Southern Comfort

Traveling back roads, brothers Matt and Ted Lee track down authentic foods for mail-order customers hankering after a taste of the Deep South

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Their favorite food source, though, just might be the Sassard family compound in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. The Sassards—Dupre, his wife, Gertrude, their son, Allen, and daughter-in-law Dayna—have been pickling foods (okra, ramps, peaches, Jerusalem artichokes) and preserving (figs, pumpkin chips, berries) since Dupre's late mother, Edna, began the business in the small white clapboard house in 1917. Matt fondly recalls the customer who ordered "four of everything the Sassards produce and had it shipped to her castle in Scotland."

It was the brothers who spurred the family to bottle the syrup left over from the making of fig preserves. The Lees are currently trying to persuade the Sassards to make a watermelon rind preserve and to pickle figs. "They are a lot of trouble," says Mrs. Sassard with a sigh, referring to the figs, and suggesting, with a smile, that she could be talking about the Lees as well.

High on the brothers' wish list is a pig farmer who still feeds his animals chestnuts (to produce tasty country hams) and a maker of scuppernong preserves. "Scuppernongs are these big, jammy grapes with thick, tough skins," explains Matt. "We always used to eat them on the way to the beach, and throw the skins on the floor of the car." "There's an idea," says Ted. "Maybe we should do a catalog offering only foods we throw on the floor of the car."


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