Authentic Potlikker

Eleanor Rose

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(Sights, Sounds, and Tastes of the American South)

Potlikker is the liquid left behind after boiling collards and it’s loaded with vitamins and minerals. Don’t make the mistake of calling it a broth. It’s really more like a soup - one that develops as collards simmer.

And yes, it is spelled potlikker, not pot liquor. This humble food is what enslaved and indentured cooks — who stirred pots from which they were not permitted to eat — had left over at the end of the day. Potlikker kept people going. There are supposedly stories of motherless babies with potlikker in their bottles and of grandmothers and country doctors prescribing it as an ointment for various aches and pains.

Two things are essential to make a delicious pot of greens and potlikker. The greens must be “sturdy” and the cooking liquid must be rich and smoky. Greens can be spiced up a bit with pepper pods, crushed red pepper flakes, ground cayenne, hot pepper vinegar or a combination of them all. A little (or even a lot of) sugar, cane syrup or sorghum can replace the spices if you prefer a sweeter taste. Let your taste buds be your guide.

People who love greens often love potlikker even more. Potlikker is best served with cornbread. It’s up to you if you crumble the cornbread or dunk it. But, for goodness sakes don’t pour this good stuff down the drain!
 

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Ole Miss

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Potlikker is very popular in Mississippi for sure. Collard greens along with mustard greens, turnip greens and spinach are cooked and served with pepper sauce along with other vegetables and corn bread!! Fried chicken would go along be just perfectly, don't you think?
Regards
David
 

Scott1967

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England
View attachment 218528
(Sights, Sounds, and Tastes of the American South)

Potlikker is the liquid left behind after boiling collards and it’s loaded with vitamins and minerals. Don’t make the mistake of calling it a broth. It’s really more like a soup - one that develops as collards simmer.

And yes, it is spelled potlikker, not pot liquor. This humble food is what enslaved and indentured cooks — who stirred pots from which they were not permitted to eat — had left over at the end of the day. Potlikker kept people going. There are supposedly stories of motherless babies with potlikker in their bottles and of grandmothers and country doctors prescribing it as an ointment for various aches and pains.

Two things are essential to make a delicious pot of greens and potlikker. The greens must be “sturdy” and the cooking liquid must be rich and smoky. Greens can be spiced up a bit with pepper pods, crushed red pepper flakes, ground cayenne, hot pepper vinegar or a combination of them all. A little (or even a lot of) sugar, cane syrup or sorghum can replace the spices if you prefer a sweeter taste. Let your taste buds be your guide.

People who love greens often love potlikker even more. Potlikker is best served with cornbread. It’s up to you if you crumble the cornbread or dunk it. But, for goodness sakes don’t pour this good stuff down the drain!
I think it derives from Pottage which was an English stew very popular in medieval England before potatoes became available , Normally it was made from cabbage , wheat , barley or whatever greens were available basically a poor mans dish.
 

Eleanor Rose

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I think it derives from Pottage which was an English stew very popular in medieval England before potatoes became available , Normally it was made from cabbage , wheat , barley or whatever greens were available basically a poor mans dish.
Scott, your post got me thinking and of course that led me to reading. I had always assumed that potlikker was born from slavery in the South, but there is actually evidence that it began in England and was brought to the US. When the diet of poor farm laborers in England is compared with the diet of slaves in the American South, the similarities are uncanny. Many Southern slave owners came from the South and West of England and it seems they brought their ideas for a farm laborers diet with them.

By the same token, the Southern tradition of ‘sopping up’ potlikker using cornbread is likely not a slave innovation. It turns out ‘sop’ was one of the most common parts of a medieval meal. I have always thought greens and potlikker were uniquely American ‘Southern food’, but it seems they are British in origin.

However, the story behind that small "mess of greens" remains a very deep-seated culinary, cultural and historical one in the South as demonstrated by this quote from Richard Wright's book entitled, Black Boy:

"I lived on what I did not eat. Perhaps the sunshine, the fresh air, and the potlikker from greens kept me going...I would sit in my room reading, and suddenly I would become aware of smelling meat frying in a neighbor's kitchen and would wonder what it was like to eat as much meat as one wanted."
 

Scott1967

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Scott, your post got me thinking and of course that led me to reading. I had always assumed that potlikker was born from slavery in the South, but there is actually evidence that it began in England and was brought to the US. When the diet of poor farm laborers in England is compared with the diet of slaves in the American South, the similarities are uncanny. Many Southern slave owners came from the South and West of England and it seems they brought their ideas for a farm laborers diet with them.

By the same token, the Southern tradition of ‘sopping up’ potlikker using cornbread is likely not a slave innovation. It turns out ‘sop’ was one of the most common parts of a medieval meal. I have always thought greens and potlikker were uniquely American ‘Southern food’, but it seems they are British in origin.

However, the story behind that small "mess of greens" remains a very deep-seated culinary, cultural and historical one in the South as demonstrated by this quote from Richard Wright's book entitled, Black Boy:

"I lived on what I did not eat. Perhaps the sunshine, the fresh air, and the potlikker from greens kept me going...I would sit in my room reading, and suddenly I would become aware of smelling meat frying in a neighbor's kitchen and would wonder what it was like to eat as much meat as one wanted."
Eleanor , Your spot on.

What always amazes me is the poor are the poor just different types of bondage a Peasant life wouldn't have been much better than a Slaves life.

