Pot liquor is the liquid left in the pan after boiling vegetable greens. Also called collard liquor, it is made of collard greens, turnip greens, or mustard greens boiled in water. The broth left after boiling a piece of beef or pork may also be given this name.
Boiled collard greens have long been enjoyed as a regional cuisine of the southern United States, where this colloquial term may have originated. In poor areas where food was scarce, there developed a tradition among cooks to save the broth made from boiling the tops of vegetables. The concentrated liquid is full of vitamins and flavor, and it may be used to make soups or gravies.
Some Southern chefs insist the correct spelling is “potlikker” or “pot likker.” Many cooks like to add a piece of salt pork or bacon to their collard liquor for a rich, salty flavor. Depending on the cook, a recipe can be unseasoned or infused with a variety of spices and flavorings. Contrary to its name, it contains no alcohol.
Pot liquor is often served with cornmeal dumplings known as dodgers. Made from a stiff mixture of cornmeal, shortening, water, and salt, dodgers are somewhat like a steamed piece of cornbread. The broth is heated to a simmering boil, and the cornmeal batter is dropped in dollops on top of the bubbling liquid. After about 20 minutes, the dodgers are thoroughly steamed and ready to be served alongside the boiled collard greens and pork.
The savory juices left in the pan after boiling a beef pot roast are another form of pot liquor. The chef may use salt, pepper, rosemary, bay leaf, garlic, and other spices to season the meat and to enhance the flavor of the broth. The addition of carrots, potatoes, and onions to the pan will add to the delicious flavors, and some chefs add cooking wine to liven up the flavor. The broth may be drizzled over the meat and vegetables, or it may be used to make a thick beef gravy.