Southern Cuisine: Holle's Greens and Ham
How to cook turnip greens and mustard greens
Greens are a staple of Southern food and soul food! In the Deep South, “greens” means turnip greens, collard greens, or mustard greens. Though all three are similar in taste and appearance, there are some differences. Actually, I don’t care for collards. I know – that’s very un-Southern of me, but they’re just too strong-tasting for me, and I don’t like the way they smell, either. I like turnip greens, but my favorite is mustard greens, especially when the leaves are young and tender. When I had my garden, I would go out early in the morning and cut a basketful of tender leaves to cook for the noon meal.
Turnip greens and other greens are packed with nutrients, and they just plain taste good! They're a great side dish to serve with baked ham, fried ham, fried chicken, pork chops, or just about any other meat or poultry. Hubby loves the "pot liquor" of the turnip greens - you know, the juice. He likes sopping it up with my homemade cornbread.
The hardest thing about preparing fresh greens is cleaning them. I know people who put them in the washing machine to accomplish this feat! I’ve never tried that. I usually place my fresh greens in a large pot of cold, salted water and let them soak for awhile to loosen any dirt and to kill any attached insects. Then I rinse them several times under running water.
Next, I remove any tough stems and discolored leaves. After that, I tear the leaves into smaller pieces. Some people use kitchen scissors to cut their turnip greens, mustard greens, or collard greens into small strips. Of course, now you can purchase pre-washed greens at the grocery store. It’s still a good idea to rinse them, though.
Here’s how I cook turnip greens and mustard greens:
What you’ll need:
4 pounds of greens (more or less)
Cured ham, cut into pieces (about a pound)
4-5 slices bacon (optional – see below)
1 ½ cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a black iron Dutch oven, cook ham until done. If the ham is too lean, you won’t have enough grease. In this case, fry a few strips of bacon with the ham. Do not drain off the fat!
Add the chicken broth, the sugar, the salt and pepper, and the turnip greens.
Bring to a boil and then reduce heat.
Put the lid on the pot and let the greens simmer for about an hour or until completely cooked.
Serve with my cornbread or my crackling corn bread and iced tea. Use the cornbread to “sop up” all the delicious pot liquor.
Most Southerners like to pour pepper vinegar over their turnip greens, but I prefer sweet pickle juice. Try it!
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