Cassandra Loftlin is a chef and anthropologist based out of Georgia. Photo credit: Cassandra Loftlin; background Pexels

What’s your Juneteenth dinner? Chef Cassandra shares a meal from her family archives

7 mins read

Juneteenth was a concept brought to Georgia from Texans. Here’s a comprehensive dinner that speaks to the complexity of my region of southern culture through sumptuous dishes.

In Augusta, Georgia like the rest of the South, traditionally, grand meals were saved for special occasions. During this time, you employ recipes that tell the story of your family’s culinary history, and the region you grew up. Since Augusta situates itself inland, we ate meats, but mostly filled our plates with seasonal vegetables and potatoes. Usually, we ate fruit for desert, but on holidays, the bakers flexed their skills with savory and sweet creations.

For this Juneteenth dinner, here are several simple meals for the carnivore to the vegan. These are family *recipes are approximate measures. However, measuring while cooking is indeed a science requiring a rhythm and practiced knowledge that the veteran cook possesses. Where I’m from, we are conservative with seasonings. Traditionally, we used the land for herbs and spices, and used very little salt or sugar. Why? Because salt and sugar were scarce commodities. So we did not waste. Yet and still, through this method, the taste of the food was more prominent. But season to your liking and enjoy your Juneteenth festivities. Eat well. Be free.

Juneteenth Dinner by Chef Cassandra

Slow cooked short ribs of beef

Smothered tomato chicken with rice

Mixed greens w/ hot pepper vinegar

Roasted carrots

Buttered beans and black-eyed peas

Cucumber & tomato salad

Buttermilk corn bread

Sweet potato and peach cobbler

Orange and spice iced tea

*Pictures are not the exact dish, just eye candy.

Slow Cooked Short Ribs of Beef

  • 5 pounds of lean, bone-in, short ribs of bee
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 5 shallots, sliced
  • 3 stalks of celery
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 cup cooking sherry
  • 1 cup red cooking wine
  • ½ cup apple cider
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 2 cups beef stock


Sprinkle short ribs with salt and pepper, rub olive oil over short ribs to coat.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add two tablespoons of oil, and add a few pieces of the short ribs at a time. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side to brown. Remove meat from the pan and place into a crock pot.  Add shallots and garlic to pan; sauté for 2-3 minutes. Stir in cooking wines, cider, and vinegar, tomato paste, beef stock, and herbs, cook for 10 minutes.  Add shallot and garlic mixture to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 hours.

Remove short ribs from the slow cooker, keep warm.  Strain cooking liquid through a colander, discard solids, and skim off any visible fat.  Place liquid in a small sauté pan, over medium heat, reduce to 1/3 volume, add salt and pepper to taste, pour over short ribs and serve. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Smothered Tomato Chicken

  • 4 pounds cut chicken parts, bone-in
  • 1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 dash hot sauce
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Vidalia onion
  • 1 can diced, fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 jar roasted red peppers, cut into small pieces
  • 5 sprigs Italian parsley
  • 2 bay leaves dried
  • 2 cup dry white cooking wine
  • 1 ½ cup dry red cooking wine
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup jasmine rice, cooked


In a small bowl, mix paprika, cinnamon, red pepper, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Place chicken in a deep baking dish. Rub the spice mixture over the chicken, then sprinkle garlic on top. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, heat the oil, and cook the onion with a pinch of salt over medium heat for 10 minutes or until soft.  Remove the onion from the skillet and place in the bottom of a large baking dish.  Heat two tablespoons of oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat, place chicken in skillet and cook 3 to 5 minutes each side until browned. Transfer chicken to baking dish, on top of onions. Top the chicken with diced tomatoes, red peppers, parsley, bay leaves.  Add cooking wine to the skillet and bring to a quick boil. Remove from heat, whisk in mustard, tomato paste; pour mixture over chicken. Place chicken in the oven.

Cook jasmine rice according to package directions, set aside.

Braise chicken until tender, about 60 to 90 minutes. Discard bay leaves and parsley. Transfer chicken to a serving platter. Pour sauce from chicken into a small sauce pan to simmer.  Add tablespoon of butter and whisk to thicken.  Simmer sauce with until desired thickness, add salt and pepper to taste, spoon over chicken and serve.

 Simmer until sauce thickens to desired consistency, whisking often. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon over chicken, serve with jasmine rice, garnish with fresh chopped parsley and serve. 

