Perhaps the best fall example of haute flavor in Southern cuisine would be a big bowl of expertly cooked greens. While I didn’t always appreciate them as a child, I crave them now. It’s a great example of how your tastes do change over the years … foods you didn’t think you liked in your youth take on a different light as we age.
I adore all kinds of cooked greens, including turnip greens, collards and mustard greens with some kale thrown into the pot to make it interesting. When the steamy bowl heads to the table, it requires three things:
The pot liquor it was cooked in
A pan of hot buttered cornbread
It’s the pepper sauce that I find lacking in many establishments that get the other two components correct. When I say pepper sauce, I am not talking about hot sauce, which is a common mistake when serving greens. It’s pepper sauce, which is an ingenious combination of only two ingredients: hot peppers and distilled white vinegar.
This past weekend, I pulled up the last of my pepper plants from the backyard garden. A few nights of cooler than usual temperatures had taken the plants to the point of no return. It was time to harvest everything left on the stems, then say goodbye.
All summer, I have been allowing the pods to turn from vibrant green to fire engine red. Then I would string them and allow the peppers to dry. I use them whole or sometimes grind them to make killer ground red pepper. When I started harvesting, I was surprised at the number of pepper pods left on the plants. That meant only one thing … that it was time to make my yearly supply of pepper sauce.
The recipe could not be easier to make. After washing the peppers in cool water, I dried them in a colander and packed them tightly in canning jars. It only took boiling some distilled white vinegar over medium high heat to pour over the contents and I was on my way. I immediately covered the jars with the lids and allowed them to cool to room temperature on a wire rack. That’s it! Now all I need to do is let them sit in the back of my pantry for a couple of weeks. That will give my planted turnip greens just enough time to get a touch of frost and I’ll have a bowl of Southern sunshine on my table.
Note: Refrigerate the opened jar and bring to room temperature when ready to use.