Thursday, November 15, 2012

Southern-Style Greens with Fatback

southern style greens with fatback
Turnip greens with fatback
WARNING: The following recipe is NOT "health food" or "low fat," although I use only half as much fatback as many traditional Southern cooks use. It's also not really a "recipe" because ingredient quantities should be based on your taste preferences, as should your choice of greens.

If you want to make old-fashioned, southern-style collards or other similar tough and strong-tasting greens--turnip, mustard, kale, etc.--you need a large pot, a slab of fatback (some cooks also add a ham hock), water and a mess of greens. Greens cook down significantly, so keep that in mind when buying. For seasoning, you'll need salt and pepper, possibly a pinch or two of sugar if the greens are too "sharp" for your taste, and perhaps a splash or more of vinegar or a vinegar-pepper hot sauce. Finally, you'll need time to let the greens cook (but don't worry, they don't require much attention while they're cooking), and you'll probably want to open your windows or run your stove fan because the greens--especially collards--can and will be stinky (but the flavor will be fabulous).

Here's how I make Southern style greens:

1/2 lb fatback
Large bunch of collards or other greens (about 1 1/2 lbs)
2 cups water
Salt & pepper to taste
Optional: Cider vinegar, pepper vinegar, or hot sauce (Texas Pete or Tabasco are good choices)

Slice the fatback into strips like bacon, then chop into large pieces. **Note: It's easier to cut when it's partially frozen or at least VERY cold.**

Fry the fatback until browned in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. While the fatback is frying, thoroughly wash the greens and strip the leaves off the stems. When the fatback is done, pour or spoon most of rendered fat from the pot, leaving behind the browned fatback and about 2 or 3 Tablespoons of fat. **Note: Traditional recipes don't do that but a little bit of fatback renders a LOT of fat, so I leave it to your discretion. I save the poured-off fat in a lidded jar in my refrigerator for other uses, just like I do with bacon fat.**

Toss the cleaned greens into the pot, stir and fry over medium-high heat, stirring regularly, until the greens wilt. Carefully pour in the water, stir and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the greens are tender and most of the water has evaporated.  **Note: Depending on how tough the greens are, this can take an hour or more and you might need to add a little more water if they start getting too dry before they're fully tender.**

When the greens are tender, season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a splash or two of vinegar or hot sauce if desired. You can refrigerate and reheat leftovers.

Zestfully yours,

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