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What is side meat?

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I was watching an old episode of The Fugitive and a hill folk granny offered Richard Kimble a meal of side meat, biscuits and gravy. Sounded good to me.

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  1. Boy, that's an old phrase. Side meat was bacon that had been cured but not brined - basically strips of salty pork belly that was fried up like bacon. Very rural, in my small town experience.

    3 Replies
    1. re: lemons

      Is side meat fatback? I remember fatback from my childhood vacations in OK.

      1. re: lemons

        How is something 'cured' but not brined? I thought that brining was how you cured something.

        Does 'cure' in this sense mean hung to age, or what? Super helpful if you can speak to this, or other chowhound.

        This seems like one of those precious threads that helps preserve an 'old-timey' foodways kind of cooking that is disappearing from our experience!

        I am so interested to hear how this ' side meat' is really made.

        thanks for you post Choc.Tartguy

        P.S.; if your moniker stands for something, where can I find your chocolate tart recipe:)?

        1. re: gingershelley

          You're very welcome. I always wonder about foods that I read about or see in movies/TV.

          I can tell you where to buy a chocolate tart in SF (Miette, Patisserie Philippe), but not how to make one.

      2. Side meat is what (we are talking seventy years ago) my elderly Appalachian-descended relations used to call salt pork, but I suspect that Lemons' response is more scientific. I remember it breaded in cornmeal and fried along with fried potatoes, fried cornmeal mush, biscuits, cornbread, cream gravy made with meat drippings in frying pan, green beans cooked for hours with a ham bone, "wilted lettuce", and "spring onions". And stewed rhubarb. Lovely food.

        16 Replies
        1. re: Querencia

          When I look at salt meat in the grocery store, it looks like it's also pork belly, just in a chunk rather than sliced. @ Querencia, I remember folks talking about breading it in cornmeal, but our family didn't. And to this day, I am sure that there is no salad I loved more than wilted lettuce, a sort of Ozark salad lyonnaise, although we didn't add egg. (I recall a friend whose mom added chopped boiled egg. And rhubarb....oh, yes.

          1. re: lemons

            Lemons, or Querencia, can you expand on Wilted Lettuce?

            That sounds wonderful. When I was 14, I made a soup out of lettuce, that tasted of lovely lettuce and springtime.

            I have seen a few braised lettuce recipes in my French cookbooks and memoirs, but not in American culinary literature. Please elaborate.

            I am very interested in Appelachian foodways, and how those are dying out.

            Share anything you can about memories, recipes, etc. Your experiences are precious to the American heritage of cooking.

            1. re: gingershelley

              Wilted lettuce. Ahhhh...My mom made this but with spinach. You fry up some diced cured pork -- bacon, side meat, what have you. Remove it to drain. Add cider vinegar, salt, and sugar to the meat drippings, heat, mix, and pour over the lettuce or spinach, adding the reserved meat and maybe sliced green onions or mushrooms.

              A delicious old dish.

              1. re: jmckee

                Delicious and was eaten all over the country, but apparently by rural folks. My family's version was done with leaf lettuce, new radishes, green onions, hard boiled eggs and fried bacon. You mixed up your salad, and added sugar and vinegar to the reserved bacon fat, boiled it up, and then poured it over the salad. You turned the skillet over on top of the salad bowl to wilt the lettuce. You removed the skillet, and tossed the warm salad gently. Then you sat down to a meal of wilted lettuce and cornbread.

                I've learned to make this with far less bacon fat. I remove part of the reserved fat before putting in the vinegar and sugar.

                This is one of my favorite things in the world.

                1. re: sueatmo

                  In Chinese/Cantonese cooking, one often prepares leafy greens by blanching in oiled hot or boiling water to wilt, draining, then tossing with a sauce of one's choosing - examples might be "oyster sauce", a sauce of sauteed/fried garlic & julienned ginger + salt or soy sauce quenched with a little water; etc etc. I've even used a good splash/generous drizzle of ponzu (soy) sauce + ground pepper. One can do this with, yes, lettuce (the more rigid ones are better - romaine is very good - but any kind can be used), spinach, kale (broken up), tender collards (chiffonaded or chopped), etc – besides the usual "Chinese-type" greens such as choy sum/yu choy, kai lan (the classic veg to do this way), pak choy, tong ho, etc.

                  A semi-stir fry where you prepare your "seasoned oil sauce" [garlic/ginger/whatnot + hot oil] in your pan or wok, toss in your leafy greens, cover briefly, add cooking wine (or sour component) if desired, toss – achieves pretty much the same result. Commonly done.

