Streak o’ Lean

by Lana Stuart on November 30, 2012 · 52 comments

Streak o' Lean

I have debated with myself for a long time about whether to post this recipe. A really long time. Not just because almost nobody is going to know what it is. Those folks are going to be few and far between. But mostly because old-time southern food has had such a bad reputation. It doesn’t need me adding fuel to the fire with old recipes that just reinforce that stereotype. Yet, despite all those reasons nagging me, I still wanted to do it. So, here it is. Streak o’ Lean.

Who’s ever heard of Streak o’ Lean? Speak up. <testing, testing, is this thing on?>

Okay, well Streak o’ Lean is kind of the opposite of bacon. Where bacon is smoked and has a streak of fat among the lean meat, streak o’ lean is salt cured and has a streak of lean among the fat. Yes, that’s right, streak o’ lean is salt pork. Salt pork taken a step further by coating it in flour and deep frying.

Now before you send the food police around to my house and start proceedings to revoke my official food bloggers license, just wait a minute. As crazy as the food world is today about bacon, if I had said I was deep frying bacon some of y’all would be in a swoon right now. You know you would.

And besides, this is not something to be eaten every day of the week. As a matter of fact, the best I can remember it has been about 25 years since I last cooked Streak o’ Lean. Although it can still be found on restaurant buffet lines in rural areas of the South, it’s really one of those once or twice in a lifetime kind of recipes. But be warned, once you’ve had it you’ll never forget it. You’ll crave it. You’ll look for it at every buffet and you’ll make an excuse to “just have a little bite.”

Salt Pork for Streak o' Lean

So how do you cook Streak o’ Lean? Well, you start with some salt pork. It’s the same thing that you use to season your pot of greens or a pot of baked beans. You can buy it in one piece or sliced. Go ahead and get the sliced for this recipe.

Salt Pork soaking for Streak o' Lean

Before you go any further you need to soak the salt pork. This step draws out a lot of the salt and believe me you don’t want to skip this. I know some restaurants that don’t soak it at all, just fry it up. I prefer to draw out some of the salt first. I happened to have buttermilk on hand and used it this time. Any kind of milk works just fine. Some people, instead of soaking, will boil the salt pork for about ten minutes, drain it and then proceed with the recipe. If you’re short on time, that works great.

Peppered Streak o' Lean

Now remove the salt pork from the milk letting most of it drain away. Discard the milk. Place the salt pork on a baking sheet and sprinkle it liberally with ground pepper.

Floured Salt Pork for Streak o' Lean

Then flour it well on both sides.

Streak o' Lean Frying

Heat about a 1/4 inch of peanut oil in a heavy skillet. When the oil is hot, carefully lower the prepared pieces of salt pork into the pan. Cook, turning once, until lightly browned, crispy, and cooked through.

Put the finished sliced on a paper towel lined plate to remove excess oil.

Enjoy! (?)

Streak o’ Lean
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A very old deep south recipe for Streak o' Lean.
Ingredients
  • Salt pork
  • Milk or buttermilk
  • Pepper
  • Flour
  • Peanut oil
Instructions
  1. Place the sliced salt pork in a container and cover with milk or buttermilk. Let sit for several hours to draw out some of the salt. Remove the salt pork from the milk. Discard the milk.
  2. Pepper each slice of salt pork and then dredge lightly in flour.
  3. Add peanut oil to a depth of a ¼ inch to a heavy skillet. Heat the oil over medium high heat. Carefully add the prepared salt pork slices to the hot oil. Cook, turning once, until lightly browned and cooked through (about 7-8 minutes).
  4. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain excess oil.
Notes
This recipe is presented primarily for historical purposes. Nobody really eats this way every day :-)

I usually link to other similar recipes in this space, but I have to tell you there’s almost nothing on the internet about Streak-o-Lean. So, instead here are a few links about salt pork.

