Potliquor

If you know what potliquor is, then you have probably just identified yourself as either being from the country, or having some agrarian connections.

Potliquor is one of the most delectable forms of nectar known to man. Now, for all who are wondering, it has nothing to do with marijuana or alcoholic beverages. Potliquor is the country term that describes the juices that come from cooking country vegetables. It is a mixture of water, natural juices that cook out of the veggies and probably a little grease from some sidemeat or hamhock that is used for seasoning.

I should probably point out at this juncture that you will not get potliquor from pseudo-veggies that are often found in the frozen-food aisle at the grocery store. Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, English peas, etc. may have some nutritional value, but they are severely deficient when it comes to producing potliquor.

The best potliquor comes from things like field peas, butterbeans and especially greens. Take some collard, mustard or turnip greens, cook them down slow and tender with some bacon or ham and you have something that would make a bulldog slap his mama (another country expression). You then take your biscuit or cornbread and dip it into the potliquor (the liquor that is in the pot–you are probably getting the picture by now) and enjoy. Kings should be able to eat so good.

Now that I have described what potliquor is, let me tell you a funny story about it. (True story) A little community not far from my corner of southwest Georgia had a little lane. On this lane was a big turpentine camp and a little church. The turpentine camp would feed the workers lunch every day. Greens were a very cost-effective, popular meal with the workers. After lunch, the cooks would throw the left-over potliquor out the kitchen window into a ditch. Over a period of time, the ditch actually turned green from all of the potliquor that it absorbed. This little lane got to be known as “Potliquor Lane”.

Years passed by and the turpentine camp closed, but the church didn’t. The time came when they called a young pastor from the city. This young man had great fervor for God, but not much knowledge of country ways.

He immediately determined that no house of God should be located on a road that was named after pot and liquor. The church should be a place of righteousness, not vice, was his opinion. So he began to get up a petition to have the name of the road changed.

Now you have to understand how country folks hang on to their traditions. To try to change the name of an old road steeped in such precious memories of delightful nectar was about two notches shy of blasphemy of the Holy Ghost.

Unfortunately, the pastor did not get to stay long. He was told that back in the big city there were new streets opening up every day that he could help name and perhaps he should go do that.

That little church is still located on Potliquor Lane.

43 responses to “Potliquor

  1. Oh, I love that. My grandma loved her potliquor..I always figured it was spelled potlikker..being southern. I’d like to have some collard greens and cornbread right about now. Thanks for the story.

  2. Let me just say that, as a New Englander, it seems that your pastor would have done well do read this post before making such a suggestion. It doesn’t sound like he “became all things to all men.” ;-)

    Anyway, I need to gripe about something here:
    I was a chef for 20 years. And I was taught by an old Georgia woman how to make some killa-greens. But she neve once told me about soppin’ up the potliquor with no cornbread!

    Is it a southern custom to hold back such valuable information from your neighbors to the north?

    I forgive her…

  3. that’s great! thanks for sharing! oh, and danny, how exactly do you make those killa-greens? my dad loves greens and in the summer we cook them several times a week, but i’d love to be able to add a new twist to them! :-)

  4. Beverly–I spelled it that way so that our non-Southern friends could understand what I was talking about.

    Danny–we figure some things come by divine revelation. :-)

    Meagan–are you actually asking a Yankee how to cook greens? ;-)

  5. gordon,

    reading this post, is making me hungry :)

    have a great Day!

    janice

  6. Bro. Gordon I don;t know what an Agrarian connection is but I certainly was Homegrown in south Georgia on those gracious meals that were cooked by my grandma;s tender love ! But you left out the good old southern fried chicken [ homegrown also ]? Have a blessed day ? RBJ

  7. Thank you for your comment on my blog.

    Very kind words.

    I can appreciate the young pastor’s fervor, and I can understand the need to set him straight. It’s too bad that he couldn’t have come to an understanding.

    This is the basis for many debates. New ideas coming up against old ideas.

    Without new ideas we would never make any progress. But the new ideas need to be very good ideas to overcome the old. Which is as it should be. If every new idea was adopted then things would soon fall apart. They must prove themselves.

    And sometimes there are battles that just don’t need to be fought. In our school district, in the further corner beside the county line, there is a community known as Whiskey Hill. It is named after some bootlegging activity that was once common down that way.

    I see no need to clean that name up.

  8. Gordon-

    Georgia potliquor sound a lot like Tennessee red-eye. Can you confirm the similarities and/or differences?

  9. Bro. Tony–I am not sure exactly what Tennessee red-eye is. We have what we call red-eye gravy in which we fry country-cured ham, then mix a little coffee in the ham drippings and make gravy with it. Does this sound like TN red-eye?

  10. (standing with hand over heart)

    Yes…that is TN red-eye! Are you a fan?

  11. Bro. Tony–You bet. Especially on cat-head biscuits.

  12. OMGosh you didn’t just say “cat head biscuits” did you?!?
    Between those, the red eye and some killa-greens…I’m getting really hungry! As for keeping that secret about the cornbread dipped in the potlikker….we Southerners are too smart to tell everything we know! :)
    BTW ever drizzle red-eye over lettuce and green onions?…fit for a king!

  13. Now this is what I call a blog!

    Come over here for spiritual edification and instead get culinary expertise. Sort of like a church dinner. Good food, good fellowship.

    Maybe you should change your name to “Dinner on the Grounds”.

  14. Now, I’m from the south, but I’m not exactly a country girl. I learned something new today. Awesome!

  15. great story,
    Being an Aussie i missed a few of the references. Are collard greens some kind of spinnach? any who I suppose I can glean from this the importance of 2 things. The stuff at the bottom of a veggie’s baking dish is not to be thrown away without tasting first. (I usually use it in the gravy though)
    and it is vital to understand context. Potliquor lane indeed…
    Oh well im off to have a veggimite sandwich

  16. JG–never tried that. Gonna have to though.

    Cameron–That might be a good idea for a group blog.

    Kristi–glad your visit was of benefit to you. :)

    Magi–collards are in the same family as spinach, only I like them better.

  17. BTW Kristi–any girl who can kill three hogs with one shot is well on her way to being a country girl, even if she hasn’t arrived yet!

  18. Collards, turnips, and mustand greens are all better than spinach in my book anyday. I’ve enjoyed all the comments today.

  19. Ah ha ha. I guess so, Gordon. That’s pretty country, huh?

  20. I actually ended up at this blog because I had greens for dinner (cooked the only way I’ve EVER eaten them: with salt pork for flavor) and I was looking for ways to use pot liquor for flavoring in other recipes.

    Soo…anyone know any?

  21. A Texas transplant

    Where I grew up in Texas my folks always called the juice from fresh black-eyed peas cooked with a couple of slices of bacon potlikker. It had to have lots of cornbread to dip into it and fresh garden tomatoes and little green onions on the side. My dad also ate little fresh hot green peppers with it and my mom always cooked a few in with the peas. She also cooked in a few of the small pea-pods.
    The snapped peas & the peppers looked just the same to kids until they bit into a pepper by mistake! Yowwie. Three generations of us carefully avoided anything longish in mom’s peas. Are field peas another name for black-eyed peas?

    Thanks for the 40 year old memories. I’m cryng with nostalgia. Nobody in Seattle knows anything at all about potlikker, or decent no-sugar cornbread.

  22. I was looking up lotlikker while my house is filled with the heavenly aroma as a pot of mustard greens simmer. Corn bread will be made latter in the day!

  23. Put your potlikker in your home made bloody mary. MMMMM, there’s the secret ingredient!

  24. I made turnips greens and used the roots along with smoked neckbone to make some pot likker. It turned out terrible. Now, I know I’m not a very good cook, but seems like this would “cook” itself. What am i doing wrong? Mama made the best pot likker in the world. Why can’t I?

  25. Pingback: Basics: Greens | The Gluten-Free Southern Cook

  26. I made Hoppin’ John, Collard Greens, Cornbread and pork chops today, to ensure good luck and prosperity for the New Year, as I do every year. The best part of the meal….Pot Likker! Dip the cornbread in it, dip your pork chop in it, dip your collards back in it. It is the most flavorful element of the entire meal. I always heard of the ” medicinal properties” of pot likker from my grand and great grandparents. Can’t vouch for it, but it may make some sense. If nothing else, it tastes good and makes you happy!

  27. I was in the mood for some mustards yesterday, so I bought a bag of ready to cook (Glory brand) mustard greens in the produce aisle. Greens definitely remind me of my childhood and are a cornerstone of any quality southern-style eatin’. Cooked those babies up with some salt-pork and a little chunk of leftover smoked ham from the holidays. Added quite a bit of black pepper (i love it so) and some sea salt along with a little minced garlic towards the end of the 2 hour simmer. I love cooking my greens down for a while to get that richly potent pot liquor that I get to savor from the bottom of the bowl. I missed not having any cornbread, but i was in heaven with my greens and some gooood chicken & sausage gumbo. I’m glad to be a southerner… Family is from East Texas, and they sure know how to cook some comfort food. Rob: I highly believe in the medicinal properties of the “pot likker”. That’s what my grandpa Jack (Bobo) always said!! Cheers to all with a big cup of pot liquor!