                  So - substitute bacon/cured pork bits, bacon fat, onions, vinegar...toss with washed lettuce.....

                  :-)

                  1. re: huiray

                    another testament to the universality of food, uninformed similarities between coastal Asia and the American hinterlands.

                    1. re: hill food

                      Good point. I would probably love the Chinese/Cantonese version too. Sour is good.

                2. re: jmckee

                  Forgive me if this is a duplicate -- I think I hit the wrong key & my reply evaporated, but it may have posted as a stub. By coincidence, this week I cooked & ate pork belly for the first time. Now reading this thread , it seems that the recipe I used, "Twice-cooked pork belly with ... braised endives" is a fancy version of your dish. Pork belly is sliced, browned, braised, cooled, braising liquid de-fatted. Endives are sliced lengthwise, pan-fried with honey & sugar, then wine & water added, simmered till tender. Reserved pork liquid is boiled, honey & vinegar added, reduced to a sauce. Pork belly gets a final browning in oil, then pork and endives eaten together to cut the richness of the pork with the bitter of the endives. Just finished the leftovers tonight and I am in hog heaven.

              2. re: lemons

                My displaced city family learned about all of the wild greens in Missouri from a great Ozark cookbook--lambs quarter, dandelion, thistle, mustard, watercress. We had the fanciest salads anyone ever picked by the side of the road. The (slightly toxic weed) poke was sometimes boiled with side meat to make a sort of collard green like dish.

                1. re: butterfly

                  Does boiling take the toxicity out of poke? This is as in Poke Salad Annie by Tony Jo White?

                  1. re: chocolatetartguy

                    You have to boil it in three changes of water, squeezing it dry between each one. After the last one you can chop it up and fry it, typically in bacon grease, preferably with an egg or three scrambled in with it. Damn, I love that stuff! Here in SoCal I just have to look for canned …

                    1. re: Will Owen

                      Yes, that's just how we did it and no one ever got sick. Where I grew up, it was an invasive weed.

                  2. re: butterfly

                    butterfly - what book? I may need to forage a little more next summer. some disdain it as 'poor people food' but it's usually really good for you (in that context you can't afford to use much meat except for flavor)

                    ctguy - I believe soaking in the salted water and cooking in the vinegar withdraw the bitterness of poke. can't speak to the toxicity if it exists. raw, it IS awful.

                    1. re: hill food

                      I'll look for it the next time I'm in my mom's kitchen and report back. I know my parents also used the Foxfire books quite a bit to learn about living off the grid and off the fat of the land in the country: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foxfire_...

                      I highly recommend foraging, mainly because it gives Chowhounds a chance to be out in the woods and fields with the added fun of a culinary quest. And as kids we loved being sent out to hunt all day for things like violets and blackberries.

                      Stuff we regularly found in rural Missouri (and much of which I often later found in DC, even in the middle of the city): sassafrass leaves and root (soup, sodas, teas, and according to my mom, nature's xanax), hickory bark (for soaking in water for barbecue).

                      Greens like poke, lambs quarter (which is particularly good), dandelion, chicory, thistle, mustard, nettles (here in Spain I've had them battered and fried), watercress (grows in spring fed water), fiddleheads, wild leeks/garlic.

                      Edible flowers like violets, honeysuckle, elderberry blossoms, linden flowers (a popular tea here, too), goldenrod (the leaves), beebalm (for tea), wild rose hips (tea), camomile, queen anne's lace, dandelions

                      Mushrooms like hen of the woods/polyporus, shaggy mane, sulfur shelf mushrooms, chanterelles, and morels.

                      Walnuts, hickory nuts.

                      And blackberries, raspberries, gooseberries, paw paws, persimmons, sumac berries (we added them to lemonade or lemon tea for vitamin c), may apples, even wild ginger and ginseng on rare occasions.

                      1. re: butterfly

                        whoa talk about reactivating lost parts of the brain, based on your posts it's a little weird for me - I'm from MO and we lived in Madrid (well Majadahonda/Las Rozas) for a while.

                        I try to serve them the foraged stuff but they treat it like it's poison (if I were going to do that I'd be much more clever). their loss.

                2. re: Querencia

                  The Wilted Lettuce Salad recipe I grew up with goes like this:

                  Thoroughly wash and dry two heads of Redleaf Lettuce. Remove leaves from the stalks and place leaves in large bowl Cut up and cook a pound of bacon. DO NOT DRAIN! Mix completely four eggs with salt, pepper, and about two tablespoons of red wine vinegar. Add the eggs to the bacon and scramble, stirring constantly. As soon as the egg dressing is done, quickly add to leaves and mix thoroughly. Allow to sit for 10 minutes so the leaves wilt. Serve hot or cold.