What I was up to:

 

Streak o’ Lean
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A very old deep south recipe for Streak o' Lean.
Recipe type: main dish, entree
Cuisine: Southern
Ingredients
  • Salt pork
  • Milk or buttermilk
  • Pepper
  • Flour
  • Peanut oil
Instructions
  1. Place the sliced salt pork in a container and cover with milk or buttermilk. Let sit for several hours to draw out some of the salt. Remove the salt pork from the milk. Discard the milk.
  2. Pepper each slice of salt pork and then dredge lightly in flour.
  3. Add peanut oil to a depth of a ¼ inch to a heavy skillet. Heat the oil over medium high heat. Carefully add the prepared salt pork slices to the hot oil. Cook, turning once, until lightly browned and cooked through (about 7-8 minutes).
  4. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain excess oil.
Notes
This recipe is presented primarily for historical purposes. Nobody really eats this way every day :-)

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{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Neena November 30, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Yes I admit that I look for it on buffet lines too. There is no other flavor that says South like this does. Thanks for posing this. Makes me want to go out and buy some.

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2 Lana November 30, 2012 at 8:27 pm

Miss P told me that they have recently re-opened the restaurant at Merry Acres in Albany. They always have Streak o’ Lean on their lunch buffet. Next time you’re over that way, you might stop by there for lunch :-)

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3 vi November 30, 2012 at 12:09 pm

up north they have something like that called scrapple

and lana, lemme tell you…. back ‘in the day’ folks needed all the calories they could get from fat…… cause real food (not the processed plastic stuff you get nowadays) didn’t have a whole lot of fast calories…..
fats did
and fats are necessary in the diet ……. real fats not those engineered fats

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4 Wendyvee December 1, 2012 at 12:29 am

Vi –
Scrapple is really pretty different from this. As my grandma used to say “it’s everything but the oink”. It includes parts of the head, the liver, heart, and various other pieces & parts – mixed with cornmeal and/or flour. I’ve never liked it but some people (particularly in Pennsylvania) just love it.

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5 Sempergeo November 23, 2013 at 9:46 am

Wendy – I was born in Doylestown (Bucks) and absolutely love scrapple. I agree it is nothing like streak o lean… But I’m getting some salt pork today!

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6 vi November 30, 2012 at 12:10 pm

oh and if you don’t post it……… who’s going to remember their heritage?

your readers are mature enough to either not use it if they object…… or just read it with interest as ‘that’s how it was done’

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7 Wendyvee December 1, 2012 at 12:32 am

Vi is right, Lana. I love learning new recipes … even when I might never make them (though I might have to try this one — the “Mr” will love it)

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8 Branch November 30, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Hi Lana – Yes, I remember streak o lean from my South Atlanta childhood. It always was covered with white salt crystals, and was used mostly in green beans. My cousin and I would sit on the porch and string the beans. Good times.

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9 Barbara | Creative Culinary November 30, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Whoa…it has been 27 years for me! I admit I’ve forgotten about it since moving to Colorado but you’re right…a breakfast buffet without grits and streak o’ lean was simply lacking! Funny, I’m working on a grits recipe now; the holidays can make me sentimental since my girls were born in NC and those first early years with them were some of the best. This just adds to the time travel; thanks for posting.

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10 Carla Griffin November 30, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Don’t throw that buttermilk away! Use it to make cornbread.

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11 Lana November 30, 2012 at 8:32 pm

I’d never thought of using the buttermilk for cornbread! Good idea. Maybe a little salty, though :-)

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12 Miss P November 30, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Ok, I confess. I love streak o lean. Fried fat. With salt. That’s two of the four food groups right there. The other two food groups are sugar and chocolate, just in case somebody is counting.

And, it’s been over a decade since I had streak o lean. I may have to remedy that pretty soon.

Miss P

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13 Lana November 30, 2012 at 8:36 pm

Yes, once a decade is about right for enjoying this recipe. And I love your four food groups! I’ll have to remember those :-)

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14 Phyllis November 30, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Oh my goodness. I had completely forgotten about this! I haven’t eaten it for probably close to 40+ years. My Dad used to make it for us for dinner along with SOS on a night when he wanted some it himself.

I remember most of my siblings going “ugh”. But, not me… I loved it. Thanks for posting this and bringing back many memories.

