Samp is a word that was used in Long Island, New York to describe something that was essentially hominy, which is to say, treated corn (maize) that has been ground up larger than grits.
It refers to both the coarsely ground corn and dishes made from it,
The variety of corn known as flint corn was used. It was soaked in lye first to get the hulls (skins) off. The lye would come from wood ashes, either made outside or from the fireplace.
The corn was then dried, then cracked in a samp mortar.
Before cooking it up, the corn needed to be soaked at least 4 hours, if not overnight, then simmered for at least an hour.
It was served as a side starch dish.
Simple recipes might rinse the cooked samp, drain it, then fry it up in butter with salt until lightly browned.
More elaborate recipes might soak the cracked samp overnight with beans, then the next day add cubes of turnip and salt pork, and simmer for hours.
Literature & Lore
This definition of samp, with usage examples, comes from the “Dictionary of Americanisms, 2nd ed. enlarged” by John Russell Bartlett (Boston: Little Brown. 1877). Page 549.
Samp (Abenaki Ind., seaump, nasaump) Roger Williams describes nasaump as “a kind of meale pottage unparched from this the English call their samp which is Indian corn beaten and boiled and eaten hot or cold with milke or butter which are mercies beyond the natives plaine water and which is a dish exceedingly wholesome for the English bodies” [Key to the Indian Language, p. 33] Samp is still much used wherever Indian corn is raised.
“Blue corn is light of digestion, and the English make a kind of loblolly of it to eat with milk, which they call sampe; they beat it in a mortar and sifte the flower out of it.” [Jouzlyn’s New England Rarities, 1672]
“It is ordered that the treasurer doe forthwith provide tenn barrells of cranburys, two hogsheads of speciall good sampe, and three thousand of codfish to be presented to his Majesty, as a present from this court.” [Massachusets Col. Records, 1677, Vol. V. p. 156]
“He slept until the morning light was seen
Down through the dome to dance upon his brow
Then Waban woke him to his simple cheer
Of the pure fount nausamp and savory deer”
[Durfee, Whatcheer, Canto I. lxxxvi.]
Rufus Estes, a railway chef and cookbook author, gave these recipes for samp.
Boiled Samp: Soak two cupfuls [ed: of samp] over night in cold water. In the morning wash thoroughly, cover with boiling water, and simmer gently all day. Do not stir, as that tends to make it mushy, but shake the pot frequently. As the water boils away add more, but not enough to make much liquid. About a half hour before serving add a cupful rich milk, tablespoon butter, and salt to season. Let this boil up once, and serve hot.” — from Rufus Estes. Good Things To Eat, As Suggested By Rufus. Chicago: The Author. 1911. Page 56.
Samp and Beans: Soak a quart of the samp [ed: not the prepared samp above; rather, dry samp] and a scant pint pea beans over night in cold water, each in a separate vessel. In the morning put the samp over to cook in a large pot, covering with fresh boiling water. Simmer gently about two hours, protecting from scorch, by an asbestos mat and a frequent shaking of the pot. As the samp commences to swell and the water dries out add more. After two hours add the beans that have been soaking together with a pound of streaked salt pork. Season with salt and pepper and continue the cooking all day, shaking frequently. Just before serving add butter and more salt if it needs it.” — Ibid., Page 58.
The English word “samp” comes from the Narraganset Indian word for corn mush, “nasaump.”