Mom learned how to make wilted lettuce salad before she started a family. It is something that my family looked forward to each spring. After living through the cold winter in Ohio and eating canned vegetables all winter, we couldn’t wait for the leaf lettuce to pop through the soil in our garden. Dad’s saying was that we eat what we grow; that meant in the winter we had canned vegetables.
By spring we all were anxious to get the first fresh vegetables from the garden; leaf lettuce, green onions and radishes. Of course, those three vegetables combined to make a great fresh salad but nothing compared to the way Mom learned how to make the wilted lettuce salad; it was the best. I never knew of anyone who made this salad and especially like Mom did.
The way Mom learned how to make a wilted lettuce salad recipe was always with leaf lettuce; not head lettuce. I must admit sometimes I got hungry for a good toss salad made with head lettuce. We only grew leaf lettuce so like I said, Dad’s saying was “We eat what we grow” and that was leaf lettuce. Although I loved going to my sister’s house when she fixed head lettuce salads, nothing could beat Mom’s wilted lettuce salad with fresh leaf lettuce.
Leaf lettuce comes up very early in the spring. It is very tender and flavorful. Dad always planted a long row of this lettuce. He might cut about a foot long spot from the row; that spot would grow again. By the time we cut the whole row, we could start at the beginning again. We had lettuce from our garden all summer long. If you let it grow without cutting, it will get old and tough.
I believe Mom’s wilted lettuce salad recipe comes from our German heritage, but even those are not usually like Mom’s. Most of those recipes will have crisp bacon and maybe bacon drippings with vinegar; when hot this is poured over lettuce. Most of these also use head lettuce and other salad greens; not near as good as the leaf lettuce. Leaf lettuce does wilt up more than the coarser head lettuce; this means you will need more of the leaf lettuce but the flavor is wonderful.
Was and drain lettuce or greens; Tear into bite size; Add green onions and lettuce together in a large bowl.
Fry bacon until crisp in a large skillet. Remove bacon from skillet and crumble into small pieces.
Remove all but ¼ cup of the bacon grease. Add the bacon back into the skillet.
In a small bowl, combine the water, vinegar, sugar, salt and beaten egg. Beat mixture until well blended.
Add the vinegar mixture into the skillet with the bacon and grease; Bring to a boil and pour over the lettuce mixture.
My mom made the very best wilted lettuce recipe; I have never seen a recipe like she made and she just whipped it together. I have tried to copy her way and this is the best I can do. This makes a great lunch with hot bread.
Wash, drain and pat dry lettuce and fill bowl; cut green onions into bowl (both white and green sections)
Cook bacon until crisp; (set skillet off heat to cool) drain on paper towels and crumble or cut into small pieces.
Add bacon pieces to salad bowl.
Whisk together the mayonnaise, sugar, beaten egg and milk until blended and smooth.
Blend in the vinegar; add mixture to the skillet with bacon drippings.
Place on medium heat and heat until very hot but not boiling, stirring constantly to blend.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Pour hot mixture over the bowl of lettuce and onions and toss to blend; serve warm.
With sharp knife cut core from head of lettuce; rinse with cold water and gently pat dry.
Tear lettuce into pies in a large bowl; cover and chill in refrigerator.
Combine in skillet vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and pepper; heat to boiling stirring well.
Immediately pour hot mixture over the lettuce; toss to coat.
Garnish salad with egg slices.
NOTE: To make this with bacon dice 6 bacon slices and fry until crisp. Use bacon fat instead of adding the oil. Omit the salt and garnish with egg slices and bacon pieces.
Wash dandelion greens, drain and chop into small pieces; place in large bowl.
Crumble bacon and add to bowl; add onion.
Combine and blend dry ingredients; gradually blend in milk until smooth.
Add mixture to bacon drippings in skillet; add vinegar.
Cook and stir until mixture is thickened; pour while hot over dandelion mixture.
Top with chopped eggs and serve.