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Southern Collard Greens Recipe

Southern Collard Greens, that delicious green vegetable served year round in most Southern households.  It’s the mainstay side dish of most every New Years Day meal.  It’s even supposed to be good for you.  But wait, I hate collards.  I always have and I always probably will.

Thus, you may wonder why in the world I would want to make collard greens the very FIRST RECIPE that I would ever post here on Taste of Southern.  After all, the first recipe should be “special” in so many ways.  You would think a person would want to post their very favorite dish of all times as the first.  Maybe a dish that folks have proclaimed for years that it was the best thing you ever cook.

Why then, would collard greens be the first recipe on a brand new website?  Let’s just call it a little…..GRATITUDE.

Let’s begin with just a little background.  We need to get to know each other and this will give you just a little insight into what Taste of Southern is all about.  If you’re in a hurry though, scroll on down to the fully illustrated photos and printable recipe below.  It’s OK.

Introducing:  Taste of Southern“Taste of Southern” is all about the great southern cooking that I grew up on.  It’s all we knew growing up here in North Carolina.

I grew up poor.  I just didn’t know it at the time.

My brother and sister told me stories about how food was scarce during the early days of my life.  I don’t remember any of it though.  What I remember is that you just didn’t visit our house without mama offering you something to eat.  To me, there was always food at our house.  Or at least mama made it seem that way.  I don’t think I ever missed any meals along the way.  She always had something on the table come meal time.

Maybe by the time I got old enough to start noticing things; God had already begun pouring out His blessings for her generosity to feed others.  I just don’t remember those poor times.

My mom was a fantastic cook.  It was her hobby and her life.  She just loved to cook for her family and for her friends.  And, everyone loved her cooking.  She did some other things, like quilting and a little crocheting but, cooking was her gift and her talent.  God had truly blessed her with this talent and she used it well.

Mama had her standard dishes, like fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, her simple tomato soup spaghetti, chocolate layer cake and of course….her made from scratch….buttermilk biscuits.  She only cooked ONE thing that I never did learn to like and that was….collards.

Sunday Dinner:
Sunday’s were very special at my house.  I went to church most every Sunday, whether I wanted to or not.  Then, after church, we all gathered around the table for the meal that mama had started hours before the rest of us had even woke up.  She’d begin cooking early in the morning, turn the pots off, go to church, come home and start the process rolling again and then serve about 15 or more gathered around that big dining room table.

My brother and sister were both married and gone as they were a few years older than I was.  Still, they were there almost each and every Sunday, along with the current pastor and his family.  If they weren’t, mama would call them to see if they were on the way.

Mama, my dad, my brother and sister all loved collards.  I was just different.  I always said that I would just as soon go out and eat grass in the yard as to eat collards.  I didn’t see much difference.  You couldn’t drown them with enough vinegar or anything else to make them enjoyable.  I still don’t like them.

Have no fear though with the recipe.  It’s tried and tested.  I called on members of my family for help to re-create what mama did in preparing them.  I think it turned out pretty close but I still don’t like them.

I’ll just cherish the memory that whenever mom set the table for Sunday dinner, she would always place that big old bowl of collards at the other end from where I was sitting.  She knew I didn’t like them and wouldn’t even sit them close by me.  Gotta love a mom like that.

This then is a very special recipe for me.  Not only is it the first one to be posted on this new site, it’s a tribute to my mom, a very SPECIAL mother.  A mom that raised us kids’ right, taught us right from wrong, taught us to love others, to help others and to love the Lord.  She was very special to us all and we miss her dearly.  It would be great if she were actually here to help me as I begin this journey.  I’d like to ask her lots of questions and seek her advice and wisdom.  Still, she’s with me as I heat up her old black skillet or round out a buttermilk biscuit by hand, just like she taught me.

So, join us as we begin this new journey of adding our favorite southern recipes to the Internet.  I hope you will enjoy them as much as we have and still do….well….except for the collards.

Let’s Get Cooking!

For our Southern Collard Greens, we’ll need these ingredients and a couple of “Secret Ingredients” listed further down. You’ll just have to keep reading to see what they are.

You’ll need about a 6 quart sized pot to begin.  Place about 3 quarts of water in the pot and bring it to a boil.  Wash and scrub your ham hock well and place it in the boiling water.  Reduce the heat to about medium and let the ham hock simmer.  The ham hock will need to cook longer than the collards to get tender.  Besides, you’ll need the extra time to get those greens really good and clean.

