation owner from Savannah, collected stores of Carolina Gold from a USDA seed bank and repatriated the rice to its former home along coastal wetlands around Charleston . By 1986 he produced enough rice to sell.

Clemson University Coastal Research and Education Center began growing Carolina Gold rice for sustainable farming research in 2001 for the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation. Today there are 60 acres planted to this near extinct heirloom rice along the South Carolina Coast .

Artisan Style

Carolina Gold rice owed much of its appeal historically to the way in which it was milled. In Colonial times, African slave women were tasked daily to hand pound and winnow hulls from the grains with mortar, pestle and fanner basket. This exceptional rice, scrubbed white through abrasion, contained whole and broken grains-- with germ and flecks of bran intact--that held exquisite flavor and texture. For celebrations, antebellum slaves screened, rubbed and hand picked the Carolina Gold Rice they hand pounded to prepare the finest dishes of the Carolina Rice Kitchen – America ’s first complete, unique and truly creole cuisine.

Cooking Qualities

Carolina Gold rice differs from other long grain rices in its chameleon starch quality, which will produce classic fluffy long grain, creamy risotto or sticky Asian-style rice depending on how it is cooked. Additionally, in comparison to long grain rices such as basmati, which are often aged to improve both aromatics and flavor, this rice (courtesy of the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation) is exclusively new crop rice, prized by rice growers the world over for its clean sweet flavor and superior mouthfeel. This is South Carolina grown pure heirloom Carolina Gold rice grown at historic Cherokee Tract on the Stono River in Charleston , South Carolina . This rice is highly perishable and must be stored in the freezer to preserve its subtle almond and green tea aroma and flavor.

Classic Separate Grain Rice

Called “ Charleston Ice Cream” in the Carolinas
Cooking time: twenty-five minutes, plus 1 hour soaking

1 cup (7 ounces) Carolina Gold rice
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1. Turn rice into medium bowl and cover with cold water. Soak 1 hour. Drain through fine mesh colander and rinse. Set aside.

2. Heat oven to 200. ° Fill large bowl halfway with water and ice cubes and set aside.

3. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan. Add rice, stir once, cover and return to a boil. As soon as water boils uncover pot and reduce heat. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until rice is just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain through colander. Turn rice immediately into ice water and swirl with fingers to chill. Drain well.

4. Spread rice evenly over rimmed sheetpan. Dry in oven, turning gently from time to time, 10 minutes. Dot with butter and season with salt and pepper. Return to oven until butter has melted and rice is hot, about 5 minutes more. Serve immediately.

Makes 3 cups.