Pot Likker Soup

Growing up, I hated greens. Turnip greens, collard greens, mustard greens, etc. I even hated most foods that were just green in general…spinach, green peas, lima beans. The exception was always green beans because, let’s face it, those are delicious and will always be delicious. But as I mature, my relationship with food matures, as well. There isn’t really anything I won’t eat anymore (except green peas…I still refuse to eat those. They are gross and have a weird texture. No, thank you).

So, you can imagine that on New Year’s Day, I had a fit when it came to dinner time. Being Southern, my mom always whipped up turnip greens, black-eyed peas, and corn bread. And everyone had to have a “Cherokee serving.”

You’re probably thinking, “What the hell is a ‘Cherokee serving’?”

And that is completely within you’re right as a forward-thinking human being.

As a child, my mother used this phrase all of the time when my siblings and I didn’t want something she made. It was a requirement in our home that we all take a small portion of the foods she prepared to try.” (We really just pushed it around our plates or fed it to the dogs, but oh well). You see, she worked at a camp called “Cherokee” and it was a practice there that she took and used with us.

But, since we grew up hearing this phrase all of the time, we just assumed that it was a common thing (apparently not). We’d go around telling our friends that they had to have a Cherokee serving of everything. They would always turn and look at us like we were crazy. We were so shocked that they didn’t know what we were talking about. They were the crazy ones, not us. Eventually the truth came out, but we all still use it to this day.

No longer am I required to take a “Cherokee serving’ because I love (almost) all foods and New Year’s Day food is among my favorites these days. My mom makes the black-eyed peas and cornbread and I prepare some collard greens. Everyone takes a little bit of everything for “luck” and “money”, of course. But I refuse to believe that I have to wait around to enjoy this food once a year…

That’s where Pot Likker soup comes into play. It’s a New Year’s meal in one delicious bowl. For those of you who don’t know, pot likker is the juice left over after cooking greens and it is. To. Die. For. It’s liquid gold and is perfect for the base of a soup.

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In reality, I make collard greens with double the liquid and just add some peas/beans and call it a day because there isn’t much liquid left after a batch of collards with all the cornbread-sopping that goes around.

Let’s begin…

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  • 6 slices of Bacon, diced
  • 1 small-medium Onion, small dice
  • 2 tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar
  • a pinch of Red Pepper Flake
  • Collard Greens (I used of bag of the pre-cut greens often found at the grocery store), chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1 quart Chicken Stock
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 cans White Navy Beans (Or Black-eyed Peas) (You can use dried if you wish, but canned is just so much easier for this soup)

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** You’ll notice that the greens become darker as they cook, this is completely normal and expected **

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THE METHOD. Making soup is one of the easiest things to do. You simply cook down the vegetables, add your liquid, and simmer for as long as you want. But I’ll break it down for you below.

  1. In a large pot over medium heat, render out your bacon to crisp it up. It’s important that you render all of that fat out or you’ll have stringy pieces of fatty bacon in your soup, which is not scrumptious.
  2. Once the bacon is crisp, add your onion and red pepper flake and cook down for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add your brown sugar and sherry vinegar. I usually use equal parts for a nice balance, but if you want yours sweeter or more acidic, simply adjust the proportions accordingly.
  4. Start adding your collards and cook them down. It always looks like you have way too many greens, but they cook down quite a bit so just keep on adding them.
  5. Top the pot off with your chicken stock and add some salt.
  6. Cover and allow this to cook for 2 to 3 hours or until the collards are tender.
  7. Add your beans/peas 20 to 30 minutes prior to serving just to warm them through.

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ENJOY IT. To me, this soup is pure comfort food. It’s warm and incredibly filling. I simply serve it up with some buttered cornbread and it just can’t be beat. Honestly, it’s the South in a bowl and you really can’t have a better region in a bowl, in my opinion anyways.

Make a pot of this soup and let me know what you think. Or you can give me another region in a bowl that would be better than the South. We can have fun bantering back and forth about why I’m right 🙂

Until next time…

Collard Greens and Liquid Gold

The South is full of wonderful foods. We have fried chicken, mac & cheese, cornbread, and IMG_2404-1biscuits. Each and every one of us has consumed these foods our entire lives and often look forward to the next time that we get to do so. But not all Southern foods are like this. Some foods are very divisive. You either love it or you absolutely hate it. Perhaps the most popular one in this group is collard greens. I know people who can’t stand to be in the same house that they are being cooked in because they hate the smell. Others you can’t keep away from the stove…they have to eat a spoonful every time they go through the kitchen. (Some people purposefully pass by the kitchen just to get a little taste).

