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Collards with Cornmeal Dumplings



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Collards with Cornmeal Dumplings

This recipe is from one of my very favorite cookbooks
Butter Beans to Blackberries: Harvest of the South
by Ronni Lundy (1999, Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

In addition to containing excellent recipes, the book is a veritable treasure
trove of anecdotes and background information on the culinary heritage of
the South. In addition, parts of it are sheer poetry. This is "a cookbook that
puts you on the front porch, snapping beans, sipping iced tea, and waiting
for your peach cobbler to come out of the oven." [MG]

"This dish can also be made with kale, but in the coastal regions of North
Carolina, and some parts of South Carolina, where cornmeal dumplings
with greens is a regional delicacy, collards are preferred.

"You will need to make this in a lidded wide pot (10 inches in diameter
is adequate) to give the dumplings enough room. You want enough space
between the dumplings for steam to side and cook them thoroughly. If you
must use a narrower pot, cook fewer dumplings. Lay the leftover uncooked
dumplings on a cookie sheet, press slightly to flatten, and bake at 450
degrees  F. for about 5 minutes, until they turn golden. Call them corn
pons and serve them hot."

3/4 pound fresh collard greens
3 1/2 cups ham broth
(recipe follows)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup diced lean country ham, or
1/2 cup diced ham

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup finely ground white cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon bacon grease
1/4 cup milk, plus more if needed

Rinse the greens thoroughly. Remove and discard any stems. Slice the
leaves into strips about 1/2 inch wide.
In a wide-mouthed pot with a lid, bring the greens, ham broth, and salt to
a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to medium, cover, and cook the greens at a slow simmer for 35 minutes to 1 hour, until just tender.
While the greens are cooking, prepare the dumplings by mixing together
the flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking powder. Using a fork or your fingers, lightly mix in the bacon grease. When well blended, add the milk and stir.
The dough should be wet and firm, not runny. If you need more milk, add
it a teaspoon at a time, being careful not to make the mixture soupy. When
the dough holds together like playdough or clay, scoop it up by the table-
spoonful. Very lightly pat each spoonful into a ball, and lay the balls on a
plate. Cover the plate securely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the
greens are ready.
When the greens are just tender, add the ham to the pot and stir. The broth should come up high enough to cover the greens. If not, add boiling water
until it does. Gently drop dumplings into the broth, leaving at least 1/4 inch
of space around each. Cover, and turn the heat on low. Steam the dump-
lings for 20 minutes. (Don’t take the lid off the pot while they cook.)
Divide the dumplings among four serving bowls, ladle greens and broth
over them, and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Ham Broth

"The preferred Southern seasoning for cooked vegetables is cured pork, a culinary choice first made for convenience (pigs were plentiful throughout
the South and their cured meat products available year-round), but still
popular because of its extraordinary complementary flavor.
"…I like to have homemade ham broth on hand, just as I do turkey and chicken broth. I make it in much the same way, using the bone and any leftover meat from a whole holiday ham. This is simmered for an hour
or more in a stockpot filled with water to cover the bone, augmented by
celery and onion. Then I remove the solids from the broth (pressing both
vegetables and meat to extract flavorful juice) and refrigerate it overnight.
The next day, it’s easy to skim the fat, which has solidified on the top,
and discard it. I then transfer the broth to individual plastic containers
(1- and 2-cup sizes) and freeze until needed.
"…it’s also possible to make a quick broth for a recipe on the spot, by simmering a small chunk of salt pork or white bacon for 30 minutes in
the amount of water called for in the recipe plus 1/4 cup (which is about
what tends to evaporate)."

"But I have never tasted meat,
Nor cabbage, corn nor beans,
Nor fluid food one half as sweet
As that first mess of greens."
– Cotton Noe, The Loom of Life (1912)

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