Wilted Greens

Contrary to the widespread belief among our fellow countrymen, Southerners don’t always “cook vegetables to death”. Here in the South, we have always enjoyed a wide variety of vegetables either raw or lightly cooked as in the following recipe, which has been prepared in Dixie kitchens long before the word “Dixie” came into use. Granted, while the vegetables in this salad aren’t devoid of nutritional value, the other ingredients collectively render this recipe unhealthy under various and assorted current dietary guidelines, but it is a signature dish not only of our region, but in variations across the globe.

Use the freshest greens you can find, crisp and green without a spot of brown or yellow. If you buy a bunch in the store, it will have about a dozen to twenty Florida Broadleaf mustard leaves. You can mix these with Purple Top turnip greens if you like, but for this recipe Georgia collards, which in my opinion do require stewing, are out of the question. If you want to use kale, Bibb lettuce, arugula or any other of the more expensive leafy greens, go right ahead, but if you ask me, you’re going to look damned silly bringing lard-wilted arugula to a dinner table. Spinach is a much better alternative. Wash the greens thoroughly, shake off excess water and place in a colander or dish rack to drain, and pat dry before making the salad. Strip greens of stems and shred, which should give you about eight cups of greens.

Fry six to eight slices of bacon until very crisp. Depending on the thickness of the rind, this will render about a quarter cup of drippings. Remove bacon and set on a paper towel to drain. Reheat the oil, add about a half cup of white vinegar (don’t use cider vinegar) mixed with about two tablespoons pepper vinegar. Let this cook down by about a third. Add about a teaspoon of sugar. Place greens in a bowl or pan. Pour the hot oil/vinegar mixture over the greens and toss vigorously with plenty of salt and black pepper. Top with thinly sliced white onions, crumbled bacon and chopped boiled egg. Sprinkle with more black pepper; serve with a bowl of pintos.


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