Potlikker (or pot liquor) is a traditional staple of Southern cuisine. Sometimes called collard liquor, it is the liquid left behind after a pot of greens (usually collard, mustard, or turnip greens) has been cooked. It was originally made popular on the plantations of the South. It is wonderfully healthy, packed with vitamins and nutrients. Southern lore states that it was prescribed for a host of ailments. In fact, the nutrients in the greens are leeched out during cooking, and all that precious goodness sticks around in the potlikker. That’s why it’s so important to drink it! But really, it’s just so good, you don’t need a reason to lap it up!
You do, however, need to figure out whether you’re going to go the purist route, or change it up a little. I say do it both ways and see what you like more. For me, it depends on my mood. I love a good pot of greens with some cornbread (or cornpone!) on the side. There have been passionate debates for decades about whether to dunk or crumble. I love to dunk the cornbread; but the real Southern purists will say to crumble. This was actually the topic of a passionate debate titled: “The Potlikker and Cornpone Debate of 1931”. It pitted the editor of a newspaper against the then-governor of Louisiana. Google it sometime. You’ll be reminded (or informed) of a bygone era when political and public debates were based on real meaningful subjects! 🙂
This recipe also reminds me of the time in the early 2000s when I worked as a private chef for a very famous singer-songwriter-producer. His family often requested greens. I always had such fun cooking them. I would mix collard, mustard, sometimes even beet greens and swiss chard, and make a broth out of smoked turkey, red wine vinegar, crushed red pepper flakes, garlic, and other goodies. The potlikker was always served in the greens as sort of a soup. The warming effect on the mind and body is unlike any other. There was usually some left over, and I always made it a point to take a little. And I always dunked my cornbread into it.
After a while, I looked at different ways to serve potlikker and greens. I saw an idea somewhere (can’t remember where) for potlikker with noodles, and thought this was a fabulous idea. It reminded me of something like a southern chicken noodle soup. (What can be better than that??) So, I tweaked and changed and updated until I was happy. The recipe below is the end result.
Try this recipe soon on a day when you need some extra comfort and nourishment. I think you’ll like it as much as my family and I did.
- Note #1: This time around, I used dandelion greens, because, well… I felt like it. Dandelion greens have a wonderfully bitter flavor, but it can be an acquired taste – especially for the youngins. So feel free to use whichever type of greens you desire. Just know that collards take longer to get tender than mustard or even swiss chard, so it would be better to use a more quick-cooking green for this recipe.
- Note #2: I wanted to see what it would taste like if I used another type of vinegar – something other than the usual red wine variety. My family loves fish and chips, so we always have good malt vinegar hanging around. I added this to the potlikker and LOVED the results! It’s, well…malty! It adds a depth and richness to the broth that wasn’t achieved before. I think I’ll keep it!
- Note #3: Make sure to leave a couple of hours for the broth to cook before putting the final dish together, or make the potlikker up to two days ahead. Chill potlikker and smoked turkey separately, covering both tightly.