Goose Feed

Wild Spring Green Salad with Bacon Jam

By Trace Barnett

Features of Appalachian Cooking

In the rich culinary history of Appalachia, traditional cooking often reflects the resourcefulness and ingenuity of its inhabitants. Rooted in the rugged landscapes of the Appalachian Mountains, the cuisine incorporates locally sourced ingredients and time-honored techniques. Appalachian cooking features staples like cornmeal, beans, wild game, and foraged greens and herbs. The historical context of the region, marked by isolation and self-sufficiency, led to the development of distinctive recipes passed down through generations. One such example is the enduring tradition of Goose Feed, a dish synonymous with communal gatherings.

What is Goose Feed?

I remember the cool days of early spring, picking delicate greens with my grandmother and then tossing them together in a large bowl to make Goose Feed. This cherished dish artfully combines a medley of greens like mustard, dandelion, various lettuces, and the nutrient-packed leaves of root vegetables, along with the peppery crunch of radishes. What transforms this humble gathering of greens into a culinary delight is the process of wilting them down to tenderness. The greens are bathed in the rich essence of bacon drippings, infusing the dish with smoky and savory undertones. Traditionally, hot bacon fat is poured over the greens for flavor and to wilt them slightly. It also aids in masking the bitterness associated with some young greens. I wilt the greens in my Goose Feed with the most decadent bacon jam this side of Mississippi.

This preparation not only showcases the bountiful produce of the season but also pays homage to the resourcefulness and culinary heritage of Appalachia, where simple ingredients are transformed into a symphony of flavors. The communal act of sharing a plate of Goose Feed becomes a symbol of connection to the land and a nod to the region’s history, bringing people together in the spirit of appreciation for nature’s gifts and the traditions that endure.

plated goose feed spring green salad with bacon jam

Goose Feed with Bacon Jam (Serves 6-8)

INGREDIENTS:

BACON JAM

1 pound bacon
1 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup bourbon (optional)
1 cup sorghum (or dark corn syrup)
1 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons red wine or balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon coarse black pepper

GREENS

2 pounds spring greens like mustard, dandelion, spinach, chard, turnip, or kale
1/3 cup Bacon Jam
Salt and pepper, to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Make bacon jam: In a large pan or skillet over medium-high heat, add bacon and onion. Cook until bacon is brown and crispy and onions are translucent, about 8–12 minutes.
  2. Add bourbon or vinegar to pan and stir, scraping up the bits of bacon from the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to low.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine all remaining ingredients. Stir well to combine. Transfer contents to the bacon mixture in pan.
  4. Bring to a low simmer and cook until jam thickens, stirring frequently, 5–8 minutes. Thickness can be determined by observing drips from the stirring spoon. Remove from heat. You will only need 1/3 cup of bacon jam to combine with greens; reserve the rest for future use.
  5. Make greens: Thoroughly wash greens and remove stems. Rip large leaves into smaller pieces. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon jam and melt. Add greens and stir well to coat leaves with the jam. Cook until greens are wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Store leftover bacon jam in the fridge.
Tip:
The remaining bacon jam can be used in sandwiches (especially on a grilled cheese), as an accompaniment to a cheese and charcuterie board, and as a topping for burgers.
plated goose feed spring green salad with bacon jam topped with a whole radish

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