Soul food ingredients; hamhocks, chitterlings, fatback and more

Cooking with cow intestines or pig’s feet might sound unusual and even a bit unappetizing. But using less desirable cuts of meat was essential to creating original soul food fare that many consider staples of this culinary culture.

Here are some soul food terms and dishes you may have heard of – but had no idea what they were – or were too scared to ask about.

Also known as chitlins, but pronounced chit’lins - they are the intestines of a pig or cow. Chitlins are usually stewed, battered and then fried.

Hog’s Head Cheese
The only cheese in this meat product is in its name. Hog’s Head Cheese is usually a mixture of boiled pork scraps that are formed into a gelatinous loaf and then sliced. It’s eaten on crackers or on a sandwich.

Deep fried pork skin, fat and meat pieces. Also known as pork rinds or scratchings. They’re eaten as a snack or baked into corn bread.

The name says it all. Fatback is fat from the back of the pig. It’s usually rendered for its lard and used to cook and season many southern dishes.

Corn kernels without their germ and hull. It’s called “samp” when coarsely ground and it’s called “grits” when finely ground. The many uses of corn can be attributed to the knowledge of Native Americans.

Ham Hocks
Part of the leg bone composed of skin, fat, tendons and muscle. It needs to be stewed or braised for long periods of time before it’s suitable for eating. Most ham hocks are used to season greens and soups.

Hog Maw
The stomach lining of a pig. Hog maws are usually cooked with chitterlings, so they’re stewed or fried. This can also include hog jowls.

Pickled Pigs Feet
The feet of hogs are first smoked or cooked and then preserved in a vinegar brine. Pickled pigs feet are generally eaten as a snack and not as a meal.


A spicy, pickled vegetable relish. Okra, corn and green tomatoes are often used in chow chow recipes. It’s served as a relish for meats.

Stewed corn, lima beans and other garden vegetables. This is another dish that is likely derived from the Native Americans.

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