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15 Brenda November 30, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Lana – remember when everyone in Albany would go to Merry Acres for Sunday dinner after church JUST so we could grab as many pieces of Streak o’ Lean as we could put on our plates from their Sunday buffet? We all claimed it was for their fried chicken – and that was yummy too – but I could have skipped the chicken completely for that salt pork!

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16 Lana November 30, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Yes, lord, I remember! People would eat that Streak o’ Lean faster than the kitchen could fry it up and put it out on the buffet. I heard that the restaurant has re-opened and you just might be able to find some on their lunch buffet!

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17 Rhonda November 30, 2012 at 6:57 pm

I could eat that whole plate right now!!! Let me at it!! Keep that southern stuff coming!!

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18 Lana November 30, 2012 at 8:45 pm

You should have come over and helped us eat it, Rhonda! I probably won’t cook it again for another ten years now.

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19 Laura November 30, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Kudos to you for making this! Yum!

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20 DessertForTwo December 1, 2012 at 10:38 pm

I’ve heard of Streak o’ Lean!!! Of course!

I love it in green beans & potatoes :)

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21 Terra December 1, 2012 at 11:36 pm

I am actually glad you shared this recipe! I honestly did not know what Steak O’Lean was. The process seems easy, and the end product sounds DELISH!!! Thank you for sharing, Hugs, Terra

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22 Aly ~ Cooking In Stilettos December 3, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Lana – definitely you have intrigued this gal. I couldn’t find salt pork to save my life up here in Philly (but boy – scrapple everywhere) unless I probably go to the Italian Market. Now I’m on the hunt…

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23 Lana December 3, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Hope you find some, Aly!

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24 Nancy@acommunaltable December 3, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Ok, I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about food… but I have never heard of this… and I know my boys would flip for it (will have to quiz the oldest about it when he gets home to see if he’s had it yet!!).
Will maybe surprise them with this one morning… or save it for when “Mom” is in the doghouse and needs a “get out of jail free card”!

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25 Lana December 3, 2012 at 9:34 pm

It’s an experience for sure, Nancy. You wouldn’t believe the number of local folks that have emailed me to say how much they still love Streak o’ Lean and wish they could enjoy it more often. It used to be a staple of the rural Southern diet, but with the knowledge we have now it has become just a very rare treat. I’ll bet your boys would love it :-)

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26 Missy J December 7, 2012 at 5:18 pm

I remember streak o’ lean and Merry Acres buffet, too. When we would have fish fries outside in our back yard, it would not be complete without some streak o’ lean.

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27 Jan March 21, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Found this recipe because my husband requested streak-o-lean, creamed corn, sliced tomatoes and home-made biscuits tonight. I’ve cooked it maybe twice in fifty years of marriage. If you read current health literature, it seems that natural fats are no longer the bad boy they’ve been made out to be. I doubt s-o-l will ever be recommended, but now and then…… to make my husband happy……. He says his mom used to batter it in syrup before flouring it, I guess to make the four stick.

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28 Lana March 21, 2013 at 9:14 pm

Hi Jan – never heard of putting the streak-o-lean in syrup! That’s a new one on me. Hope your husband enjoyed his dinner.

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29 Don Jackson May 1, 2013 at 1:33 pm

We have streak o lean biscuits almost every Saturday morning for breakfast. Have for years. I don’t wash it, just fry it in a pan (no oil) like bacon. Cut off the rind and put 2 or 3 slices in a fresh baked biscuit. Nothing better. I’ve seen my brother cook it just long enough to get some fat rendered, then remove it from the pan, dredge it in flour, let it sit a minute, then return it to the pan to finish cooking. Delicious. Nothing like living and eatin’ in middle Georgia. (Don’t tell my Doctor! : )
BTW – I never make cornbread without buttermilk.

