There is one thing we are fortunate to have in my area, in regards to the weather, and that is moderately cool nights for such a long time. From mid November to late April most years we enjoy a slew of crops like fresh turnips, kale, mustard greens and my favorite, collards. So I thought before the season ends, I might dabble with a hankering I’ve had for a while now, a taste I’ve had on the tip of my tongue ever since I thought about a memory from long ago.
Now I’ve cooked greens many ways and have even posted a few like an old southern, Collards with Beans, an African American version of cooking; Willie’s Collards is one from my hometown, so simple it’s downright dishonest, and I also shared my favorite way of all to cook greens, Turnips with Pot-Likker which has that southern vinegar-pepper-sauce-taste cooked right in. But this one folks just might beat all, I mean it reminded me of Sunday dinners sitting ’round the big table back at Mama Perry’s where the men folks ate first while the women waited until time to clear the table before helping themselves – of course, after a full round of dessert was served to us. I guess in some customs that might still exist, thank goodness it don’t at my house.
What makes these greens different than Willie’s? These still have that great underlying smoky flavor and just enough peppery bite to say it’s been cooked below the Mason-Dixon line, but the sweetness of the brown sugar and honey combined with the just acid tad of vinegar melds together a flavor that indeed will make you slap your Mama. Enjoy!
This is really a two part post. One for the greens and one for the cornbread dumplings, so here goes…
Southern Collards & Greens
oh so good with pot-likker – good to the last drop
2 large bunches fresh collard greens
1 large bunch fresh turnip greens
1 handful mustard greens or kale
1/2 pound smoked bacon, chopped
sliced smoked ham hock, turkey leg or smoked cured meat
1 large onion, chopped
2 jalapenos chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
3 to 4 quarts chicken stock
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup native honey
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon ground black peppercorns
Salt to taste
First and most important – wash and clean your greens. Some folks use the washing machine to rinse the collards but I use my deep sink (turnips like pictured here, I suspect might be too tender). Fill full with water and one leaf at a time, vigorously wash under water. The dirt will sink to the bottom. Remove to drain and continue until all greens are clean replacing the water ever so often. This is a good time to spend reflecting on life. Remove the thick stem parts of each leaf and any discolored areas. Chop greens into 1 or 2-inch pieces.
In a large stockpot, cook the bacon to render the fat. Add the smoked meat (if using turkey, remove bone) and stir in the remaining listings. Bring to a boil and add the greens by the handful a little at a time. Stir to coat as you add remaining greens to the pot. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Taste and adjust stock for salt. Let cook for 1 to 3 hours depending on how soft you like your greens, I like mine really soft. Spoon into bowls with plenty of the pot-likker, 3 or 4 of the dodger dumplings (recipe below) or as Mama Perry did, with a thin slice of onion on top.
Now as most of you know, dodgers and dumplings are two different animals. Let me explain.
A batter of fried cornmeal takes on many names: conepones, johnny cakes, hush puppies, spoonbread, hoecakes (actually baked on the likes of a garden hoe over an outdoor fire as in field-hand days) …. you get the idea. But we ain’t frying today folks.
Take a batter of corn meal mixture, precook it somewhat and in some form or another you may end up with, coush-coush, grits, polenta, mushbread and yes, if you steam it, continue to fry, you’ll end up with corn dodgers. Dumplings as I said, are just what you’re thinking. Raw dough dropped into a simmering liquid. This is my version of something in between a corn dodger and a dumpling made for soaking up the likes of vegetable pot-likker, saucy chili, broths from stews – oh the possibilities are endless.
Green Onion Dodger Dumplings
good idea for soups, chili, stews …
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 cups white cornmeal mix
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup minced green onions
Prepare a steamer or use a large saucepan with a collapsible steamer basket, colander or insert and a tight fitting lid. This is how I did it. Add 1 or 2 inches of water to the saucepan and place the basket so it rest just over the water level. Make sure you have a tight fitting lid. Remove basket and spray with cooking spray, set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine the milk, butter, salt, sugar and bring to a simmer. As soon as the butter melts, remove from heat and fold in the cornmeal, baking powder and green onions. Do not over work. Let sit for 5 minutes.
Bring the water for the steamer basket to a boil. Moisten your hands and spoon the dough into the palms of your hands forming about a 1-inch ball. Roll the dough between your palms to form small elongated dodgers. Place them side by side in the basket, one layer and place the basket into the pan of simmering water over high heat. Cover with the lid and lower the heat to medium high. Steam the dodgers for 15 minutes. Do not uncover during this time. Remove basket and separate dodgers which should be puffy, firm to the touch and slightly shiny. Keep dodgers warm until ready to serve.