This is my all-time favorite salad. Not only does it taste better than any salad I’ve ever had.. it’s been a part of every holiday I can remember. My Grandma Elsie would grow Bibbs lettuce in her garden each year so we’d enjoy wilted lettuce salads when it was in season during spring/fall and during the winter holidays she’d always manage to find some at the grocery store….
It’s one of the hardest tastes to describe.. it’s sweet and tangy.. it’s warm and cold.. but always so crispy and crunchy.
The key to this salad is the lettuce and the bacon grease.
There I said it…. and I’ll say it again, BACON GREASE! Bacon grease is just the fat leftover in the pan after you cook your bacon (If you’re not familiar with using bacon grease for cooking or are still fat-phobic Read my post “For the Love of Fats and Bacon Grease, HERE)
The star attraction of this salad is the Lettuce, you want to ideally use a Bibbs variety of lettuce, however a butter crunch, butter head, boston, etc will work similarly. Bibbs lettuce is known for its distinctive creamy flavor and crisp, crunchy texture… In this particular salad it works beautifully because it’s just delicate enough to wilt, yet retains it’s crispness.
Here’s how I make my Grandma Elsie’s Wilted Lettuce Salad with Bacon:
- 5 heads of Bibbs Lettuce
- 1/4 pound of bacon, chopped
- Organic Sugar
- Red Wine or Apple Cider Vinegar
- Sea Salt
- Black Pepper
Clean your lettuce by removing the large outer leaves. I like to use just the tightest part of the head, and reserve the larger leaves for lettuce wraps, spring rolls or sandwiches. Peel off the leaves, cutting from the bottom core as needed so the leaves will pull/fall off easily. Soak your lettuce leaves in very cold water or even ice water, to both clean and to make sure it’s nice and crisp. I’ve been known to let me lettuce soak in my sink of cold water all afternoon, my grandmother would soak hers in ice water in a large bowl on the counter… Then drain/spin dry (with a salad spinner, click HERE to buy) you can store your cleaned lettuce in a bag in the fridge for a day or 2, but if you’re going to eat it soon, just transfer your cleaned lettuce to a large bowl and put the whole thing in the fridge, uncovered.
Coarsely chop your bacon (into bacon “bits”) and fry in a small skillet over medium heat, until crispy. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon bits from the bacon grease and drain on a paper towel, set aside. Keep your bacon grease in the skillet, but turn off the heat for now….
I wish I could give you exact measurements for this “dressing” but it’s impossible. There are too many highly fluctuating details 🙂 You’ll just have to trust me and use your own taste to guide you!
Generously salt and pepper your lettuce, sprinkle a few pinches of sugar, and drizzle with red wine vinegar.. give your lettuce a toss.. Heat your reserved bacon grease until it’s very warm but not hot.. i want it to feel very warm if I dip my finger into it.. the warmer your grease is the more your lettuce will wilt…
Drizzle your warm bacon grease over your lettuce and toss with your reserved bacon bits… taste and adjust your seasonings as desired.. you don’t want it to be too sweet or too tart.. if your bacon was very lean you may need to drizzle just a little olive oil on your salad depending your your preferences (generally I’ve found that 1/4 pound of bacon grease is perfect for 5 heads of bibs)
I hope you find this salad as enjoyable as my family does! We plant over 200 heads of bibbs lettuce every spring and fall just for wilted lettuce salads, and just for my hubby and I we have double this recipe every night for our dinner (with a small portion of other healthy stuff)!