Turnip greens have long been a favorite vegetable in the South. Turnip greens -- like collard greens and mustard greens -- are usually cooked with ham or pork. This version is cooked with salt pork, but you could use another kind of pork cut. Bacon, streaky bacon (pork belly), ham hocks, hog jowl, smoked pork chops, or a similar meat. Many people like to add a small amount of sugar to their turnip greens, but that is entirely optional.
Cleaning the greens is a very important step when you are using fresh greens. Put the trimmed greens in a clean sink and cover them with cold water. Shake them and swish them around, drain them, and do it a few more times. When you no longer feel grit in the bottom of the sink. The greens should be grit-free. Even if the package says "cleaned," rinse them again to be absolutely sure. Sandy greens are very unpleasant, to say the least.
To serve any Southern greens, make sure you offer plenty of hot, freshly baked cornbread or cornbread muffins. Hot pepper sauce (hot pepper vinegar) is wonderful, or serve them with plain apple cider vinegar. See the tips and variations for pepper sauce directions. It's easy to make but needs time in the fridge for best flavor.
- 4 pounds turnip greens
- 1 pound salt pork (or similar fatty pork)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Kosher salt (to taste)
- Optional: 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- Optional: 1 dash crushed red pepper (or to taste)
- Cut off and discard tough stems and discolored leaves from greens. For large leaves with large, tough stems, fold the leaf in half and cut or tear the stem out. Stack several leaves and slice them crosswise into 1-inch thick pieces.
- Wash the greens thoroughly in the sink; drain and wash again. Repeat the cleaning until you don't feel any sand on the greens or the bottom of the sink.
- Scrape the salt off of the salt pork or rinse it under cold running water to remove the excess salt. The salt pork has a tough skin. Carefully run a large sharp knife between the tough skin and the softer fat. Discard the tough skin and dice the fat.
- In a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat, cook the salt pork until it is crisp and browned. Add the water, cleaned turnip greens, onion, black pepper, sugar, if using, and crushed red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer the greens for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the greens are tender. Taste and add kosher salt, as needed.
- Serve with vinegar or pepper sauce (see below) and freshly baked cornbread.
Tips and Variations
- How to Make Pepper Sauce (Pepper Vinegar Sauce) - Sterilize a canning jar. Pack the jar with cleaned small hot peppers. Pour boiling white vinegar over the peppers, covering them completely and leave a little headspace. Cover and refrigerate the pepper sauce for a few weeks before using.
- Greens With Garlic - Add 1 or 2 minced cloves of garlic to the greens along with the chopped onion.
- Turnip Greens With Bacon - Use thick sliced bacon in place of the salt pork.