                3. Curing, to me, was always the hanging to age. They didn't use the word brine, and actually, as I recall, no liquid was involved. It was a rub, usually just salt, but I daresay someone might have added black pepper.

                  Wilted lettuce at our house was leaf lettuce from the garden (heads of lettuce came from the IGA, and were not used in the summer), and green onions from the same. Lots of that lettuce, even for just the three of us; like spinach, it shrinks quickly. So a "granite" dishpan (not real granite; you can Google granite kitchenware) was washed, the onions cleaned and sliced, both the white and green parts. Bacon, either cut up at this point or crumbled after it was cooked. My mother, who'd gone thorugh the Depression, could scarcely be persuaded to use 3 slices, much less 4. (Loved bacon even then, did I.) Cooked until crisp and placed in the dishpan with the lettuce and onions.

                  Now. We did not use sugar, although I know some folks did. The bacon grease should be quite warm but not hot enough to cause your vinegar, cider vinegar being the vinaigre de la maison, to bubble up when it was added to the warm bacon grease in the skillet. I suppose we were actually deglazing the skillet, come to think of it. The warm dressing was poured over the lettuce, the whole thing tossed together.

                  When I make this now, I realized my mother left a LOT of water on that lettuce, which accounted for the (yummy) dressing at the bottom of the pan, and that it was not as tart as it was when I did this and carefully ran my lettuce through the salad spinner. So I do dilute my dressing some.

                  Fried potatoes? Raw potatoes, and plenty of onions. Impossible to have too many onions.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: lemons

                    My mom's wilted lettuce, from her dad's Mennonite family's recipe, used no sugar either, but did use either whole milk or half-and-half, which would curdle in a curiously delicious kind of way. This was not a common dish in east-central Illinois, and was always a hit when served to company.

                    1. re: lemons

                      Wow, talk about reactivating lost parts of my brain... I haven't heard anyone call that a granite dishpan in over thirty years (probably because I live in Spain, where oddly enough we still use "granite" all the time: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbi...).

                      I always associate that particular kitchen material with the granite canner my mom slaved over at the end of the summer canning tomatoes and making jelly.

                      That was quite the pornographic description of the wilted salad. I have to make this very, very soon for my pork loving Spanish friends. Thanks for sharing your mom's process.

                    2. Side meat is pork belly, either sliced or not. No brining, no salting, no curing.

                      1. Warning, the first answer is probably NSFW but the others are commensurate with what is posted here - http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/33365

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: huiray

                          Sorry. Not familiar w/ that abbreviation. Do I dare ask what it means?

                          1. re: lemons

                            Not Safe For Work (in case the IT crew monitors browsing history or your desk is in a visible spot or the sound is on etc)

                            1. re: hill food

                              Ah, my generation.... I was a part of a pilot operation putting computers on nursing divisions of a Major Metropolita Medical Center in the late '70's, but once again I'm reminded it's a whole new world. Thanks.

                              1. re: lemons

                                make no excuses. I found an old copy of OMNI magazine from 1981 and was amazed to see CompuServe was even around then trying to do what the www does now.

                                I have to sometimes puzzle out the acronyms before I give up and google them (sort of like doing the crossword until peeking at the solution)

                        2. Ahh "sidemeat", with many regional variations
                          but always belly of pig, with preserving by salt,
                          in the Southern Appalachians.

                          One favorite application was wilted "branch lettuce",
                          branches being high headwaters before became streams,
                          elevation around 3000 feet.

                          It was there, clinging to wet boulders
                          and sweet cascading waters
                          several species of Saxifrage
                          emerged in the spring.

                          Old timers called them branch lettuce.

                          It was there where clambered
                          in soft ripples upon rocks
                          to gather them to be wilted with sidemeat.

                          Also same season there were greens we called "creasies",
                          an old word reflecting fact they were Brassicas
                          more correctly, these days, becalled "Cresses".

                          There was a species of streams, now called "watercress".
                          But also a species of dry upland forests, just called cresses or creasies.
                          It had that hot pop, as it was a relative of mustards.

                          So both in the forest,
                          and tumbling streams in the spring
                          we gathered our greens
                          to be wilted with sidemeat.

                          Even this day, up in those mountains,
                          there be dwellers of hollows
                          who celebrate vernal season
                          with sidemeat, and said greens.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: FoodFuser

                            Thank you for that.

                            1. re: lemons

                              Thanks more to them
                              who taught of the sidemeat
                              and greens in both forests and streams.