How To Make Old-Fashioned Wilted Lettuce Like Grandma's

The Secret Ingredient In Wilted Lettuce

Back in grandma's day, culinary delights were made with heart-stopping lard rather than butter.  Maybe you've never heard of lard, but it comes from pig fat, and as gross as that sounds, makes the best biscuits and flaky pie crusts you've ever eaten.

In the era of big gardens where families saved money on meals by freezing and canning their own homegrown produce, wilted lettuce during the growing season was a special treat at dinner.  

Wilted lettuce is a summertime specialty.

Simmering wilted lettuce dressing on the stovetop fills the kitchen with a pungent, mouth-watering aroma.  It takes me back to my own childhood when I'd come in from playing and find mom busy preparing some for dinner.  

What makes this old-fashioned recipe so delicious?  The secret ingredient to wilted lettuce is bacon grease.  Before you slap your hands to your face in horror, let me remind you that paradoxically in our ultra, health-conscious generation, obesity continues to be at an all-time high.  

In grandma's day, people were too busy working their butts off for bacon grease to have time to settle on their hips.  No one was sitting on the couch playing video games, overindulging on screen time, or popping junk food.  Many potato chips and snacks we consume today weren't even on the market yet.  Special treats consisted of popcorn or butter on saltine crackers.  

If you want to go back in time and indulge in this wonderful salad, here's how to make it.

Grandma's Old-Fashioned Wilted Lettuce

The best lettuce to wilt for this salad is the green leaf lettuce from your own garden, and if you've planted green onions, you can harvest some for this recipe, too.  Garden lettuce is significantly sweeter and more tender than any you will find in the produce section of the grocery.

Even if you don't have a garden, you can still enjoy wilted lettuce.  Just pick up fresh green leaf lettuce and green onions from your local farmer's market or grocery store.  It's not the same, but it still works.


2 bunches of green leaf lettuce from the store, or enough from your garden for 4-6 servings.
12-16 bacon strips (about one pound)
1 cup green onions, chopped
2 Tbsp. flour
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
6 tsps. sugar
1 tsp. salt


Clean lettuce and divide between 4-6 bowls.  Most store-bought lettuces will require chopping, but many types of garden lettuces do not.  Set aside.

My favorite garden lettuce is Black Seeded Simpson.

Chop bacon and fry in large frying pan until crisp.  Remove bacon to paper towels, but reserve all drippings in the pan.  

Bacon is delicious in so many recipes.

Add green onions to pan and cook on medium-low until tender, about 3-5 minutes.

Green onion sets are so easy to plant and harvest.  Every time you pick one, just plop another onion set in its place.

Add flour to pan and cook and stir until slightly golden, about 1-2 minutes.  Add vinegar, water, sugar, and salt and stir until combined.  Stir in bacon.  Pour hot dressing over reserved lettuce bowls.  Toss to coat and serve immediately.

Yes, it's laden with fat, but if you only eat it once per summer, it's okay to splurge.

The dressing is almost gravy-like with a hint of sourness.  If you like your lettuce swimming in dressing, then this recipe will easily make 4 servings.  For a lighter coating to your lettuce, spread the dressing among 6 bowls of lettuce instead (maybe more if you go really light on each bowl).

I always wind up putting too much dressing in my bowl.  It looks scant when you pour it in the center, but by the time you toss and coat it, it can quickly become too soggy.

Wilted lettuce tastes and smells like summer.

Two Tools For Making Wilted Lettuce

Before salad spinners and veggie washes were invented, harvesting garden lettuce took a little more prep time.  After picking the lettuce, you had to soak it in the sink or a bowl, and rinse and repeat until you were rid of all the dirt.  Then, you had to shake it and dry it with towels.  What a pain!

The easiest way to clean lettuce is to plug your CLEAN kitchen sink, lay the lettuce leaves in the sink, spray the lettuce with an all natural veggies wash, and then fill the sink with cold water--enough to cover it.  Next, rinse each piece of lettuce and toss it in a salad spinner, whirl it around, and done!  It's ready to use immediately or bag for later.

Life is so much easier with veggie wash and a salad spinner!  If your kitchen isn't equipped with them, check out links to my favorite ones:


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