Kilt lettuce is not a type of lettuce, rather it is a dish of lettuce (or other greens) served warm.
Think warm salads, such as spinach and radicchio with crumbled hot pancetta.
Kilt lettuce, however, is a warm salad you won’t see it in too many restaurants. It is an Appalachian and southern US version of a warm salad, in which the salad green has bacon on it — bacon fat, that is. If the wording “bacon fat” is enough to make you blanch, people in the south will even refer to it as “bacon grease”, as in “dump the bacon grease over your salad.”
Kilt lettuce is a springtime dish, made with new, spring lettuce and green (aka “spring”) onions. A favourite lettuce to use in the spring is “branch lettuce.”
You melt bacon fat, get it really hot, then add vinegar, water (sic), sugar and black pepper (standing back, of course, when the water and vinegar hit the hot fat.) You mix, then pour it over a waiting bowl of your salad greens, and then cover with a lid for a couple of minutes to allow the lettuce to wilt, then serve hot.
Some people like to pour the bacon fat alone on the lettuce, then finishing dressing it with vinegar, salt, sugar and pepper right in the bowl
Instead of using reserved bacon fat, you can fry up bacon, crumble it on the salad greens, and then dump the bacon fat from the pan on.
You generally eat it with some kind of bread to sop up the grease and the vinegar. The bread could be cornbread, or baking powder biscuits. It might also be served with fried potatoes and / or fried salt pork.
You can use any kind of leafy green: leaf lettuce, spinach leaves, creasy greens, etc.
You can also include with the lettuce garnishes such as chopped boiled egg, sometimes early radishes, and ramps when in season.
There are other versions that don’t use bacon fat.
Kilt Lettuce can also be made by bringing some milk to a boil, pouring it over the salad, letting the salad wilt a bit, then draining the excess milk off, but bacon fat is by far the most common method. Some vegetarians make a vegetarian version by substituting oil for the bacon fat. Another “authentic” version (as in not made up by vegetarians) actually uses both milk and oil:
Pour into a cast-iron frying pan 3/4 cup of buttermilk and 1/2 cup corn oil. Bring to the boil 3 or 4 times. Pour over your lettuce and green onions, prepared and waiting in a bowl, cover, let sit 10 to 15 minutes, then salt and serve.
Notice the recipe calls for salt, though, to make up for the missing saltiness from the bacon fat.
Also called “Killed” Lettuce.
In Central and East Kentucky, and some other parts, some people say “Wilted Lettuce.”