Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What Grandma Knew: Bacon Drippings

About a year ago, my mother gave me a cookbook that once belonged to my great grandmother,  The Good Housekeeping Cookbook from 1942.  I love reading old cookbooks, and this one has been particularly handy.  At the time it was published, depression economy and war rationing was a real part of the minds of the cooks of the day.  There are sections of the book dedicated to stretching this and substituting that in the kitchen to make everything as pleasant as possible. One thing that caught my eye was a section dedicated to saving on butter that included the following:

"Use bacon, ham or sausage drippings in seasoning such vegetables as string beans, lima beans, rice, macaroni, vegetable sauces etc."
"Use bacon, ham or sausage drippings for sauteing white or sweet potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, onions, apple rings, cabbage, etc." (pg. 27)

Since reading this, I have saved my bacon drippings in the fridge and found that potatoes fried in bacon fat are super and green beans seasoned with a teaspoon of bacon fat instead of butter are a new hit.  Last night I used a tablespoon of drippings to saute chard from my garden with mushrooms and lemon basil--grandma was sure smart!  I'm grateful in this day of expensive food and tight budgets to be getting more mileage out of any food stuff, but to have the shortcut taste nice as well is a bonus.  Here are the rest of the instructions on the use of pan drippings:

"If they are bacon, sausage, ham or roast drippings, strain each kind into a separate covered container and keep stored in the refrigerator.  Then use for sauteing vegetables, chicken, eggs, French Toast, fish, rabbit, etc.  The ham, bacon, or sausage drippings are good too as seasonings for vegetables and as the fat in buttered bread crumbs, stuffings, casserole dishes, soups vegetables and meat sauces, etc.  Plan to use up your pan-drippings as quickly as possible for they don't keep too well." (pg.28)

One thing I would add: remember that bacon and sausage and ham are all salty.  Taste before you salt when using the fat from any of these meats to avoid over-seasoning your food.  Also, I have yet to strain my bacon drippings, finding that I don't mind a bit of bacon in anything I might want to add drippings to.

I remember a can that held drippings at my grandma's house, but I hadn't put it all together until seeing this hint. Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without! Thanks, grandma.
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