As you recall, I spent New Years Day freezing my…..fingers…off in the garden, and that would be just plain silly to go to all that trouble if we didn’t cook and eat those yummy greens and turnips, right? So here’s the promised post on how to cook greens and turnips! Don’t be afraid! They’ll be delicious. Frankly, I think greens and turnips get an awfully bad rap in the food world. I mean, be honest, when you think about turnips, don’t you have some vision of starving Russian peasants huddled around eating turnips because there’s nothing better to eat? Bah! Turnips have a delicious character all their own that deserves to be featured with their counterparts, the greens.
First, we’re going to start with about 2 pounds of fresh, mixed greens. These are turnip greens and mustard greens. Usually, I also add kale, tendergreens, and rutabaga greens, but frankly, I was ready to go inside and decided these would be enough. For Tony and I, this will make enough greens for about three meals. If you want to cook a huge stockpot of greens, you’ll need about six pounds of greens. My great-grandmother actually counted how many leaves it took to fill her stock pot, and tradition has it that she needed 900 leaves to feed her family. That’s a bit….odd….I admit. I just know that a full half-bushel basket is two pounds, and a large grocery sack also appears to be about two pounds. That’s good enough for me!
Next we’re going to toss all these greens into the sink and rinse them at least five times. Just put ‘em in the sink, run water over them, and work them like you would hand-washing laundry. After a few minutes, drain the water and start again. Our goal is to remove any dirt that splashed up onto the leaves and, to be honest, any bugs that might have hitch-hiked their way home with you. Keep washing them until you feel pretty confident about them. It doesn’t take long, and it’s also a good opportunity to pick out any large stems or yellowed leaves that you don’t want. [See our turnips nice and clean in the left sink? You're next, my pretties!]
Once you’ve washed them thoroughly, you can cram these greens into a pot that’s half-filled with water and has about three tablespoons of oil in it. I like to use olive oil, but it doesn’t really matter. That’s right, cram as many leaves as will fit in there and jam the lid down on top. You can add the leaves in stages, and if you are cooking in a smaller pot, chances are that you’ll need to do so. You may also want to add salt, a hambone, bacon, an onion, peppers, or whatever flavor you think will be complementary. After that, just boil them down until you get all the greens in there and they are tender. This will take about 30-45 minutes.
Now, on to the turnips! While the greens are cooking, I’ve cut off the ends of the turnips. Next, I’ll peel them, being sure to remove all of the thick peeling, about 1/4 inch thick. You can use a vegetable peeler to remove thin layers, but I prefer to use a sharp knife and make quicker work of it. When that is finished, dice them up and put them in a pot with enough water to cover. Boil them for about half an hour, or until they are soft enough to pick up with a fork.
So, here’s our winter veggies, with their favorite companions, sweet potatos, the black-eyed peas, mini corn muffins, and smoked turkey sausage. Boy, was Tony surprised when he came home! I always try to cook him a few real dinners right before the semester starts, because goodness knows I won’t be much in the mood for cooking the first few weeks of school! The turnips are served with a bit of butter.
And here’s a little something to finish it off. Most of us eat greens with some kind of spicy condiment. Pictured here are homemade pepper sauce, made with the summer peppers, homemade chow-chow (also called piccalilli), and commercially produced pepper sauce. I’ve also known people to eat their greens with salsa, and would do so if I couldn’t get chow-chow, which is my favorite greens additive. [Chow-chow is a pickled cabbage, green tomato, and pepper chutney, usually made from the last bits of the summer garden.]
Now, I know I’m a lucky lucky girl to have access to all these fresh greens, but if you happen to live in a part of the country where they aren’t easy to come by, do not despair! Hie thee to your local grocery store and get a hold of these, but please, accept no substitutes. I’ve tasted a lot of canned greens in my time, and Glory Greens are the only ones that are an adequate substitute for fresh greens.
So, now you, too, have the secrets of greens and turnips at your disposal. You don’t have to spend one more unlucky, unprosperous year!
I hope you enjoyed this foray into my kitchen. I’m not a gourmet, by any means, and most evenings Tony is just lucky to get dinner. But I do enjoy a good bit of southern cooking once in awhile, just to remind my Georgia Boy that I’m still the Southern Belle he [thinks] he married.