The joys of eating chow chow!
A typical southern meal consists of some kind of greens – collards, turnips, mustards, or kale—cooked in broth or water, seasonings, and either salt pork, smoked turkey, or ham hocks. Top it with chow chow (made by The Garden of Eva, of course!) and serve with a piece of cornbread smothered in butter!
5 bags of kale (trust me, they cook down to nothing)
2 medium-sized ham hocks (or 1 lb./500 grams smoked turkey necks/wings), or you can leave out the meat to make this vegan
Knorr’s chicken stock pot (or vegetable or water)
One large onion, chopped finely
3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 bay leaves
3-4 sprigs of thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of olive oil
- Wash the kale (or other greens) thoroughly and drain. Chop into small pieces if necessary. Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
- Add the onion. Stir until it becomes soft, about 5 minutes. Add the crushed garlic and stir until fragrant – about 30 seconds.
- Add the ham hock and cover with water. Add stock pot, if desired.
- Bring the pot to a boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, more if the ham hock is especially large.
- Add the greens to the pot. You may have to do this in batches until they cook down and you can fit more in. Add the bay leaves and thyme.
- Bring the pot to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the greens are tender.
- Remove the ham hocks (or turkey) and chop the meat. Return to the pot and mix with the greens. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve, topped with The Garden of Eva’s Chow Chow and accompanied by cornbread (see below for recipe). You should have about 4 good-sized servings.
Note: Sometimes, I like to peel and cube a few potatoes and add those to the pot 15 minutes after I’ve added the greens.
Reflections on Cornbread (followed by a recipe for it)
Ok, so many people might not pay attention to the subleties of cornbread. But as a woman with deep roots in the US South (Virginia on my mother's side), I do pay attention. Growing up, the only kind of cornbread that we ate was prepared using cornmeal -- either Indian Head or Quaker. We mixed it with flour, a bit of sugar, baking powder, oil, milk and an egg. The result was glorious. Pale, dense cornbread that went well with greens, fried fish, fried chicken, or just on its own with a smear of butter (and for me, a bit of jam -- usually that we had also made ourselves).
I was horrified and scandalized one Sunday when I picked up a piece of Nanna's (that's what we all called her) cornbread. It was bright yellow, crumbly and sweet! I knew something was wrong immediately. I confronted her. She admitted -- not without a bit of pride -- that she made it with Jiffy cornbread mix!!!! I felt betrayed. She was a woman from the deep, deep US South -- Alabama! How could she do that?? She said that she had been using Jiffy for years and had long ago abandoned making homemade cornbread with cornmeal. I was devastated!
Go to many eateries and you'll find the same kind of cornbread. It's too yellow, has little texture, and is way too sweet! It's almost like dessert, instead of an accompaniment to a meal. There is nothing like the pale yellow color of real cornbread. Or the taste that merely hints of sugar. (Some purists don’t believe in putting in even ¼ cup of sugar.) It's dense and robust and can stand up to serious food, like pot liquor!
I admit with some shame that for years, I had left behind one marker of my Southern roots -- using a real, old-fashioned cast iron skillet to make the cornbread. My mother had one and it served her and the rest of her family well! I’ve mended my evil ways and now have a beautiful, heavy cast iron skillet that I bought on a trip to Boston a few years ago. I use an old, Southern trick when I make cornbread. I put unsalted butter in the bottom of the pan and heat it in the oven before I put the batter in it. It yields a buttery, crisp, super flavorful crust that takes cornbread to a whole other level.
Here is the recipe from the Quaker cornmeal box. It is delicious, quick, and very easy to make. Enjoy!
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Quaker or Aunt Jemima enriched corn meal
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 cup milk (can be made with either whole or low-fat)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 egg whites or 1 egg, beaten
- Heat oven to 400 f /200 c.
- Grease 8 or 9 inch pan with vegetable oil.
- Combine dry ingredients.
- Stir in milk, oil and egg, mixing just until dry ingredients are moistened.
- Pour batter into prepared pan.
- Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown and wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm.