Salt Pork

Old People Stuff

I like meat. Crusty pork ribs, meatballs, and fried chicken will always be on my table. But in these older years I like it less. The other day I had some leftover sausage and made an omelet with the sausage, vegetables, and cheddar cheese. (I’m not a big omelet eater and the whole point of this one was the indulgence of lots of cheddar cheese.)

The omelet was really good because lots of melted cheddar cheese is really good. But the sausage detracted from the dish because it was chewy, and the rest of the omelet was soft and creamy.

It’s old people stuff: I like soft and creamy things now. It’s too much work to eat a big hunk of meat, chewing and chewing and chewing before I can move on to a bite of potatoes or rice.

Flavoring with meat is a grand solution.

Salt Pork and Dried Beans

Unless I’m putting them in soup stock or a Mexican dish, I always cook dried beans–navy, pinto, kidney–with salt pork. That’s from my mom’s West Texas upbringing. We had black-eyed peas with cornbread every couple of months, and I always patted myself on the back for enjoying the meal EVEN THOUGH it didn’t have any meat! But the meaty flavor was there very strongly; salt pork is a powerhouse of salty and smoked pork flavor.

Use salt pork:
  • Indispensable for baked beans
  • Along with smoked sausage for red beans and rice
  • Boiled western-style with pintos, onions, garlic, peppers
  • Boil beans with an onion, then add a ton of chopped greens at the end
  • Navy bean soup
  • Bean soup with vegetables and without soup stock

Thomas Jefferson was a gourmand who famously ate very little meat. “He lived principally on vegetables….The little meat he took seemed merely as a seasoning for his vegetables.” Granddaughter Ellen Randolph Coolidge

I love this fact because it strikes a chord with my mom’s standard meal of pork chops, rice and gravy. The milk gravy made in the pork chop pan was sublime over rice. I like to imagine that Jefferson the Virginian ate rice with milk gravy and pan drippings along with his French-inspired favorites.

Googling for this blog post didn’t enlighten me on Jefferson’s milk gravy habits. Instead I got a little irritated that one–of about ten–references said he ate very little meat “for health reasons.” Prove it! I believe it’s because he was smitten with the European style of cooking with less meat.


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