Even in 1862 England in my home town a cotton workers life would have been on par with a Slave in the South they worked six days out of the week lived in smoggy dirty environment where children as young as eleven would work in the mills.

Pottage then and Pottage now the world never changes.
 

OldReliable1862

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I'd thought it was spelled pot liquor, but then I've never had to write it! I don't know how many I've heard my mother say "Get some of that potlikker, it's good!" I believe my mother has also mastered the art of properly sopping bread in potlikker or broth.
 

JPChurch

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I grow my own collards and mustards every year. Always better fresh picked out of your own garden with no worries about store bought produce loaded with pesticides or the latest threat, e-coli bacteria. Once the greens are prepared for the cooking pot, I use water, add some mother apple cider vinegar and some diced Vidalia onions along with half a slice of low sodium bacon. Let 'em simmer for a few hours till nice and tender. One they're out of the pot, season as you see fit: crushed red pepper flakes/ salt and pepper/ or hot sauce. I always keep the potlikker that's left over, it freezes well in plastic tubs. You need a whole of both types of greens if you want a huge pot full, they do cook down quite a bit. You can make them separate or put them all together in one pot. The potlikker is great for soups, dunkin biscuits into, added to black eyed peas and other creative endeavors.
 

8thFlorida

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I grow my own collards and mustards every year. Always better fresh picked out of your own garden with no worries about store bought produce loaded with pesticides or the latest threat, e-coli bacteria. Once the greens are prepared for the cooking pot, I use water, add some mother apple cider vinegar and some diced Vidalia onions along with half a slice of low sodium bacon. Let 'em simmer for a few hours till nice and tender. One they're out of the pot, season as you see fit: crushed red pepper flakes/ salt and pepper/ or hot sauce. I always keep the potlikker that's left over, it freezes well in plastic tubs. You need a whole of both types of greens if you want a huge pot full, they do cook down quite a bit. You can make them separate or put them all together in one pot. The potlikker is great for soups, dunkin biscuits into, added to black eyed peas and other creative endeavors.
E.coli is killed by cooking but I agree on the pesticides. Where do you get your seed?
 

JPChurch

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E.coli is killed by cooking but I agree on the pesticides. Where do you get your seed?
Southern States, I get the giant southern curled mustards; the collard greens there also. The mustards I broadcast into the soil, the collards I start in small pots first and then put them in the ground when they're good and hearty. Some people like myself eat mustards fresh out of the garden without cooking 'em. Great in salads or on a sandwich or a sub, thus my concern with store bought greens if you don't cook them. Same with kale. Southern States may be a Virginia thing however. They have the best selection of seeds anywhere. And you don't have to get on a computer to order them if there's one close by. Collards need to be cooked for sure, can't eat them fresh from the cut.
 

8thFlorida

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Southern States, I get the giant southern curled mustards; the collard greens there also. The mustards I broadcast into the soil, the collards I start in small pots first and then put them in the ground when they're good and hearty. Some people like myself eat mustards fresh out of the garden without cooking 'em. Great in salads or on a sandwich or a sub, thus my concern with store bought greens if you don't cook them. Same with kale. Southern States may be a Virginia thing however. They have the best selection of seeds anywhere. And you don't have to get on a computer to order them if there's one close by. Collards need to be cooked for sure, can't eat them fresh from the cut.
I’ve cooked plenty a mess of greens and Grandma and Grandpa used to grow them. I’ll try growing this year I think. Thanks
 

RobertP

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I’ve cooked plenty a mess of greens and Grandma and Grandpa used to grow them. I’ll try growing this year I think. Thanks
We had a turnip patch along with a sweet potato patch on the farm. The greens were never good until after first frost. When little I liked to pull them out of the ground to reveal the beautiful purple turnip. Mom would dice them and cook with the greens, or many times just serve mashed turnip as a side.
 

RobertP

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on the long winding road
View attachment 218528
(Sights, Sounds, and Tastes of the American South)

Potlikker is the liquid left behind after boiling collards and it’s loaded with vitamins and minerals. Don’t make the mistake of calling it a broth. It’s really more like a soup - one that develops as collards simmer.

And yes, it is spelled potlikker, not pot liquor. This humble food is what enslaved and indentured cooks — who stirred pots from which they were not permitted to eat — had left over at the end of the day. Potlikker kept people going. There are supposedly stories of motherless babies with potlikker in their bottles and of grandmothers and country doctors prescribing it as an ointment for various aches and pains.

Two things are essential to make a delicious pot of greens and potlikker. The greens must be “sturdy” and the cooking liquid must be rich and smoky. Greens can be spiced up a bit with pepper pods, crushed red pepper flakes, ground cayenne, hot pepper vinegar or a combination of them all. A little (or even a lot of) sugar, cane syrup or sorghum can replace the spices if you prefer a sweeter taste. Let your taste buds be your guide.

People who love greens often love potlikker even more. Potlikker is best served with cornbread. It’s up to you if you crumble the cornbread or dunk it. But, for goodness sakes don’t pour this good stuff down the drain!
Ellie, this was posted last year linking what I had added to a greens/pot likker thread in 2013. It is from a memoir my g-grandmother wrote in the 20’s about her youth on the Louisiana place. This is the same farm I grew up knowing, we’ve managed to keep it in the family since the 1850’s but I’m probably the last guy.
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