Collard greens

This tasty and nutrient-dense Southern side is one that we enjoy throughout the fall. It’s no surprise that collard greens are such a staple for New Year’s Day. I remember Mom saying that eating collards on New Year’s Day would bring you money all year long. That may not be true, but in any case, these cruciferous vegetables pack an amazing punch when it comes to lowering cholesterol and fighting cancer. Eating these on a regular basis is doing your body a ton of good.

You can play around with different spices and accompaniments. Spice them up by adding a jalapeño or crushed red pepper into the pot. Steaming them will actually maintain a higher nutrient content. However, I love that smoky taste that comes with the ham hock, and who doesn’t love that flavor? Be sure not to overcook them. Cutting the strips the same size will allow them to cook evenly. If this is your first time cranking up collard greens, stay on the safe side and cook for 20–35 minutes. Overcooking them will bring on a sulfur-like smell and nobody wants that at the supper table.

2 bunches collard greens, washed and de-stemmed
4 strips bacon, cut into 1-inch (2 cm) squares
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 medium onion, sliced
3 quarts (3 L) water
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 ham hock, smoked

  1. Wash collard greens thoroughly. Remove the stems.
  2. Once all leaves are removed and stems discarded take 6–8 leaves at a time and roll them up. Using a chef ’s knife, cut the rolls every inch or so. Once cut, put all the cuttings into a large bowl and set aside for later.
  3. In a large stock pot, cook bacon until dark and crispy. Remove bacon and retain the drippings in the pot. Set bacon aside for garnishing later.
  4. Sauté garlic and onion in drippings until onions are translucent. Now drop in the collards a handful at a time. Toss them with a long spoon until they have wilted to ½ their original size.
  5. Add water, black pepper, and ham hock. Stir well and bring to a slight boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 30–40 minutes or until tender.
  6. Chop bacon into small bits. Remove the collards from pot and place in large serving bowl. Garnish with chopped bacon bits.

Variations—Mustard Greens or even Kale can be used instead of the collard greens.

Tips & Tricks—Folding greens in half along the stalk allows you to remove leaves quickly by cutting on either side of the stem. If you don’t have a large pot, add greens slowly. They should wilt and reduce in size quickly.