Southern Style Collard Greens

Comfort FoodSouthernLow CarbVegetables

Southern Style Collard Greens! Slow cooked collard greens with a ham hock, onions, vinegar and hot sauce. A classic with BBQ!

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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

I grew up with a healthy affection for sautéed 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!

Southern Style Collard Greens Recipe

  • 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 Cook the onions in bacon fat: 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.

2 Add the ham hock, smashed garlic, chicken stock and water and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 1 hour.

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

4 Chop the meat, add to the greens: To serve, remove 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.

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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

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

80 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Dianne Monderewicz

    I love collards but the collards tonight were a bust!!! Tough! Even though they were simmered more than 2 hours! Tasteless! And they looked so good – all young, small leaves – none bigger than a small pot holder. It’s late July so they haven’t had the kiss of frost… what went wrong?

    Show Replies (1)
  2. Ker

    This was my first time making collard greens and I have had them many time in many regions and these were by far the best I’ve ever had! I had 6 people over for dinner and they were gone immediately with everyone going in for serving after serving with rave reviews!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  3. Deborah

    I love this recipe! I added a jalapeno or whatever pepper you want to use. I have used habanero in it. After my collards get done is roughly chop cabbage and cook in with it for a few minutes and I smoke Mexican cornbread. It is awesome! thank you so much for the recipe!

  4. jim

    i do the same with collards but always finish them
    in a cast iron frying pan with a little sugar and fatback grease

  5. Cynthia

    I have cooked greens for many years but this recipe is by far the best tasting I’ve had.

    xxxxxyyyyy

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