  28. richard sinclair

    what? no comments on turnip roots? i too am getting hungry and i just ate a bowl or two of collards.
    let’s hear it for turnip roots!

  29. Yay for turnips

  30. Not raised in the country but my sister has officially named me country because I do love potliquor. She found this ariticle and from this I was labeled….the roots of turnips? Never heard of that, I always used the leafy part.

  31. I watched Guy Fieri’s DDD today. At Aunt Mary’s in Oakland, Ca (of all places), they are turning potlikker into GRAVY!!! Just add roux! I am so exited about this new development. Inevitably, there is more potlikker than cornbread and greens and it goes down the drain, sooo sad. Now I can’t wait to thicken it up and find more creative ways to enjoy it. This restaurant makes a greens and mashed potato mix into patties, tops it with an egg and potlikker gravy, calls it Southern Bubble and Squeak

  32. Turned my hand to making potlikker gravy tonite, inspired by the DDD episode, it turned out great! I dunno why i thought adding butter and flour to spicy veg stock might NOT be bomb, but anyway.

    didn’t follow the aunt mary’s directions tho, used bacon chili powder white vinegar tapatio white pepper and soy sauce and definiteley saute’d the onion and whole garlic in bacon fat. Still was great.

  33. FOR A MOMENT I BELIEVED I WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO KNEW WHAT POT LIQUOR WAS.. IM ONLY 22 AND GROWING UP MY GRAND PARENTS AND PARENTS ALWAYS TALKED ABOUT IT AND I NEVER UNDERSTOOD WHAT THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT UNTIL I STARTED COOKING. BEING FROM SOUTH GEORGIA ITS THE BEST WITH CORNBREAD AND COLLARDS OR POT ROAST CARROTS POTATOES AND ONIONS COOKED IN THE OVEN YUM!!!

  34. My question may seem like blasphemy, however I was raised in a vegetarian diet household. Can this POT LIQUOR or cooked greens be cooked/made without the hambone or pork? How would a southern vegetarian (if there is such a person lol) cook greens with ham or other meat products? I’de appreciate any ideas — that is after you quit laughing at the very idea of no pork/ham in the dish. :)

    • I make greens without meat all the time! I just saute some onions and fresh garlic in evoo before adding the greens for a little saute. Add hot water and steam and season to taste ;-) My southern family members who eat meat still love my greens and cant tell the difference. I’m actually going to make some tonight using Fresh Kale. My hubby can’t wait! lol

  35. I’m from the low country of South Carolina, and when I was growing up, my granny always had a pot of rice with every meal, and we would eat our beans and pot likker or greens and pot likker over rice. Yummy!

  36. I was raised in Los Angeles, but my Daddy was from Georgia. He loved cornbread, fried chicken, and potliquor. I learned to love it also. Of course my friends think I’m a nut case, but my favorite is the potliquor left from cooking artichokes in water with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic powder, salt & pepper.Every time I have some I think of my Dad. Thanks for promoting these good Southern memories!

  37. My sister was having stomach problems this evening and I was trying to find something good for her. I had just finished cooking a pot of collards and was sitting down with my obligatory cup of pot liquor when I wondered if good-ole pot liquor would help her. What was I thinking – of course it would. I’ve been drinking pot liquor every time I make a pot of greens, or cabbage, or great northern beans, or string beans, or even carrots that I’ve cooked just like greens – sugar, vinegar, hot sauce and all. I started drinking pot liquor made by my grandmother, her cousins, and my own mom when I was very young – they were from GA. Every female on my father’s side also know how to make a smokin’ good pot of food with it’s rendered pot liquor. It’s the best elixir around. I stumbled upon this site – Thanks for the memories

  38. As a reformed “Yankee”, I am really into cooking collards. I too have my own little killa collard recipe. Tonight I made cornbread and cooked the likker down in half. Mmmmm, was it ever good poured over a cornbread muffin split in half. BTW, the collards are one of the best ever veggies for reducing cholesterol if yours might be a bit high, like mine. I don’t use meat to keep the fat down, and some unusual spices make up the flavor from the ham hock I used to cook in.

    • This message has been around a while, but if everyone still receives these updates here’s another added blessing to the recipe…. Instead of pork or ham try some smoked turkey legs or wings in your collard greens. You can find them in your meat section. But the biggest WOO HOO, gotta do to your greens is ….. Use chicken broth in the can instead of water!!! Cook the smoke turkey, onions, fresh garlic in the chicken broth first, then add the greens. YUMMY!!!!

  39. The secret to good potlikker is to cook your greens (collards are by far the best) at least two hours. If you use the Nothan (spelling) method of dip them in and take them out, you will not have good potlikker.

  40. Need to know how to make potliquor

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