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Jan 27/17

The Six Most Underrated Southern Foods Posted by: Aaron Stearns | 0 Comments

When you picture the stereotypical Southern meal, chances are there’s something fried — probably chicken, or a piece of steak fried like chicken — a vegetable or two, a bread item and a glass of iced tea. That all sounds just about right. Add a slice of fresh tomato if it’s summertime. Pour gravy over something, if it’s not.

But we’re far more than fried fare down here. We’re experts at appealing to all of the tongue’s receptors at once — salty, sweet, sour — but sometimes we forget. We forget we have items at our disposal to take our dinners from great to glorious. We have everything we need — usually collecting grime in the back of the fridge — because those things are typically homegrown canning projects that serve as Christmas gifts.

What we’re saying is push aside the containers of ketchup and Duke’s mayo, and pull out these overlooked, underrated Southern delicacies that will kick your grub up a notch.

6. Pork rinds
Yeah, this is dude food at its core, but pork rinds are like the bacon of the snack world. Sort of. Laugh if you want, but we predict pork rinds will be making a comeback in the very near future. We’ll have gourmet, additive-free pork rinds and they’ll rank right up there with bacon and mustaches on the pop culture scale. Well, they won’t get that crazy, but maybe with a little love and a touch of rebranding — pork clouds, anyone? — they could be a new (old) hit.

5. Buttermilk
Your grandpa used to gross you out by stirring the leftover cornbread into a big glass of buttermilk — he also ate that really stinky cheese, didn’t he? — but the old man was on to something. There’s nothing quite like the creamy-sour taste of buttermilk, and when you factor in the sweet corn, your taste buds will sit up and take notice … assuming you can get past the crumbly, soggy bread thing. What we really mean here is buttermilk has many, many uses, but we like it best in pie.

4. Green tomato relish
Regular old pickle relish cannot stand up to the tangy-sweet goodness of green tomato relish. It works best if you pair it with something fried, like catfish. The vinegar complements the heavy grease and elevates that breaded bottom-feeder to a higher plane. But really, tomato relish could add zing to any dinner. Try trading out your fresh tomato slices for a dollop of this pickled perfection, and see how the flavors meld.

3. Apple butter
Sweet, sweet apple butter. We would argue that any time you think of dripping honey onto a biscuit or cracker or piece of fruit, maybe reach for the apple butter instead. It’s the same sweetness, but with a more mellowed-out down-home flavor. Honey tends to knock you over the head with its cloying ways, but apple butter will slowly, gently ease you into that sugar high. We don’t know how it works, but it does.

2. Pickled okra
Yes, it’s delicious stewed and fried and blackened, but okra really shines when it’s pickled. The vinegar tones down that vegetable’s outer fur and inner slime — who WAS the first guy to find okra edible, anyway? — while the pickling adds a crispy, fresh snap when you commit to that first bite. Like pork rinds, it’s one of those stand-alone foods on this list, and if you see a jar of the homemade variety at your local farmer’s market, pick one up. You’ll tear through it faster than you expect.

1. Pepper Jelly
Yes, it’s good with cream cheese and crackers, but it’s so much more than that, y’all. So. Much. More. We’re certain pepper jelly is in your fridge right now wondering why you won’t let it improve your life. It is sugar. It is spice. And really does make everything nice. Don’t believe me? Try schmearing a dab on that chicken you overcooked and let it blow your mind. Got leftover steak? Make a sandwich with beef, cheese and pepper jelly and watch yourself go back for seconds. Throw a bunch of chopped vegetables and leftover meat into a pan, add season salt, and then a couple of spoonfuls of pepper jelly and roll it into a tortilla and find your new favorite dinner. Pepper jelly is versatile, wonderful and by far the most underrated food item in the South.


Peruse our top-notch, mouth-watering Southern food selection over at the artisan food collection.


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