My mother was a country kitchen bon vivant who used the many resources that surrounded her lifelong rural home. She kept laying chickens, meat chickens, ducks for laying and meat, beef cows, milk cows, milk goats, and rabbits, (and while loathing the few hogs my father had when I was a kid, she nimbly and with quiet joy took revenge on them with her kitchen’s cook stove or smoker); to great effect she utilized all the resources these creatures offered. She also cultivated a garden large enough to feed the multitudes of her choosing—our Lord had to have been proud of her. She was nothing short of graceful country kitchen royalty. When she passed, she willed to us 3 deep freezers so full of food the lids would barely close, and 2 wall shelves 4 boards high and 2 feet deep of her highly regarded canned goods that had sustained many through good times and bad. As if this wasn’t enough, she would go (or send Dad or my sister or me) into the wilds on my dad’s place near Coon Island for game or to catch or gig fish and pick berries, nuts, roots, and POKE SALLET for country cuisine experiments that we generally, but not always appreciated. The following is her Poke Sallet and Brown Rice Casserole recipe-simply stated, it is the most with the least…
About a gallon of raw poke sallet leaves (enough for about 2 cups cooked poke)
1 cup of brown rice (I know she would have used our Beulah Land Tan, Medley, or Missimati Brown)
¼ pound salt cured ham or bacon, diced
2 tbsp butter (she churned hers)
2 cups chicken stock
½ cup yellow onion, minced
About ¼ cup of cheese (Parmesan?) for topping
Warning:Poke sallet need to be boiled at least twice in clean water to alleviate possible gastrointestinal effects, or worse. Please follow years of advice and tradition!
In large stock pot, boil water and cook poke sallet for 15 minutes. Drain pot of water, refill, and boil again for 15 minutes. Redrain, and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In skillet, brown ham or bacon. Add butter to skillet and melt. Add drained poke sallet and uncooked rice to meat and drippings. Bring chicken stock to boil, and add to poke and rice, mixing well. Pour poke and rice blend into a 1 quart baking dish, and bake for 1 hour, or until rice is cooked. Top with cheese about 10 minutes before removing from oven.
Note: Poke Sallet is evident and prevalent throughout the South in spring and summer months. Unless you plan ahead and freeze some, the rest of the year one can substitute kale, turnip greens, beet greens, spinach, etc.