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By Thea Theresa English

Essentials of Southern cooking

I live in the South and one great thing about this region is the amazing cuisine. Southern cooking is made with love and is derived from a variety of cultures. Many Southern recipes cannot be rushed and they are a way for the community to bond together. Southern cooking is comforting yet trendy at times. And it is not pretentious. If you want to cook like a Southerner, here are the essentials:

Sweet potatoes

Most Southern cooks have a treasured recipe for sweet potatoes and traditionally they are made like a casserole. To make baked sweet potato casserole, boil two pounds of sweet potatoes then peel them. Add one cup of dark brown sugar, a teaspoon each of honey and vanilla, a stick of melted butter, a few teaspoons of allspice, a teaspoon of cinnamon and three teaspoons of salt along with a cup of heavy cream. Pour in a greased baking dish and bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

Sweet tea

In the South there is nothing more refreshing than a cold glass of sweet tea. To make the tea boil five to seven cups of water then cool before adding to the pitcher. Then add a few tea bags into the water and let steep for 10 minutes. Remove the tea bags and add two to three cups of sugar and fresh lemon slices. Add ice cubes and serve.


No hot Southern breakfast is complete without grits and they are usually served with scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage links. To make grits, boil two cups of water then add a cup of grits. Stir the mixture over medium low heat and cook for 15 minutes. Before serving, add a half stick of butter and a few teaspoons of salt. You can also add cheese and herbs for an extra kick.

Fried chicken

This dish is a favorite at picnics and potluck suppers throughout the South. Heat three cups of vegetable oil in a medium pot. Meanwhile season chicken pieces with garlic powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper, salt, ground herbs and onion powder. Dredge the chicken pieces in flour and add to the hot oil. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes on each side until golden brown.

Collard greens

Collard greens are healthy and a major part of Southern cooking. In a large pot of water add three to four pounds of washed and cut collard greens. Add two cups of chopped onions, three chopped garlic cloves, a cup of diced celery and spices such as salt, black pepper, garlic powder and lemon pepper. Cook for two to three hours on medium low heat until greens are tender. Add cubes of ham or salt pork for extra flavor.

Smothered Turkey Necks

This is a dish that I make quite often. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a baking pan add five to 10 pounds of turkey necks, three cups of chopped onions, four chopped garlic cloves, a cup of chopped green onions, three cups of beef stock, and four to seven tablespoons of flour for thickness. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for three hours.

These Southern dishes are delicious and heartwarming.

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