COOKING WITH LARD AND FATBACK

I woke up this morning thinking about Grandmama’s turnip greens with corn dumplings – not just thinking about them, but smelling them. I’m sure a lot of people might think turnip greens are pretty odd things to wake up thinking about. But those people never ate at Grandmama’s house.

People don’t cook the way Mama and Grandmama cooked anymore. That’s because they’re more educated and they know eating foods laced with bacon drippings, butter, fatback, and lard is not healthy. But the food sure was good back when they cooked with lard and fatback.

So many of Grandmama’s old recipes are lost because she didn’t write them. She just cooked them. And the cooking was done by touch more than by measuring cups. Maybe that’s why they are called comfort foods. The old cooking was physical – tactile. You couldn’t just put in some cold measure. You had to feel it. How much salt did you throw in? The amount that felt right. Then you tasted and adjusted – By the way, did you know if you put too much salt in the soup or chicken stock, all you need to do is throw in a peeled potato and it will soak up the salt? Mama taught me that.

As I watched Grandmama or my great aunts, I saw their preparing of food was more than work. It was a family and social experience. Take turnip greens for example. The first step for cooking turnip greens was to gather up the greens in your apron, and take a

Front porches were for working and visiting with the neighbors

Front porches were for working and visiting with the neighbors

 newspaper and a dishpan with salt water out on the front porch where a cousin or neighbor, often the same person, would join you to gossip. Then you’d follow the directions below to make turnip greens and corn dumplings.

Ingredients:

TURNIP GREENS

TURNIP GREENS

A good sized mess of turnip greens with roots (about 2 bunches)

3 inch piece of fatback or thick bacon

2-3 palms of salt (about one teaspoon each)

Cleaning and cooking the greens:

Take the greens onto the front porch in your apron

Take them up one at a time and look them for bugs

Cut off any bad spots and trim out the stalks

Throw scraps onto the newspaper and put the good leaves in the wash pan

(The directions also apply if you’re shelling butter beans and sugar peas)

Soak greens in salt water for 5-10 minutes to kill any amoebas

Wash greens in clean water two-three times and set aside

Peel the roots and cut them into slices about an inch thick

Boil water in 2 quart pot with the fat back

Add turnip roots cut Cook 30 minutes and fork-test roots (should not be too soft)

Add greens and cook for 15 minutes

Ingredients for corn dumplings:

1 cup cornmeal

3 dashes salt (about half a teaspoon)

1 medium egg

A couple of spoons full of pot liquor (the water from the cooked greens)

Cornmeal dumplings:

Mix the cornmeal, salt, and egg

Add enough potliquor (liquid in the pot of greens) to moisten it enough to be rolled into balls

Roll the dough into balls and put them on top of the greens making sure they are covered with potliquor

Cook 5 – 10 minutes

Serve immediately or take the dumplings out and save in bowl till you’re ready to eat.

The corn dumplings were my favorite part. Next to them came the potliquor I’d scoop up in a cup when Grandmama wasn’t looking. I’d drink the greens dry if she’d let me. I can’t describe the taste. Cook the turnip greens and try it.

I’m tired of politically correct, cardboard food, sea salt, and cilantro. If you’ve saved any of the old fashioned, good-eating, salt-pepper-and-fat recipes, I’d love to have you post them here on my blog under the heading, Cooking With Lard and Fatback!

 

Comments

  1. Eric says:

    Mmmm, lard and fatback…smells like America!

  2. Margaret says:

    Ruthi, Grandmother came to my house one Christmas, she had gotten to old to cook so I set her in a chair in the kitchen and ask her to teach me how to make her Chicken and Dumplin Pie It was the best I ever had I’m sure you remember it.

    one whole chicken cut up
    make biscut dough roll out like a pancake
    butter
    milk
    salt and pepper

    preheat oven %350

    in a cast iron pot (dutch over) place a biscut pancake to cover of the bottom of the pot
    place a pat of butter and place in the oven untill light brown
    remove from oven place uncooked chicken in botton of pot (about 3 pieces of chicken)
    add milk until chicken is covered (salt and pepper to taste) add another biscut pancake and a pat of butter and place back in oven until that biscut is light brown, keep repeating the process until you fill the pot with biscut pancake last. place back in over and cook for about 30 minutes or the juices bubble. This is a labor of love . I’m glad she loved us so. She served this every Thanksgiven and Christmas

  3. Ann Laprade says:

    Ruthi- Thanks for these memories and the truth in them. My grandmother used to cook vegetables so fresh that they had been in the ground a half an hour before. My grandfather would literally run up the hill to his garden and bring back that produce that was then turned into a fantastic meal.

  4. Beth says:

    Berea Sweet Potato
    FAMILY TRADITION
    Boone Tavern Inn, Berea, KY
    4 medium sweet potatoes
    3 tablespoons butter
    1/3 cup crystalized ginger pieces
    1/2 cup orange juice
    1/2 cup brown sugar pack
    1. Peel potatoes and cook (boil). Make sure they are not too soft.
    2. Cut potatoes into 5 slices about ½ – ¾ inches thick.
    3. Arrange layers in butter in casserole dish (spode or evasham china). Dot with butter and sprinkle with ginger. Repeat.
    4. Pour orange juice over potatoes and sprinkle with brown sugar.
    5. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes at 375 degrees. Baste

  5. Erin says:

    Best potato salad ever…I ate it for bfast one time (disregard the fact that I was hungover)
                              Potato Salad
    6 to 8 med. red potatoes (about 3 in. diameter)
    Boil cubed potatoes unpeeled in water with a teaspoon of salt.
    When tender, drain in colander and cool completely before adding dressing.
    Don’t put dressing over hot potatoes.  The potatoes will get mushy.

    Dressing:
    2 hardboiled eggs, chopped
    3/4 cup chopped celery
    1/3 cup chopped onion (I like white onions)
    1/3 cup sweet pickle salad cubes +2 tablespoons of the pickle juice
    1/4 cup chopped carrot (for color)
    2/3 cup mayonnaise (don’t use light – too watery)
    1 tsp mustard
    Mix together.  Pour a little at a time over cooled potatoes and toss until you have the coating you want.  Garnish on top with paprika for color. Cover and refrigerate.  I don’t really add salt or pepper, but it may need some.  If any dressing left, use it in the next few days over cooked macaroni for a salad.  To the macaroni you can add chopped tomatoes and cubed ham.

    • Ruthi Postow says:

      I’m so glad she sent this recipe. I’d forgotten how to make potato salad as good as Mama’s. She used the same dressing but with Irish potatoes – However I hesitate to change a prescription that is proven to work. White potatoes may not be as good a cure for hangovers as the red ones. (Irish potatoes are your basic white potatoes. I don’t know why the name isn’t used anymore. Maybe someone will tell me.)

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