11 Southern Cooking Tips from Country Kitchens
Enjoy this down-home wisdom, plus a heaping helping of tips and tricks for country cooking recipes.
Southerners take a special pride in their cooking, with almost-sacred recipes handed down generation after generation. But that pride also extends to helping out those northerners who are trying their hand at Southern dishes. Call it Southern hospitality, with cooks reveal cooking tips, tricks and secrets from Southern kitchens. Here are some to consider.
They make their cast-iron skillets last more than a lifetime
For Southern cooks, handing down their prized cast-iron skillet is a rite of passage. Seasoned over generations of cooking, the skillets are positively treasured.
But what if Memaw didn’t take great care of it? Here’s how to make a skillet good as new.
They make use of anything available
Summer is high time to make fresh-from-the-vine legume recipes. But what about the rest of the year? Fresh butter beans or black-eyed peas freeze for up to six months. First, shell and wash them. Then, the trick: Blanch them for two minutes in boiling water. Transfer the drained beans into freezer bags, push out the air, close and freeze. Use them straight from the freezer in recipes calling for canned peas or beans, like black-eyed pea sausage stew.
Presentation is key
When planning meals, ensure you’ll have a variety of colors on the plate. Southern cooks would never pair green beans with another green vegetable.
They can keep any fried food from getting mushy
If you’re frying veggies with high water content, like zucchini, give them a quick dip in flour to absorb some of the moisture before running them through the batter. They won’t come out mushy then.
They always save bacon grease
Let the grease cool in the pan. It’ll harden into a cloudy mass. Then simply use a spatula to scrape up the puttylike fat into an airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to a month. Alternately, you could carefully drain the fat while it’s still warm, running it through a sieve. But then you wouldn’t get all those tiny, crumbly bacon bits. When cooking side dishes like Southern okra, simply add a dollop of the fat to the pan for a smoky, bacony flavor.
They save ham bones, too
If you’re making a holiday ham dinner, save the bone and reuse it when making bean dishes. Simply drop the bone in a simmering pot of beans to give them a richer flavor.
They have a low-tech secret for making banana pudding.
No thermometers here! According to Southern cooks, nothing beats a simple wooden spoon when it comes to determining the right consistency of custards. Coat the spoon with the mixture, then run your finger across the back of the spoon. If it leaves a clean trail with a very thin film underneath, your custard is at the right thickness.
For Southern cooks, Coca-Cola is more than just a beverage
Add a splash to your gumbo when it’s simmering to add a touch of sweetness to that thick stew. Or pour it into cake batter for an extra fluffy dessert.
They’ve turned potato salad into a make-ahead dish.
Turns out, you can keep it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. Still, it tends to dry out, so you can spoon in a bit of mayonnaise or yogurt to bring it back to the right consistency.
They’ve mastered the biscuit
Use cold dough to ensure that biscuits are light and fluffy. Also, after kneading the dough, make it a rectangle and fold it over toward the middle. Flatten it into a rectangle and fold it over again. Repeat a few times to get flaky biscuits.
They take butter above and beyond.
Elevate cornbread by substituting Cajun butter on top. It provides a sweet heat to the flavor of cornbread and complements the savory aspects of Southern cuisine.