The South American special is something I remember my mom making ever since I was a kid. The dish was originally brought in by the Italians who immigrated to northern Minnesota to work in the mines. Although the origin of the name (South Americans) has always seemed to be a mystery, this dish was among one of the most popular foods at any bar, restaurant, or home in the Iron Range, and will still ring a bell to any original Ranger.
Many of the well known Range foods gained popularity because they included vegetables that were easy to grow, but also because the food could be well preserved throughout the harsh winters. Typically, the dish was prepared with leftover crops from harvest in the fall, and made in mass quantities - sometimes so large that they had to be made in washtubs. From there, families either canned or froze mason jars full of the mixture so they could eat it throughout the winter. One batch would typically last all season.
Because I don’t have the equipment to allow such a mass quantity of South Americans, I scaled down the recipe. In the end, you will end up with seven quarts of South Americans – so be prepared to use your largest pot. Even though it takes a lot of chopping of vegetables, this is one of the simplest recipes I have made throughout my life. It is difficult to make it incorrectly, you can add more onions or peppers if you like, and you can freeze the majority of it for a later time when you don’t have energy to cook a large meal.
Like most people, I prefer to serve this with thick Italian or French bread with butter. I also make it with a side of eggs in the morning for a tasty breakfast. Enjoy!