Marie Freeman (photographer and life chronicler extraordinaire) over at Blueridge Blog asked me what I eventually did with all those collard greens.
You can see that this is not a delicate cuisine, although it would certainly benefit the faint of heart.
Take okra, for example. There are three schools of thought on the flowering pod: (1) Full slime. These are the purists. (2) Zero slime. Cut, dipped in corn meal, fried in hot oil and doused with salt, these folks call the crispy treat “Southern popcorn.” (3) Keep it away from me; by far the largest group.
I googled “okra” and found a couple of interesting tidbits, including a clue as to why Southern women have been pushing okra in all its forms on their men for generations: it contains compounds of the male contraceptive gossypol!
The pork chop on the platter was slathered with a sweet-hot barbecue sauce and then baked in a slow oven.
Next is a little bowl of speckled butter beans. They lose all their speckles in the cooking water and turn kind of a pinto bean brown. Their earthy taste is one of nature’s great comfort foods. The broth is nothing more than speckled butter bean essence with a sprinkling of salt. I always put beans and broth together in a bowl or cup and eat it like soup.
I only put two little turnip roots on my plate. These were not the vaunted “purple tops,” and had an off-taste that was unappealing.
Few foods when they are cooking can make a house smell better than a tender sweet potato. You can tell it is done by that aroma. It turns from starchy to sweet. Buck and I shared one.
Saving the best for last, we arrive at the collard greens. In some quarters, it is still culinary heresy to cook greens with a smoked turkey leg instead of hog jowls or streak o’ lean. Many of my dear departed relatives would be aghast. But that’s what I did. I used scissors to cut the big leaves from the hard veing running down through their mid-section, and then cut or tore them into smaller pieces, and washed them several times. The big stock pot full of water was heavy as I transferred it from sink to gas cooktop. It took a while to come to a boil. When it did, I dropped in that smoked turkey leg and a medium size hot pepper. It wasn’t a jalapeno and it wasn’t a cubanelle, but something in between that I pulled from a pile of picked peppers (ha!) at the Winn Dixie. I let that melange simmer for awhile and then pushed the greens down, down, down into the pot with a long wooden spoon. They simmered into the broth, getting tender and melty after about 45 minutes.
The greens are sensuous, hot and smoky, with a velvet feel in your mouth. But the real powerhouse elixir of the meal is the broth they are cooked in, known far and wide as pot likker. It will kill infections, stop a cold in its tracks, and heal a broken heart.
Now, that’s a righteous brew.