“TOO MANY PEOPLE THINK MEAT, often fried meat, sits at the center of the Southern plate. Maybe it does today, but historically we ate large pieces of meat once or twice a week. The rest of the time, cooks used “seasoning meat” as a condiment—a means to round out a vegetable-and-grain-focused meal. Seasoning meat is usually pork, but never a fancy cut. Instead, it is every nook, cranny, nugget, and bone salted, smoked, or ground into sausage to lend flavor to pots of anything you can boil.”
~ Vivian Howard
Air-Dried Sausage: The seasoning meat of choice in Eastern North Carolina. The tang and funk is unforgettable.
Smoked Pig Tails: An often overlooked option. These little morsels will give off a lot of flavor especially if you have them split it half.
Smoked Pig Trotters: That’s pig’s feet to most of us. Have the butcher split them in half so they give up their fat and flavor.
Smoked Ham Hocks: This is the seasoning meat everyone thinks of when making collards or other greens. That’s for good reason As hocks offer flavor, body, and good-size chunks of meat. It takes a long Cooking time to coax the flavor and meat out of these, but it’s time we’ll spent. Oh and then the potlikker.
Smoked Neck Bones: These nuggets do double duty as seasoning meat and centerpiece. They have a almost obsessive following that loves to gnaw at the luscious bits of meat.
Belly Bacon or Jowl Bacon: Bacon is typically made from the belly, but their cousin jowl bacon is fattier and more flavorful. Both are a cured and smoked meat that can either be rendered in the pot before water is added or simply added with the water. You might consider rendering half of it and then adding the rest with the water for a more complex seasoning.
Fatback: It’s just what it sounds like the fat from the back of the pig. If you’re going to use it as seasoning meat first cure it in salt and treat as you would bacon. It can also be used to make lard, but not as coveted as leaf lard.
Pickled Pork: A staple of Creole and Cajun cooking that is often added to red beans and rice. Usually made from Pork butt or pork belly.
Smoked Country Ham: If you have a limitless budget this is an option. It lacks fat for the most part and thus won’t add as much flavor. A better place for it is as the centerpiece of a meal, on a biscuit or with grits. It’s up to you though if you wish to experiment.