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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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by Wiley J. Williams, 2006 Fat back. Image courtesy of Flickr user Cote.

Fatback, the fatty meat from the back of a hog that is usually dry-cured with salt, has been a staple ingredient in North Carolina and southern cooking since colonial times. Through the years certain synonyms for fatback have arisen, among them salt pork, fat meat, fat pork, (dry) salt meat, salt bacon, seasoning meat, side meat, sowbelly, white bacon, and middling meat. Fatback is used in a dizzying variety of ways: besides being eaten as an entrée in simple meals, it is particularly popular as a seasoning for green beans, new potatoes, turnip and collard greens, fried corn, black-eyed peas, and other dishes. The meat also is believed by some North Carolinians to have value as a folk medicine, curing boils and sore throats and removing warts.


William Arnold, "Conventions, Fatback, and Black-Eyed Peas," The State 47 (October 1979).

"In Defense of Fatback," The State 37 (15 June 1969).

Image Credit:

Fat back. Image courtesy of Flickr user Cote. Available from (accessed September 13, 2012).

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