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30 Ben Coleman May 31, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Lana,

I’m obviously late to the conversation, but this made my heart sing when I read your recipe and all of the wonderful comments. I’ve spent the past 25 years attempting to explain to my friends, this wonderful of southern staples. My family was a transplant to East Texas from Southern Alabama shortly after the Civil War so most all of our cherished recipes hail from that area. I never heard this referred to as Streak O Lean, we just simply knew it as Fried Salt Pork. When purchasing the pork, we owned a rural family store and often bought “Green Pork Belly” in bulk, now more commonly known as green bacon. Some varieties/cuts/sources are more salty than others. My family tended to acquire the saltiest variety known to man. The belly (or cut slab) would literally be covered in dry salt, like snow. My Great-Grandmother would even scrub it with a bit of soap, first before soaking. Our standard method was to slice thin, (always with the rind on), begin soaking in a mixture of syrup water in the morning and just prior to the noon meal, pepper, flour and then deep fry. The texture and taste was amazing. We grew sugar cane and made our own syrup every fall (true cane syrup not to be confused with sorgum) so this is what was used. I now keep a can of Steens Pure Cane Syrup on hand for this very purpose. This wonderful tradition has nearly died out of our region although there is now a huge resurgence in all things “pork-belly”. Funny how food comes in and out of fashion like clothing. Thank you again for sharing. Ben Coleman

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31 Lana Stuart June 1, 2013 at 8:21 am

Thank you so much for commenting Ben. You’re absolutely right, food fads come and go and right now anything “southern” or “vintage” is very cool. I just shake my head when I see young cooks acting like they’ve discovered a new continent the first time they make pimento cheese, for instance. Good Lord…we never thought anything about pimento cheese until a few years ago when it started being popular outside the South. Same with pork belly in all its uses. It’s one of the most fashionable ingredients in food circles right now.

My family also grew cane and made syrup every fall. It’s hard to find any good cane syrup these days. Same with cornmeal. Very hard to find good quality, fine ground, white cornmeal. But we search out those ingredients because we enjoy bringing out and keeping alive those old food traditions.

I enjoyed your comment so much and I do hope you’ll continue reading the blog. I do both new and old-fashioned recipes so you never know what you’ll see here!

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32 Pamela July 28, 2013 at 12:53 pm

I grew up eating this with pinto beans and corn bread…my Momma never soaked it or breaded it so it was SALTY to the max! I found your recipe today looking for a way to season crockpot pintos with it. We always just called it fat-back and my Daddy actually cured it himself. Believe it or not I’m only 25…when I tell my friends the way I grew up they say I sound like an old timer :) I take that as a compliment. My Momma came from a farming/logging family of 10, my Daddy from a farming/logging family of 5. I’m an only child of a logging Daddy and nurse Momma but grew up with A LOT of cousins and learning/doing/working in a very old-fashioned way. I have a family of 4 now myself and love the way I grew up :) thanks for reminding me of my childhood! So weird that something as crazy as fat-back brought all that back lol! Oh and what the person above referred to as “scrapple” we call it livermush here in western NC and we eat it as a breakfast meat or with pintos and cornbread :) very yummy!

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33 Ben Coleman July 28, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Pamela,

Enjoyed your recollections of “Fat Back”. Funny how we spend so much time thinking about the simpler foods of our past. Growing up in East Texas, we never had seen a red bean. All we knew were pinto beans. Now that I live in New Orleans where the sun rises and sets on the “Red Bean”, I rarely eat pintos, although they will always be my favorite. As you know, salt pork/fat back is an excellent seasoning for them. Whether cooking in a stock pot or crock pot, I always render my salt pork first in a skillet with a little butter or oil, before adding beans. We could all write a book on the many different methods/recipes to prepare cornbread, but in my family, cornbread was strictly a yellow meal recipe cooked in a standard size black skillet. We would always melt a couple of tbs of crisco in the skillet and let it get hot enough to smoke, otherwise the cornbread will always stick. Once smoking, we’d pour in the batter and bake for about 20 minutes. Then we’d remove, give the skillet a shake to loosen the bread, then flip it over. This would allow it to brown and crisp on both sides. Using crisco rather than oil will make the edges crispier. Eat with fresh cold butter and you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven!. I’m sure you have a special recipe that’s dear to you as well. This is such a wonderful site to share.
Regards,
Ben

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34 Ralph Paisley October 10, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Ben, this was the way my mom made pinto beans and cornbread. I guess I did not realize we were poor. We always had three meals a day, however. I remember the cornbread so well. Thanks.