Personally? I love collard greens. Just give me a big bowl and a biscuit to sop up the juices and I’m good to go. (Traditionally cornbread is served, but I’m not much for cornbread. I know, I’m not a true Southern woman…blah, blah, blah. But biscuits are Southern, too, so there!) The flavor is complex. It’s earthy, salty, sweet, and acidic. You just can’t beat it, in my opinion.

So, you’re lucky. Today, you get to learn how to master this Southern staple. We eat them year-round down here, but they are most popularly consumed on New Year’s Day to ensure wealth for the coming year. I make sure I prepare them a few more times than that because a little extra help in the wealth department here and there isn’t a bad thing.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Collard Green IngredientsTHE INGREDIENTS.

  • Fresh collard greens, cleaned and chopped (one stalk is what I’m using)
  • Corn oil
  • Thick-cut (or slab) bacon, small cubes
  • Onion, medium dice
  • Brown sugar
  • Sherry vinegar
  • Chicken stock
  • Salt and Pepper

THE METHOD. Okay. So maybe there isn’t a classic “method” to making collard greens, but there is a method, nonetheless. It’s a method that you can use to make all of your greens (collard, turnip, and mustard…). Basically, it involves cleaning the greens and then cooking the greens.

washing the greens2THE CLEAN. We begin by cleaning the collard greens. You can buy them already cleaned and bagged or still attached to the stalk, which his how I purchased them today.

Getting them off their stem is easy. Just grasp the stem near the bottom of the leaf and pull up. The leaves should just come right off.

Now, collards grow in sandy soil, so they need to be cleaned. I do this by filling my sink with cold water and placing the chopped greens right on in there. The greens will float and the sand will sink to the bottom. Simply remove the greens and place in a colander. They will be good to go.

The rendering bacon...mmm...

The rendering bacon…mmm…

THE COOK. Cooking these babies is so easy because it’s a one-pot wonder. Gotta love that.

  • Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add a little bit of corn oil to coat the bottom of the pan and throw in the bacon. Render all the fat out so that the collards can absorb all of the deliciousness.
  • Once the bacon is rendered, add the chopped onion. Cook this for a couple of minutes. I love the smell of bacon and onions cooking together. It’s absolutely divine and, in my opinion, tops the smell of onion and garlic. If I could put the smell onto the blog, I would. All of you would be racing to the store to purchase the ingredients to make these collards once you smelled this, I promise.
  • Add a little bit of brown sugar. I used about a tablespoon, but this is really up to you. Some people choose to leave out this ingredient, but I like the balance that it gives to the dish.
  • Add the sherry vinegar in equal parts with the sugar. The vinegar brightens the flavor of the greens.
  • Adding the GreensNow, it’s time to add the collard greens. Place as much as you can in the pot while still being able to stir.

You’re probably thinking, “Holy cow! That’s way too many greens, Kelley. And you still have several handfuls left to add!”….I know, I know. It seems like a lot, but greens cook down a ridiculous amount. There will be plenty of room.

Stir the greens around and once they have cooked down a bit, add some more. Continue this process until all of the greens are in the pot.

  • Add a cup or so of chicken stock to the pot. We’re braising the greens here so we don’t need to cover them with liquid.

Now, this liquid is what I refer to as “liquid gold.” Why? Because it’s the most complex part of the dish. It absorbs the saltiness and smokiness from the bacon as well as the sweetness from the onion and the brown sugar. The acidity from the vinegar and the bitter earthiness of the greens leach out into this liquid, too. It’s the perfect essence from the dish. You can even strain and use it as the base for soups or sauces. It’s what really makes these collard greens amazing.

Sorry for the rant…back to the greens…

  • Collard Green Close UpAdd a little bit of salt and pepper. You’ll probably add more of both at the end of the cooking process. Remember, you can always add more, but you can’t take it away once it’s already in there. Let the greens cook for an hour or so and re-check your seasoning.
  • Cover and cook for 3-4 hours on low, or until the greens are tender. A younger green won’t take as long to cook, but most of the greens in the grocery store are older and sturdier. Plus, the longer they cook, the more complex the flavors get and that’s a good thing.

ENJOY IT. Serve them up in a bowl with some biscuits (or cornbread) and you’ll have a delicious lunch. You can also serve them with some black-eyed peas or fried chicken. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with these collard greens.