Thanksgiving is here! Where am I today? In the kitchen cooking for the feast. Well, not exactly.
A napkin from our Thanksgiving Day set
My Thanksgiving traditions have changed over the years. All the years I grew up my parents and I had Thanksgiving lunch at 12:00 noon. I’d get up, watch the parades on TV, then set the table with china, glassware, tablecloth and linen napkins that were used only once a year on Thanksgiving. All the dishes that loaded the table were the same each year. In addition to the turkey and giblet gravy we had potato salad (never creamed potatoes for some reason), butter beans, squash and onions, deviled eggs, sweet potatoes, collards, dressing, brown & serve rolls, and pumpkin pie. Our plates were so loaded there was never room for seconds. And the butter beans, squash, and collards all came from my father’s garden.
This tradition lasted long after I was married and my husband and two daughters all came to PawPaw’s and Memaw’s for Thanksgiving. With my mother’s death in 2001, my dad no longer wanted a big dinner, so I moved the dinner with all its trimmings to my house for several years, eventually moving it back to my dad’s house. After my father’s death in 2005 though, suddenly I wanted something completely different.
So my husband and children and I started traveling on Thanksgiving Day to Berkeley
Cacapon State Park Lodge
Springs, WV for Thanksgiving at the Cacapon Lodge, a wonderful old pine paneled 1950s era lodge, with a dear friend of my husband’s from college. After stuffing ourselves at the lodge’s buffet we would adjourn to the lodge’s rec room and play cut-throat Scrabble. I was deemed the Scrabble Whore (SW for short) because I planned every play for the maximum number of points.
After many years of this tradition, my aunt and cousins started having a big family Thanksgiving celebration at my aunt’s house. Of course my family was invited and we began our current tradition of taking a side dish and having a fun day of food and family.
Fresh Collard Greens
From the beginning of this traditional Thanksgiving outing, my sole side dish to bring has been my father’s melt-in-your-mouth collards. I’ll be cooking them tomorrow and into Thursday, as I cook one pot for my house and one pot for the celebration. In fact, I cook a whole Thanksgiving feast–almost all the dishes I grew up with–so that after Turkey day, I can still enjoy all the dishes I so love for at least four or five days more.
PawPaw’s Collard Greens
3 pounds of collards, fresh or frozen. If fresh, be sure to wash thoroughly and trim the stalks off and tear into pieces your desired size.
1 lb hog jowl bacon (only hog jowl will do. No other part of the pig–i.e. ham, bacon, fat back will work)
salt and pepper to taste
Slice the hog jowl (it also comes pre-sliced) and layer the bottom of a slow cooker* to cover. Add 1/3 of collards (or one package frozen). Spread evenly over the hog jowl. Layer another layer of hog jowl and add another 1/3 of collards (a second bag frozen). Layer another layer of jowl and the final 1/3 of collards. If there is any jowl left, lay it on top. If using fresh collards, add 1/2 cup water.
Cook on High setting for about 4-5 hours.
Check collards at 5 hour mark, stirring gently. Add water if they aren’t moist. Replace lid and switch to low setting. Cook an additional 6 hours, stirring every few hours and adding water as necessary (if they seem to be sticking to the sides of the slow cooker, add water).
After 12 hours the collards should be tender and melt-in-your mouth good. Serve with your Thanksgiving meal.
*My father originally cooked his collards in a pressure cooker that was, while much quicker, much more scary. I was always sent out of the kitchen when he was cooking them in case of an explosion. Eventually, he discovered he could get the same results by cooking the collards slower and longer in the slow cooker.
Thanks so much for stopping by! Hope you enjoyed my little walk down memory lane. Come back next week for pics of my Thanksgiving and another recipe full of southern comfort. 🙂