Collard Greens are an important dish in the South. They are always served on New Year’s Day with Black Eyed Peas and Cornbread. Eating Collard Greens means you can expect wealth and the Black Eyed Peas will bring you luck in the coming year. You can also find Collard Greens all year long served at BBQ restaurants throughout the South as a side dish, and if you’re my family they will sometimes make an appearance at Thanksgiving.
This weekend I made a huge batch of Collard Greens because I’m never one who wants to wait until January 1st for the delicious leafy green. I bought two bunches that I needed to prep and 1 bag of shredded collards just to see if I would like them. Although they were tripled washed and ready to just throw into a pot, I won’t buy them again. My family cuts the woody stem out and we dice our collards in 1 to 2 inch pieces. There was a noticeable difference in the thinly shredded collards for me with the stems still on them, but if you’re looking for a time saving method they may be right up your alley.
Collard Greens are something that need a little TLC before getting to the business of cooking them. They can be pretty dirty since they grow in bunches and it leaves lots of nooks and crannies for dirt to hide in. I always clean and sanitize my kitchen sink, fill it up with warm water, and soak the greens. I drain the sink, and rinse the collard greens well. My pot is ready and waiting, and as I rinse a few, I chop them up and drop them into the pot.
Greens are stinky as they cook so for that reason my family will often cook them outside on the burner attached to the gas grill, or I put them in a slow cooker and cook them on the deck or in the garage overnight or all day. I don’t mind the smell of Collard Greens cooking in my house, but my kids complain. Opening a window and lighting a candle will help it to air out afterwards, but I’m warning you just in case you’ve never cooked them.
My favorite meat to season Collard Greens with is pork. We usually buy a piece of hog jawl, fat back, or smoked neck bones (you will need to remove all the bones from the Collards before serving because the meat will fall away from the bone as it’s cooked). Some people use smoked turkey necks too, but for me I prefer the saltiness and flavor of pork. In a pinch if I can’t find the meat that I prefer to use I fry up a pack of thick cut bacon and use the drippings and bacon in my Collard Greens. For a vegetarian option leave out the meat and use plenty of salt to season them as they cook.
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Note – the meat and chicken bouillon contain a lot of salt so I add salt at the end of the cooking process if needed.
This is a recipe for 1 large bunch of Collard Greens. If you can only find a small bunch buy 2. On New Year’s Day we make several bunches for our large family.
Sanitize and clean your sink. Fill it with water, and soak the Collard Greens for 5 – 10 minutes. Rinse them clean.
Fold the Collard Greens in half like you’re closing a book. Trim the woody stem away so the only the leave remain. Slice the collard leaves vertically in long 1 inch strips and then cut across the leaves in 1 to 2 inch size pieces.
Place the Collard Greens in a large pot or in a slow cooker. I place the meat in the middle of Collard Greens as I add them to the pot. If using bacon add the grease and cooked bacon. Drop in the chicken flavored bouillon cube and fill the pot up with water until it reaches the level of the Collard Greens. If all of the collards won’t fit use two pots or let them cook down for a bit and add more to the pot. Like all greens they will shrink up as they cook.
Bring the Collard Greens up to a boil and then lower the heat to allow them to simmer for 3 -4 hours, stirring occasionally. If cooking them in a slow cooker, cook the Collard Greens on low for 8 – 10 hours or until they are tender. We prefer tender Collard Greens and cook them for hours on low.
Taste the collard greens and the juice “pot likker” to see if any salt is needed towards the end of the cooking process. I use a fatty well seasoned meat so I only sprinkle in a little Morton’s Seasoning Salt. If you don’t have this you can substitute it for a little salt, black pepper, and garlic powder.
Serve with freshly made cornbread, hot pepper sauce, and Chow Chow. I like the Mrs. Campbells Hot Chow Chow that I buy at my local Walmart or Publix.
Note – for a vegetarian version you will need to add more salt and the chicken bouillon can be subbed for a vegetable variety. For a smoky flavor add a little liquid smoke to the greens. I don’t add it because my family never used liquid smoke, but many BBQ restaurants serve Collards that have a smoky flavor.