Wednesday, March 6, 2013


A slow cooker is a convenient way to cook greens.

A couple of weeks ago, I went with my friend, Judy, to the Spring Lake Library's program "The Taste of Soul Food." Nancy Rutledge from Grand Rapids Community College shared her knowledge of Southern slave and sharecropper cooking. Nancy learned how to cook in her Grandmother's kitchen. Her Grandma, who had 15 children, lived in the Carolina's and the boot heel of Missouri.


Nancy told us that the name "Soul Food" comes from the 1960's when Soul Music was so popular. Soul Food is a wonderful example of the mingling of cultures which leads to "Fusion Cooking" as it is a blend of African, Native American, and American cooking.

During the time of slavery, slaves were given bits, pieces, and parts for food. From those unwanted parts of food, they created legendary food that is still very popular today.


With the abundance of food we have now, it can be difficult to understand how important some greens, pieces of meat, and cornmeal were to someone with a big family to feed. There wasn't enough meat to give everyone a bit of it. There was no butter to make the dry cornbread tasty. To give a taste of meat to a meal, what meat was available was cooked with greens, collard, mustard, turnip, etc. The liquid  used to cook the meat and greens was called "Pot Likker" and was used like a rich gravy.  To make the dry cornbread edible, the cornbread was placed in a bowl and topped with the greens and "Pot Likker" making a moist cornbread and a filling meal.


Nancy demonstrated how to make greens and brought to the program already prepared Cornbread, Pecan Pie, and Buttermilk Pie.  The Pecan Pie would have been a slave owner's dish as the pecans would have been dear.  The Buttermilk Pie is served in the spring with fresh strawberries.  Nancy told stories of her Grandma and remember fondly eating biscuits spread with lard and sprinkle with sugar, lard sandwiches, and liver mush which was ground liver mixed with cornmeal and cooked.

Pecan pie and Buttermilk pie
Nancy's Collard greens on cornbread, pecan pie, and buttermilk pie.

If you don't want to use a slow cooker, do not cook greens in an aluminum pan or a cast iron pan.  Use 3 quarts of water if not using a slow cooker.  To make the Chef's Salt called for in the recipe go to:

2-2 1/2 qts. water
1 bunch collard greens
1 pkg. smoked turkey necks
1 T Chef salt
1 T seasoned salt
1 t sugar
1 T hot sauce, in Grandma's kitchen it would be homemade

Rinse any dirt off the collard leaves.  Fold leaf in half along the stem.  With a knife, cut on the outside of the stem to remove just the stem from the leaf.  Stack the leaves.  Fold in half, then fold in half again.  Slice (chiffonade) across the leaves to create ribbons.  Put water in slow-cooker.  Add smoked turkey necks, chef salt, seasoned salt, sugar, and hot sauce.  Cook on LOW all day.  Remove turkey necks and take the meat off the bone.  Return the meat to the greens.  Adjust seasoning and serve over cornbread.

Ingredients:  Collard greens, smoked turkey necks, chef salt, seasoned salt, and sugar plus hot sauce.

The collard greens, I was surprised how many kinds of greens were available in my Yankee supermarket.

The hot sauce:  In Grandma's house, the hot sauce would be a homemade version of Louisiana Green Peppers.  Hot sauce of your choice can be substituted.
 The Dutch would add a pinch of nutmeg to the greens.

Fold the leaf in half on the stem.
With a knife, slice along the stem and remove it.

Discard the stem.
Stack and fold up the leaves.  I rounded them.
Slice across the leaves to form ribbons.
Nancy uses smoked turkey necks instead of smoked pork pieces because they are lower in fat.


Put all the ingredients in a slow-cooker.

Cook on LOW all day.

Remove the turkey necks and take the meat off the bones.

Return the meat to the greens.
Put some cornbread in a bowl.

Top with greens.
Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!!! 

No comments:

Post a Comment