What makes Southern food, well…Southern? Is it the ingredients? The physical location in which it’s cooked? The preparation method? Or is it more about who is doing the cooking?
I wish the answer was that simple. For me, Southern food is about all those things and so much more. It is as much defined by history as it is emotion. Sure, we can automatically classify dishes like gumbo and grits as Southern, but why are those things any more Southern than my grandmother’s pot roast or my mother’s stuffed cabbage?
The truth is, it doesn’t really matter.
What does matter is that you share the goodness, regardless of what you call it. In sharing your food, you share your history, your family, your life.
In celebrating all the things making up Southern food, here are some of my most favorite Southern sides for y’all to try. These are my takes on dishes that have sustained generations of southerners.
Okra and Green Tomato Fritters are everything you love about fried okra and fried green tomatoes all rolled into one delicious morsel. A sweet reader shared a recipe for okra fritters years back, and I’ve been adapting and switching it up ever since.
Southern Fried Corn is probably one of my most favorite summertime side dishes. The trick with fried corn is all in scraping the cob. You’ve got to cut the kernels off and then use the back of the knife to scrape all the extra starch off the cob. That gives the dish its unique flavor and texture.
Squash and Onions is one of those simple dishes that feels so comforting. While my recipe calls for bacon grease or butter, the bacon grease sure does add more flavor. I’ve also had quite a few readers say they allow all the liquid to cook out and let the squash brown a little. Either way, it’s super delicious.
Macaroni and Tomatoes is another one of those classic comfort foods that calls for bacon grease. It’s part of the dish’s flavor profile. Again, you can use butter, but I highly recommend the bacon grease. Many folks remember this dish as a bit sweet, so I’ve included some notes for you to add sugar if that suits your taste.
Since several of these recipes include bacon grease, here are some tips for saving and using this liquid gold.
I always recommend you strain the warm, but not hot, grease though a coffee filter and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
I’m going to guess you remember your mama or grandmama having a metal can of bacon grease sitting on the back of the stove. Chances are they used their bacon grease a lot more frequently and didn’t give it time to go rancid. We don’t use it as much these days, and to prevent it from spoiling, we can strain and store it properly. You can store it in the freezer, too, but it’s harder to use when frozen. The fat is still spreadable and scoopable in the fridge.
Hope that helps. Y’all enjoy!