Collards fresh out of the field are usually pretty well coated in dirt.  Most farmers markets and grocery stores will do a pre-wash on them but it’s not good enough that you would want to go ahead and cook them.  You’ll still need to scrub and wash each individual leaf to make sure there isn’t any dirt left on them.  You’ll probably even need to do the wash, rinse and repeat procedure a couple of times to get them totally clean.  You don’t want your family or guests biting into some grit when they start enjoying your greens.

The leaves are usually pretty large.  Even the bunch that I purchased seemed like a lot of collards but, they will reduce down when you start adding them to the hot water.  You should end up with a nice “mess of greens” as we say in the South.

Either on your cutting board or holding it in your hand, fold the leaf over in half along the stem line.

Now, kind of roll the leaf down the stem and separate the leafy green from the tough stem.  Yeah, it’s a bit time consuming but worth the effort in my opinion.  Some folks say chop the stems up and let them cook.  I think you’ll find them to be bitterer if you leave the stem in.  It’s your choice.

Completely separate the stem from the leaf and discard the stem.  You can add them to your backyard mulch bin if you have one or just trash them.

Stack a couple of the leaves together.  We’re going to roll them and cut them.

Start at one end of the stack and tightly roll up the collard leaves.

Turn the leaves and slice right down the middle – lengthwise.

Squeeze the two halves back together, flip around and slice them again.  Just make 3/4 inch slices down the roll until you’ve got it all cut up.  Again, it’s a bit of work but it will help them to cook quicker and be tenderer.

You’ll end up with a big pan of cut up greens before you know it.

Start adding the collard greens to the pot of simmering water.  Add them a few at a time, let those cook down a minute or so and then add some more.  Just keep dumping them in until you’ve got them all in the pot of water with the ham hock.  Let them cook on a slow simmer.  I leave mine uncovered while they cook.  They say they keep their bright green color better if left in an open pot and turn darker green if covered.  Other than that, it doesn’t really matter whether you put a lid on the pot or not.

Go ahead and chop up the onions.  Yeah, it makes my eyes water just looking at this picture. (smile)

Then, chop up the garlic.  Hopefully yours will be fresher than mine was.  It was all I had.

In another small pan, melt the butter, then add the chopped onions and garlic.  You’ll want to sauté these just until the onions are translucent.  Keep an eye on this.  The garlic will burn easily and you just don’t want that to happen.

Add the onions and garlic to the pot of collards.  See how they have cooked down already.  All that liquid in the pot will soon be known as “potlikker” or “pot liquor.”  It can also be used later as a soup.  Keep reading.

Add salt and pepper….then….we’ll add the SECRET INGREDIENTS.

Shhhh….these are the SECRET INGREDIENTS.  Texas Pete Hot Sauce® and SUGAR!  You’ll need to add one Tablespoon of each.  Mama added sugar to all of her vegetables.  The hot sauce just adds a little flavor and doesn’t add heat unless you add a bunch more.  It’s probably best to leave any extra out at this point.  Each person can add more later to their individual servings if that’s what they like.  Now, let this cook for about 10 more minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, lift the collards out of the pot and place them in a large bowl.  Either chop them in the bowl or place them on your cutting board and chop them up some more like I did.  Leave the ham hocks and the potlikker in the pot, don’t throw that out, we’re going to put the chopped collard greens back in.

I couldn’t find my chopper so I ended up draining the greens and placing them on my cutting board.  I used my knife to chop them up a little more.  You don’t want to chop them so small that they’re mushy.  Collards can seem a bit tough but I think it depends on how big and old the collard heads are when you purchase them.  The bigger and older, the tougher they may be.

Carefully remove the ham hock from the pot.  Chop up the “meatier” portion and then place that along with the collards back into the pot of liquid and stir it up.  This will keep it all warm until ready to serve.  When you do serve it, you may not want to add all of the liquid to your serving bowl but you’ll want to add a good bit of it.  Lots of folks say that the “potlikker” is the best part of it all.  They like to “sop” it up with some cornbread.  (Sop is an old Southern word that basically means to dip or wipe up as in dipping the cornbread into the pot liquor.)

Serve up some greens with your favorite meat main course.  And, don’t forget the cornbread!

So, there you have it, our very first recipe ever posted on our Taste of Southern website.  If you have leftover potlikker, you can use that to make Potlikker Soup.  Check out the website for that recipe that includes cornmeal dumplings.  We’ll be posting it shortly.


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