Sour Porridge is a ‘gruel’ made from fermented maize ̶ typified as a liquidy food without character. While most cereal gruels ̶ in history have often been associated with poverty (by those not consuming it), for the rest it has been a staple source of nourishment from Aztec to Greek and even modern cultures in times of harsh realities. In the South African Indian context this maize gruel was a fundamental source of nourishment for early Indentured Indians.
Not to be confused with traditional African fermented drinks like imbila, incwancwa or mahewu ̶ all of which contain sorghum as a fermentation agent ̶ the South African Indian sour porridge is made solely from fermented maize cooked in hot water. It can be likened to the East Indian drink neeragaram ̶ made from fermented rice, known to serve as a thirst quencher. Perhaps this is the recipe the early Indentured Indians were trying to replicate.
Sour porridge is complimented by sour milk and finely chopped shallots and is best served with vinegar chilies. Apart from nourishment sour porridge is also the key component in ‘porridge prayers’ conducted by Tamil South Africans during the period July- August.
Amma’s Sour Porridge Recipe
In our home sour porridge was my father’s staple breakfast ̶ a glass of warm sour porridge, vinegar chilies and Amma’s chutney. In his words an appropriate meal for a man who ‘wears heavy boots and an overall to work’.
When making sour porridge the maize should be fermented at least 5 days – a week prior to cooking the sour porridge.
Sour Porridge Recipe
Fermentation time: 7 days
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Yield: 1.5 liters
- 2 liters water
- 350ml fermented maize
- 200 ml sour milk
- fresh shallots or chives
1. To make the fermented maize place 2 cups of maize meal (mealie meal) in a sealable container. Add 3 cups of water. Mix then cover and leave aside for 5-7 days.
2. Boil the water on medium heat. Add salt. Lower the heat. Add maize ferment. Stir to avoid lumps from forming.
3. Allow to boil on low heat for 15-20 minutes. The consistency should not be too thick but weak enough to consume by drinking. If it is too weak while cooking add more maize ferment. If porridge is too thick add more water to achieve the desired consistency.
4. Remove from stove. Combine with sour milk. Top with chopped shallots.
5. Sour porridge is best served warm. To reheat simply add water then heat on the stove.