Sautéed Mixed Greens w/Pepper Vinegar

  • 3 tablespoons light olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
  • Hot Pepper Vinegar (Hot peppers preserved in vinegar)
  • 2 pounds of mixed greens (Collards, Kale, Spinach, etc)
  • Salt


Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and garlic and sauté for less than one minute, until the garlic releases its smell.  Add the greens in large batches, adding more as the greens wilt.   Add salt to taste. Remove from heat and add pepper vinegar to taste. Serve warm or room temperature. 

Roasted Carrots

  • 3 pounds yellow and orange baby carrots
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and Black Pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, mix all spices together. Sprinkle spices liberally over carrots. Toss carrots lightly in olive oil, just enough to coat. Bake in a single layer for 20-30 minutes, turning once during cooking.  

Buttered Beans and Black-Eyed Peas

  • 1 pound shelled fresh (or frozen) butter beans
  • 1 pound shelled fresh (or frozen) black-eyed peas
  • 4 cups of chicken (or vegetable) stock
  • 1 medium onion cut in half
  • 1 small bay leaf dried
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter 


In a medium pot, add chicken stock, onion, bay leaf, rosemary, and garlic clove. Bring to a boil and reduce to medium low. Simmer for 10 minutes and add the beans. Make sure that beans are covered with about an inch of liquid, if not, add more stock or water if necessary.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Return to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Cover with lid and allow beans and peas to cook for 1 hour. Discard onion, rosemary, bay leaf, and garlic cloves. Turn beans off and allow peas and beans to sit covered for 25- 30 minutes more.  Add butter. Stir and gently reheat prior to serving.

Cucumbers & Tomatoes

  • 5 tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 2 small onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • ½ bunch of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt & Coarse ground black pepper to taste


Layer tomatoes, onion, cucumber, and cilantro in a medium size glass bowl. Mix together lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Slowly whisk in olive oil.  Pour dressing over salad. Serve.

Buttermilk Cornbread

  • 2 ½ cups cornmeal
  • ¾ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 ¼ cup buttermilk
  • ¾ cup melted butter, cooled
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • ¼ cup honey
  • Butter


Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Beat egg and whole milk together, add to dry mixture. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix or whisk well. Grease two pie pans with butter pour cornbread mixture into pie pans; fill to ¾, leaving room for cornbread to rise. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until edges are brown and a fork that is stuck in the cornbread comes out clean. Rotate pans after fifteen minutes for even baking. Serve warm with butter.

Sweet Potato & Peach Cobbler


  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch slices
  • 1 ½ cups fresh peaches, peeled and sliced thin
  • ¾ cup cane syrup
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 1 ¼ cups whole milk


Garnish: Cinnamon ice cream, whipped cream

In a medium sized pot, place sweet potatoes in 1 quart of water or enough to cover.  Add cane syrup, brown sugar, orange zest, cinnamon, allspice, salt, butter, and vanilla extract. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook potatoes until they are soft, but not fork tender.  Remove potatoes and set aside. Boil liquid uncovered until reduced to 2 cups.

Pre-Heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Cut in butter with a fork or fingers until the dough resembles crumbs. Stir in milk with a fork until dough forms. Form dough into a ball and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently knead dough 5 or 6 times. Divide in half and form into two disks. Roll each disk into a 14 inch circle, 1/8 inches thick. Place one dough circle into a large round deep baking dish, press dough to sides of the dish. Trim the second circle ½ inch wider than the baking dish, saving dough scraps, set aside.

Fold peaches into cooked sweet potatoes. Spoon half of the mixture into a dough lined baking dish. Lay the dough scraps on top of peach and sweet potato mixture.  Add remaining mixture. Pour reserved syrup over peaches and sweet potatoes.  Top the cobble with the remaining dough circle, pressing edges together to seal. Cut three vents in the top of the crust.

Place cobbler in the middle rack in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes until the top is golden. Remove and let cool 30 minutes.

Serve with cinnamon ice cream and top with whipped cream.

Orange Pekoe Iced Tea

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • Zest and juice of two oranges
  • 2 cups of boiling water
  • 8 cups of cold water
  • 10 bags black Pekoe tea
  • Ice cubes 


In a small pot, boil one cup of water, add one cup of sugar. Before water comes to a boil, add orange zest. Once the mixture comes to a boil and all sugar is dissolved, remove from heat, and steep for 30 minutes.  Strain. 

In a medium saucepan, bring two cups of water to a boil. Remove from heat and add tea bags. Steep for 10 minutes.  Remove tea bags. Pour tea, ½ of orange syrup, orange juice, and 8 cups of cold water in a large pitcher. Add more orange syrup to taste.  Serve over ice.

Chef Cassandra Loftlin travels around the world digging into delicious dishes.

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