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35 LC October 1, 2013 at 4:56 pm

When I was a little girl my grandaddy used to cook this sometimes, but he used to just throw it in the pan no butter milk or flour.

I want to try it with the flour to see how different it tastes.

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36 Frekki November 26, 2013 at 4:42 pm

I had this a lot as a child growing up on the Chesapeake. My Grandfather was a waterman and we had big breakfasts very early. My Grandmother called it “Fried fat-back”, we called it delicious. She would fry the crab cakes, oysters, spot (a local fish), and eggs in bacon grease. We didn’t know what hush puppies were, or biscuits and gravy (yuk!).

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37 Amelia May 23, 2014 at 4:21 pm

I live in South Carolina, I bought a pack of “Streak O’ Lean” the other day and googled it and found this. I was raised southern, and this is a rare treat. I’m going to eat it with no regrets

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38 Sonia June 10, 2014 at 7:40 pm

I grew up eating this. In fact, I’m planning to go to the meat market tomorrow to buy some. My daddy never soaked it in milk or used flour. He just threw it in a cast iron skillet and fried it like bacon. I love to eat it along side fresh red potatoes cooked in milk and butter. That’s my supper menu for tomorrow night! :)

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39 Lana Stuart June 11, 2014 at 7:25 am

Hope you enjoy it, Sonia! We don’t have it often, but when we do we thoroughly enjoy indulging!

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40 Barbara August 16, 2014 at 9:21 pm

Have lived in the South all my life (81) and remember fried “fat back” well. However, I have just learned more about it in the last year (I moved to a small town). My African-American friends told me about their mothers flouring the meat and cooking it in the oven. I have also learned about tomato gravy. Apparently quite popular and I never knew. I was a city girl.

Because I wanted to make these treats for our community breakfast, I decided my only help was going online. Bingo! Found out everything I need to know. Can hardly wait until morning to see how they like. I’m sure I will learn some fine-tuning points from my friends.

Thank each one of you have taught me so much!. Love Ya!

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41 Marcia November 17, 2014 at 10:34 am

I’m a born and bred south Mississippi girl, who grew up in a family of 8. Occasionally my father would cook supper for us to give my mother a break from cooking. One of the things he loved was fried “salt meat,” tomato gravy and a fabulous bread he fried in an iron skillet. We called it galette. Being descended from French ancestors, this word was used for skillet breads and sweets. Thanks for the memories you brought back to mind. And to everyone else who posted allowing us a glimpse into their family and community memories!

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42 Lana Stuart November 18, 2014 at 9:22 am

Thanks for sharing your memories, Marcia!

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43 Shirley Lindsey November 17, 2014 at 10:37 am

I’m 71, from the deep south, and have eaten what my mother called “White Side” all my life, though not very often. It is exactly the same as “Streak o’ Lean. Mama cooked it quite a bit and she did soak it; I don’t, and she never floured it so neither do I. Just fry it until crispy. Country ham is just about as salty and lots of people eat that regularly. Hardee’s has a Country Ham Biscuit that is delicious. Some McDonald’s have that as well. I do try to eat healthy most of the time, however sometimes that food we ate from childhood is worth it. Drink some orange juice or eat a banana to even out the sodium. My in-laws used “Fat Back” for seasoning and it was total fat; couldn’t stand it.

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44 Stella November 17, 2014 at 11:02 am

Yes, I recall this delicacy showing up a few times in my childhood and youth. Was it the same thing as what my folks called “side”?

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45 Lana Stuart November 18, 2014 at 9:24 am

I’ve heard it called all kinds of things, Stella. My daddy called it “white meat.”

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46 Lenoria November 17, 2014 at 11:20 am

I grew up on a farm and we cured our own meats, not smoked just salt cured! I still love “real” country ham or “middlin” meat (bacon or fat-back). This post comes at a good time since this is basically how I fix my hog jowl for New Years since I still do the traditional meal I grew up on which is hog jowl, blackeyed peas, and greens for New Years dinner. I roll the jowl in cornmeal and then fry it in the manner you described and it is delicious!! My husband is a northerner and he had never tried it until we were married. When I bought the jowl he said he wasn’t going to eat any of that stuff, but after it was fixed he now looks forward to eating it – which I only fix the one time a year. We also love the salted pork like you fixed with gravy and biscuits!

