Quick Recipes and Easy

Southern Cooking Techniques

You can find hundreds of recipes for Southern Cooking on the internet, but what they fail to tell you is the techniques needed to turn those recipes into real southern dishes.

On the subject of Southern recipes, I’m sorry to say that what is often represented as a Southern recipe, is not. For instance, when you see a recipe for Southern cornbread that includes sugar, that is NOT Southern. I lived all my life in the South and traveled the world but have never met a Southerner that puts sugar in cornbread. We call that “Yankee” cornbread. That is cake, not cornbread.

Back to the subject at hand, assuming you have real Southern recipes, you can still wind up with a dish that is not truly Southern if you do not use Southern cooking techniques. You may produce something that is excellent but the technique makes it more than excellent, it makes it special.

Cooking Method:
Southerners fry more of their dishes than any other people I know. Therefore, for the most part, Southern cooking is not low stout. But, you can lessen the stout content with the choice of cooking oil you use. If this is a concern, don’t use animal fats, lard or saturated oils. I generally use corn or safflower oil. Believe it or not, with dishes that do not require high temperatures, I use olive oil. The point here is to just be prepared to fry a lot with Southern cooking.

Traditional Southern cooking calls for cast iron. You should obtain an 8 and 10 inch skillet and medium pot for your cookware. Cast iron is inexpensive and can frequently be found at thrift stores for two or three dollars, if you have one near you.

The cast iron retains heat a long time and burns fingers readily. But it transfers heat like no other material. You must “cure” or “season” your cast iron before using or you will have a problem with sticking and rust. While the manufaturers instructions for curing are inadequate, they will do. Never use anything but cast iron for cornbread and never cook anything but cornbread in your “cornbread skillet”. For most recipes, you will want to heat the cast iron (like pre-heating the oven) before you add the ingredients.

Regular Milk vs. Buttermilk:
In most situations, when a recipe calls for milk, in Southern cooking, you would use buttermilk. You should always use buttermilk for your cornbread and biscuits. It provides a unique flavor that screams ”Southern”. Here’s a tip: if you do not keep buttermilk on hand (I don’t), you can make your own by adding about a spoon of white vinegar to a cup of regular milk. Stir and let sit about a minute. You will have a substitute buttermilk for cooking purposes (I do not recommend drinking….although I have never tried it).

Cooking Time:
Many Southern dishes (mostly vegetables) are cooked much longer than you would find in restaurants or homes in other parts of the country. Specifically, green beans, okra, turnip greens, mustard and collards. Vegetables cooked Southern style are NOT bright colored and crunchy (like Chinese stir fry). They are tender and flavorful. An exception to the “crunchy” observation is fried okra. Okra is cooked until nearly burned. It is coated with cornmeal and is, indeed, crunchy. On the other hand, other vegetables such as green beans are cooked around two hours until they are tender and dark green in color.

This is one of the most vital techniques that distinguishes Southern cooking from other styles. Spicy (hot) flavors are seldom used except for cajun cooking, which is a style of cooking all it’s own. Onion, bacon and salt are used extensively for seasoning. All greens, black eyed peas, green beans, most anything cooked by boiling in water, is seasoned with salt, a chunk of onion and a slice of bacon (or bacon drippings).

While not a technique, it is vital to combine certain foods to produce a traditional Southern meal. Combinations of the following are typical. Fried chicken, fried pork chops, greens (turnip, mustard, collards), black eyed peas, fried okra, cornbread and green beans. So, for a real Southern treat, get an authenic Southern recipe, follow these techniques and watch your family question for more.

Ken Miller is a freelance writer and owner of several websites. For real Southern recipes visit his site at itzalgud.com itzalgud.com All the recipes are free.

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