Jarred I Zeringue grew up in the River Parishes where he learned to cook at home. He got into the restaurant business after Hurricane Katrina when he opened Eat New Orleans in the French Quarter. He was also a partner at the Vacherie Restaurant and Bar at the St Marie Hotel. In 2016, he and a partner bought Wayne Jacobs Smokehouse in LaPlace. Hurricane Ida severely damaged the restaurant, but the smokehouses were not damaged. He is working to reopen the restaurant in the coming weeks. This week, Pelican Publishing is releasing its cookbook, Southern and Smoked: Cajun Cooking through the Seasons. Zeringue will sign the book from 11am to 2pm Saturday May 7th at Estella in Metairie. For more information on Wayne Jacobs Smokehouse, visit wjsmokehouse.com. For info on Zeringue and his cookbook, follow @jarredzeringue on Instagram.
Gambit: What Happened to Wayne Jacobs Smokehouse During the Storm?
Jarred I Zeringue: Ida took off a third of the roof from the main building and blew up the front windows. It was completely soaked so we had to gut down to the studs. The smokehouses were fine because they are low to the ground. We’ve been rebuilding for six or seven months and it’s almost hurricane season now.
The kitchen is almost open. We await the completion of the final details of the hood system. We have a back porch where we cooked lunch every day. Maybe we’ll open in a week. It will be a limited service for a while as we have limited staff. We will start with a limited menu to get people on and off on time – until we have more staff.
Gambit: Wayne Jacob’s is known for Andouille. How’s the smoked meat business going?
Zeringue: It is a 72 year old smokehouse. We still use the same recipes and traditions they started with in 1950. In our busy times we can make 500 pounds of Andouille a day and we can sell them. As long as it’s cold we sell a lot of andouille and smoked sausage. We sell 10 times as much Andouille as anything else in the store, because that’s what we’ve been known for since 1950. We can go through as much as we can earn at that time. We need to stop holiday shipping on December 5th in order to get it out before Christmas. We too have to serve our locals first.
We do everything from chopping wood on my dad’s farm to starting a fire to stuffing the sausage. We smoke the links between eight and 12 hours on a low, constant heat. We have four smokehouses. Each one is 1.80 x 2.40 meters and we charge them. We do it from start to finish with no preservatives. It’s all natural smoke, all natural wood, all natural gut. We don’t use anything artificial. It’s a very simple recipe, it just takes the time and skill to do it.
We also make crackles. We make gumbo mix and jambalaya mix – dry mixes as a kit – and people can buy the meat and add that. We have a smoked, flavorful pork head cheese that we sell often. We also make barbecue ribs and brisket. We make smoked ham and bacon. The three biggest things are andouille, smoked sausage and tasso; Those are the three biggest things you use in Cajun cooking.
We have about 30 products: some game, seasonal; we make chicken stuffed with boudin; We sell ready-made gumbo and soups. When the restaurant is open we make our own dressings and condiments. Using the cookbook, I refer to it as the Circle Z Spice Blend. Many recipes call for it. It’s like six ingredients, and it cuts those steps out of the recipes. We sell that too.
Gambit: What was the idea behind the cookbook?
Zeringue: I have compiled the manuscript over the years. In the restaurants I always had to write everything down in order to have a consistent product. We also made recipe cards for customers to give them with their receipts. Then, at the smokehouse, we started shipping across the country, and people didn’t know what to do with the smoked meat they bought—often on impulse. They would see something on TV and they would buy it. Then they texted us, “What should we do with this?” So we made these recipe cards with stories about what to do with them.
So I had recipes from the restaurants and family recipes. With all these things I had the idea to put the cookbook together. I wanted to do it by season so people know the traditions of why we eat, what we eat and when we eat it. Since I have a restaurant in the French Quarter, I would have tourists come in August and say, “I want crawfish.” With user generated reviews, you got these horrible reviews about not being able to get crawfish when it wasn’t crawfish season.
Over the years I’ve come to realize how far away people are from their food sources and how they don’t realize that everything has a season. If you eat something that isn’t in season, it probably won’t taste as good as it should and it will be expensive. It won’t be the best experience.
I wanted to show why we eat crayfish at Easter. It’s inexpensive and it’s fresh. And why we eat Creole tomatoes in summer. All of these things went into the development of the seasonal cookbook. It also featured in all the stories about the experiences with these ingredients and the traditions.