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47 Lana Stuart November 18, 2014 at 9:27 am

I’ve had pork jowl, blackeyed peas, and greens every New Year’s Day for my whole life, Lenoria! It just wouldn’t be New Year’s without it, would it?

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48 TAMARA November 17, 2014 at 5:11 pm

I ALWAYS HAVE SALT PORK ON HAND TO SEASON POTS OF BEANS, GREENS AND GREEN BEANS. WHEN I WAS GROWING UP WE HAD “FRESH SIDE PORK” . THIS IS UNCURED AND UNSALTED BACON. IT WAS ALWAYS AVAILABLE IN THE GROCERY STORE BACK THEN. I HAVEN’T SEEN IT IN THE STORE FOR YEARS. WE ALSO RAISED OUR OWN HOGS SO WE MADE OUR OWN SAUSAGE MADE INTO PATTIES AND CANNED IN MASON JARS. WE RENDERED THE FAT AND USED THE “CRACKLINGS” IN OUR BUTTERMILK CORNBREAD MADE WITH WHITE CORNMEAL. WE SALTED THE FRESH SIDE PORK AND FRIED IT. NO FLOUR. IT HAD A TOUGH RIND ON ONE SIDE . THIS WAS ALWAYS A FAVORITE MEAT SERVED WITH EITHER PINTO OR NAVY BEANS, POLK SALIT, & CORNBREAD. WE HAD THIS MEAL AT LEAST 2-3 TIMES A MONTH. WHENEVER WE BUTCHERED A HOG MY AUNT AND UNCLE MADE SOMETHING CALLED “SOUS MEAT” I NEVER DID KNOW WHAT WAS IN IT BUT MAYBE IT WAS SOMETHING SIMILAR TO THE SCRAPLE DESCRIBED ABOVE. I REMEMBER IT WAS GOOD. I GREW UP IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA BUT MY FAMILY WAS FROM ARKANSAS. I’M GLAD I WAS RAISED ON ALL THE WONDERFUL SOUTHERN DISHES. I STILL COOK MOSTLY SOUTHERN DISHES AND AM GLAD MY MOM, GRANDMOTHERS AND AUNTS ALL TAUGHT ME HOW TO COOK. OH YEH LETS NOT FORGET DAD HE DIDN’T COOK OFTEN BUT HE WAS ALSO WELL VERSED IN SOUTHERN COOKING. MY FAVORITE DISHES HE MADE WERE POTATO SOUP, FRIED CHOCOLATE PIES AND TACOS. SORRY TO SAY HE NEVER GAVE AWAY HIS SECRETS FOR THESE YUMMY DISHES.

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49 Ben coleman November 17, 2014 at 9:13 pm

How nice that we’ve all kept this convwrsation going for over two years. Haha. When I posted my family’s method several years ago, I think I forgot to mention that after my parents divorced, my father eventually brought a new lady friend home to meet the family. Upon her arrival, my grandmother had made our time honored version of streak o lean that we only knew as “fried salt pork”. My fathers new friend instantly dubbed it “chicken fried bacon”. We thought that was the funniest thing we’d ever heard. So hard nowadays to find “salt cured only” pork belly. Most prepackaged salt pork has also been smoke cured. That totally changes the flavor. Not bad though. Sweet memories. Thank you all for sharing.

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50 Lana Stuart November 18, 2014 at 9:31 am

Thanks for your comments, Ben! It’s so interesting that I hear more from readers whenever I post an old southern recipe like this. People have such strong memories tied to food, don’t they? And I so enjoy keeping the old recipes alive for future generations to know about.

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51 Onisha Ellis November 17, 2014 at 10:34 pm

I grew up on it and I am not ashamed to say I still love it. We did not flour ours, just laid in the pan and fried it. My mother would make some homemade biscuits, open a quart of her canned tomatoes and we would feast. I miss those days.

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52 Lana Stuart November 18, 2014 at 9:32 am

Sounds like a fantastic supper to me, Onisha!

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