Southern Style Collard Greens

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Please welcome Hank Shaw as he shares a Southern favorite, collard greens! ~Elise

I grew up with a healthy affection for sauteed greens: Bright, vibrant, spiked with garlic and red pepper and maybe a little citrus at the end. This was how greens were supposed to be served—alive, vigorous and most of all, emerald green. So you can imagine my shock when I first encountered Southern-style collard greens.

It was more than 20 years ago. I was one of the only white employees of a black-owned weekly newspaper in Madison, WI. At some point in springtime we all gathered for a company picnic, and these greens were part of the spread.

Army green, stewing in an olive drab pot liquor, with chunks of smoked pork floating around. I asked my boss, Ms. Franklin, what this was. She almost fell over laughing. “Those are collards, son! You’ve never seen collards before?”

I hadn’t, being white, from New Jersey and from a largely Italian-Jewish-WASP town to boot. Ms. Franklin explained that collards are so tough they need long cooking, and aren’t really very good without some sort of smoked pork; a ham hock was best.

And then she told me the secret to collards: It’s the pot liquor, the richly flavored, smoky soup at the bottom of the collard pot. She said that’s where all the vitamins went after you stewed the heck out of the greens.

Southern Style Collard Green

Some people reuse the pot liquor for their next batch of collards, and some add more ingredients (beans, more pork, etc) and make it a soup. Whatever you do, don’t throw it away.

Southern collard greens, you should know, are one of those recipes that has unlimited variations. Each region, even each cook, has his or her own twist. This is how we had them at our company picnics, so long ago. Or at least it’s how I remember them. Ms. Franklin’s gone now, bless her soul. This one’s for you, Betty!

From the recipe archive, first posted 2013

Southern Style Collard Greens Recipe

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  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 2 hours
  • Yield: Serves 4-6 as a side dish

While you can make this recipe with chard, kale, turnip or mustard greens, they cook much more quickly than collards, so cut the cooking time to 30 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp bacon fat, lard or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced from root to tip
  • 1 ham hock
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1-2 cups water
  • 8-10 cups chopped collard greens, about 2 pounds
  • Vinegar and hot sauce to taste

Method

1 Heat the bacon fat in a large pot set over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion in the bacon fat, stirring often, until the edges begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the ham hock, smashed garlic, chicken stock and water and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 1 hour.

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2 Add the collard greens to the pot and cook until tender, another 45 minutes to an hour.

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3 To serve, fish out the ham hock, pull the meat off the bones and chop. Mix the meat back with the greens and serve with vinegar and hot sauce at the table.

southern-collard-greens-method-5 southern-collard-greens-method-6

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Hank Shaw

A former restaurant cook and journalist, Hank Shaw is the author of three wild game cookbooks as well as the James Beard Award-winning wild foods website Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. His latest cookbook is Buck, Buck, Moose, a guide to working with venison. He hunts, fishes, forages and cooks near Sacramento, CA.

More from Hank

Links:

Collard Greens with Ham and Ham Hocks, from Steamy Kitchen

Collard Greens Stew with Chorizo and Garlic, from The Kitchn

Collard Greens with Mushrooms and Smoked Paprika, from Herbivoracious

Southern Style Collard Green

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Showing 4 of 62 Comments

  • Robin

    If you don’t eat pork add smoked turkey legs or wings. For those in the southwest that have trouble finding fresh greens go to Trader Joes for the Country Greens; it’s a mix of collards, mustard, turnip and spinach. Make your cornbread, get the vinegar, onions, and tomatoes and enjoy!

  • Luther brown

    I’ve been using kale for a while now. As collards aren’t readily available in Calgary or if they are the price is way too damn high.

  • lady4life

    I Cooked greens for first time
    tried this recipe and loved it..very simple but extremely flavorful

  • cathy

    Sorry ya’ll , a real southerner does not put flour in their cornmeal to make cornbread. I’m 55 yrs. old and have only lived in Arkansas, Tennessee and South Carolina. I have yet to meet a real native that puts flour in their cornmeal. Only yankees do. My mother is one, she made cornbread that way. She even puts sugar on grits, yuck! And we wonder why yanks don’t like grits.

  • Teri

    To reduce the fat a friend uses smoked turkey necks and adds balsamic rice vinegar to hers while she is cooking. Me I love it with ham hocks, smoked rib tips or smoked turkey thighs. Really any smoked meat can’t go wrong. Add some corned bread, black eyed peas, smoked turkey or fried chicken, fried okra and a big ol glass of butter milk and YUM got dinner! I hate living in WI but can make it tolerable by cooking real southern dinners. I would kill for some blackberry cobbler for dessert!

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