What’s more Southern than a mess of collard greens slow-cooked with smoked bacon? This recipe is as down-home as it gets. Serve ’em up hot, with some Hoppin’ Jack and golden brown cornbread!
Southerners love their greens. Collards have held an important place on Southern tables for well over a century, and there’s simply no other veggie that says “Southern!” Although collards are available in grocery stores year-round, they are at their best from January through April. Cooking up a mess of greens is a perfect way to sneak in some veggies during the late winter and early spring!
The traditional way to cook greens is to boil or simmer slowly with a piece of smoked or salted pork or ham hock. This cooking method tempers their tough texture and smoothes out their bitter flavor until they are soft and tender. Typically, greens are served with freshly baked corn bread to dip into the potlikker.
As any true Southerner knows, pot likker is the highly concentrated, vitamin-filled broth left over from slowly boiling the greens. It is, in other words, the “liquor” left in the pot. My meemaw always said that “Pot likker will cure what ails you. If nothing’s ailing you, it will give you a darn good cleaning out.”
According to Southern folklore, collard greens are magical food! On New Years Day, we every good Southern family serves up a mess of greens with black-eyed peas and hog jowl to bring a year of wealth and prosperity. Some folks even hang some fresh collard leaves over the door to ward off evil spirits. Legend even has it that placing a fresh collard leaf on your forehead will cure a headache. Seriously, what can’t this veggie do?
- 2 Bunches Collard, Turnip, or Fresh Mustard Greens
- 1 Tbsp Butter
- 1 Onion, peeled and diced
- ¼ lb Smoked Slab Bacon or Ham, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 Cups Water
- 1 Pinch Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
- 1 Dash Louisiana-Style Hot Sauce, to taste
- Trim away and discard the tough stems of greens. To loosen grit, place the leaves and the remaining tender stems (you should have about 2 quarts of greens left) in a large bowl, cover with lukewarm water, and soak for 5 minutes. Rinse several times in lukewarm water to wash away any remaining dirt.
- Melt butter in a large, heavy skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat.
- Add onions and smoked bacon. Fry the onions with the bacon, stirring often, until the onions wilt and the bacon starts to brown (approximately 5 minutes).
- Add in the greens and water and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Cover the skillet and lower the heat to medium. Cook until the greens are tender, with just a little crunch (approximately 20 minutes).
- After approximately 20 minutes, uncover and raise the heat to high, and boil off the excess water (approximately 5 minutes).
- Add salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste. The dish should be slightly soupy, and the greens should be tender with just a little crunch. Serve hot!