Ode to Bacon Grease
By: Angela Gillaspie Copyright (c)2019
Ham hocks don't do justice to my home cooking, and salt pork doesn't either. The only seasoning to give that delicious, salty, sultry, wonderful, smoky flavor is bacon grease.
Most Southerners are raised to save all forms of bacon grease and put it in a can next to the stove. There ain't no seasoning on the market shelves that can do the same bodacious things to food that bacon grease does.
Gone are the days when most of us had to load up on calories and fat to be fortified enough to pick cotton, wash diapers, bale hay, and drive the bush hog all day. Nowadays, we don't get enough exercise and need to cut calories and fat because no one wants the physique of an older Elvis Presley.
I agree that we should cut fat, but not bacon grease. I will run laps around my mail box to work off any inches that glorious bacon grease might add to my thighs. If I couldn't season my cornbread with bacon grease, I might as well just eat a handful of sawdust.
For Sunday breakfast, I usually try to do something special for my family because all during the week, they eat frozen waffles, cold cereal, and Pop Tarts. I fry a bunch of bacon and sausage, and then I spoon out some of the drippings and fry my eggs in it. With the leftover drippings, I make sawmill gravy and ladle it over a couple of piping hot cat-head biscuits, oh baby. Sawmill gravy is really yummy over grits, too, unless you are a liberal democrat who likes sugar on your grits.
I don't want you to think that bacon grease is good only for your occasional sawmill gravy, beans, and cornbread. Lord have mercy, no. We Southerners have been known to use bacon grease just as we'd use butter. Some of us have been known to put it on the supper table with a spoon in it! Bacon grease is the best seasoning for greens (cabbage, turnip greens, collard greens, poke salet, spinach), beans (pinto, navy, butterbean, kidney, green, Lima) and peas (black-eyed, purple-hulled, pink-eyed, English). There are also other vegetables like grits, onions, potatoes, and carrots that bacon grease imparts its earthy flavoring.
In addition to vegetables, bacon grease makes a delicious dressing. Heat some bacon grease in your favorite cast iron skillet, and stir in vinegar and sugar. Serve this dressing hot and on the side with tossed tender young lettuce leaves and chopped green-tail onions.
Okay, now that I have persuaded you about bacon grease, where do you start? First, you have to start saving the drippings from your bacon. You can put the grease in any container you like -- it just depends on your preferences. I use an old percolator coffeepot to put my drippings in. My Momma uses a real bacon grease holder. Her container separates out the bits of bacon from the liquid grease. Personally, I like all of those little pieces of bacon because they add character to my dishes.
Some folks cook up a bunch of bacon in their cast iron skillet and leave the grease sitting there. The next time they cook, the grease is already in the pan and ready to go. Just heat up the skillet with the grease and then plop in your eggs or hash browns. The skillet won't rust (actually, that's how you season a cast iron skillet, by the way) and the grease won't go bad unless a bug falls in the grease or you have mice in your house.
You may also wonder about the shelf life of bacon grease. There is a restaurant in Memphis, Tennessee, named Dyer's Hamburgers, that fries its hamburgers in eighty-five year old grease. I reckon bacon grease would keep forever, but mine never lasts that long.
With a seasoning as versatile as bacon grease, you won't have to buy as much salt, ham hocks, and other flavorings. Therefore, using bacon grease can save you a lot of money.
Go ahead down to the yard sale at the corner and purchase that pretty little grease container that you've had your eye on since last week. Next, fire up the stove and fry up a pound or two of bacon and then save your drippings. Now you are prepared to create your own culinary masterpieces with the awesome flavoring of my dear bacon grease.
Angela Gillaspie, Copyright 1998-2017 all rights fried golden in bacon drippins'
Check out my recipes using bacon grease!
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