This is one of those old family recipes that I fix every year for my husband. Usually about this time of year. It's a version of what most southerners know as wilted lettuce. According to family lore Grandma Thornsberry cooked for the sawmill hands at the family sawmill that they owned on the Grande River here in North Central Missouri. They had moved here from Miami, Missouri where Grandpa was a riverboat captain on the Missouri River. We even have his original captain's license .
Grandma was quite the woman cooking for all those hands and canning and raising kids. She was the local midwife for miles around. Around this time of year she made this salad by the dishpans full to feed the hungry sawmill hands and her ever growing family as well. 100 years later we are still using her recipe with a few extras added in.
You see about now is when the lettuce starts getting ready to pick. And the spinach and other greens need thinning. You start out with about 6 cups of fresh greens washed, trimmed and drained. Our favorite for this is Black Seeded Simpson lettuce or baby spinach.( I use my salad spinner after rinsing)
I threw about a dozen spears of asparagus that I raided out of the asparagus patch into a skillet with a little olive oil and cooked just a couple minutes. You want it still a little crisp! Don't cook it to death.... Then set aside.
Now throw about 2 pieces of that farm raised bacon from last fall that's in the freezer that has been cut into small pieces in that skillet and start to brown.
Throw in about half an onion sliced thin. Right in that skillet with that bacon. You are lightly caramelizing the onions in the bacon grease. ( Yes this is not a recipe for the faint of heart...now you see why we have this only rarely......) Grandma lived to be 96 and Grandpa live to 98 : )
Now remove the onions and crunchy bacon bits from skillet and turn skillet to real low heat.
Now pour 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup vinegar in that bacon grease on low. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1 Tablespoon sugar. Turn the fire up a little.
Heat to boiling stirring constantly...now turn it back down to low.
Take one egg from the chicken house and break into a small bowl and beat well. Now dip by spoon fulls some of that hot liquid from the frying pan into that beaten egg and continue beating and adding hot liquid until egg mixture is hot. (This is called tempering)
Now add the hot egg mixture back to the remaining liquid in skillet slowly stirring constantly as you add it. (Otherwise you get scrambled eggs) Notice in the picture above that it makes a nice creamy liquid.
Simmer the liquid until it starts to thicken slightly then add your onions and bacon back
into the skillet and stir. Turn skillet off.
Now take that fresh lettuce that you picked and add it to the hot liquid and stir until lettuce wilts slightly.
Now add what's in season on top. Chopped boiled eggs fresh from your hens. Those asparagus spears that you cooked and set aside earlier. Maybe some fresh green peas. (Mine aren't ready yet so I had to take some from the freezer) And there you have it Sawmill Salad.
I served mine with some blackeyed peas with ham chunks thrown in left over from that Easter ham and frozen.
Some Hot Buttermilk Cornbread
And I went out and picked some rhubarb for a cake for dessert.
So next time you need lots of food cheap to feed a bunch of sawmill hands. Just grow some lettuce, onions, asparagus and peas, kill a pig, raise some chickens and you're all set. In your spare time you can go deliver babies and help at the mill toting wood : )
Blessings from The Holler
The Canned Quilter