Southern Collard Greens: Good All Year

Southern Collard Greens

Southern Collard Greens

It’s traditional in the south to serve slow-cooked, smoky collard greens to celebrate the New Year, and we are all for it. But frankly, collards are so good, we enjoy them any time we can get them. Here in California, that usually means winter after a frost. And while we have had almost no winter rains so far, it has gotten cold enough that we saw some collards at the farmers market. We bought a big batch, cooked them up for the New Years and are still enjoying them. We never seem to get enough greens.

collards2colards3collards4Unfamiliar with collard greens? Basically a forerunner of kale (and in the same family) collards are big leafy greens with larger, rounder leaves than kale and with a bigger, earthier flavor. The main differences (that we know of) is that collards need to cook longer than most types of kale and loses its color a bit more during cooking. But the flavor is so rich, and so deep, that we prefer collards to kale for long slow cooking, particularly if pork is involved.

collards5collards6And, of course, pork is involved. In this case, a smoked ham shank (or ham hock, pretty much the same thing ). While we love our bacon and sausage, when making soups or braises, a smoked ham shank is one of our favorite ingredients. The way to think of smoked ham shanks is “instant pork stock and meat in one tidy package”. The combination of smoky meat, bones, marrow and connective tissue flavor any liquid in about an hour. From there you can make bean soups, ham and noodle soup, rich vegetable soups or braised greens.

collards7collards8For the collards you simply soften some aromatics, add some water and chicken stock (or just water), and the ham shanks. Cook for an hour. Meanwhile, clean and stem the collards, cut into big ribbons (its seems wrong to call this a chiffonade) add the collards and cook for another hour. After about 45 minutes remove the ham shanks, let them cool, skin them and then remove and chop the meat. Add the meat back to the pot. Stir, taste, season and serve with hot sauce and some cider vinegar for fine tuning. Cornbread or rustic bread for dipping is always welcome.

collards10collards12And yes, it really is that easy. The only thing you may want to play with is seasoning and spice. We like to add some red pepper flake, black pepper and just a touch of chili powder and cumin about halfway through cooking, but that is just us. We would hold off on adding much salt until near the end of cooking, as the shanks will season the stock. Oh, and make sure you serve in bowls with the broth (or liquor), that really is the best part.

crop11collardHappy New Year from all of us at the farm…now go make some greens!

Southern Collard Greens:

Notes Before You Start:

  • If you can’t find collard greens, you can use mustard greens or hearty kale in this dish. Just adjust cooking time and take the greens off the heat when tender.
  • Smoked ham shanks and ham hocks are basically the same thing and impart the same flavor. Use interchangeably.
  • Have you butcher saw your shank / hock into 2-3 pieces, it is much easier to handle when you remove the meat.
  • Greens (and the liquor) will keep in the fridge for a few days. In fact, they may be even better the second day.

Ingredients:

(Serves 6-8 as a big side or lunch dish)

  • 3 tablespoons bacon fat or cooking oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 ham shank, preferably sawed into a few pieces
  • 1 large clove garlic, smashed
  • 4 cups low sodium (or homemade) chicken stock
  • 4 cups water
  • 2-3 pounds (4 or 5 large bunches) collard greens, washed, stemmed and cut into 1/2 inch ribbons
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flake (optional)
  • Pinch of chili powder (optional)
  • Pinch of cumin (optional)
  • Hot sauce
  • Cider vinegar

Assemble:

  1. Place a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. When hot add the bacon fat and sliced onion. Cook until slightly brown and soft.
  2. Add the ham shank, garlic, stick and water to the pot. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer. Cook for 1 hour.
  3. After 1 hour add the greens, and simmer for another hour, until the greens are tender. Add spices at this time, if you like.
  4. Meanwhile, after about 45 minutes of the greens cooking, remove the ham shank pieces and let them cool on a plate for 5-10 minutes. Skin the shanks and pick the meat from the bones. Chop the meat and add back to the pot and stir.
  5. Cook the greens for a few more minutes until tender and the ham pieces are heated through. Taste, adjust seasoning and serve with hot sauce and cider vinegar.
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100 thoughts on “Southern Collard Greens: Good All Year

  1. Happy Green Year to you both … I can smell this through me screen .. the green stuff I will leave behind, but that pork …. but I was eating creamy kale over the Christmas and I was pleasantly surprised how good it tasted. This is post is about quality comfort food.

  2. We pretty much use collards interchangeably with chard and kale in breakfast sautes, soups, and the like. Other fun and tasty greens we enjoy that you might like if you haven’t tried before include amaranth, sweet potato greens, and Brussels sprouts leaves.

  3. I’m interested in a previous commenter’s question – if a vegetable base can be used instead of a ham hock? I know it wouldn’t be nearly as tasty, but I wonder if it would do in a pinch?

    You know, I’ve never made collard greens, ever. See? Your blog continues to expand my culinary horizons.

    • Hi, Happy New Year. You can see our response in the previous comment. As long as you get some umami flavors in the stock it will be great. Browning extra aromatics, parmesan rinds, etc, will all add flavor. The dashes of hot sauce and vinegar will also add depth.

      The collards also have plenty of flavor on their own- so it will be good.

      Hope you enjoy the dish!

  4. Yum–I’ve enjoyed collards all over the South, and they are my special treat (read, the rest of the family won’t join me). I usually use smoked pork neck bones, but shanks are now on my radar.
    I was just reading (somewhere? Maybe Vegetarian Times?) about cutting out the collard ribs and pickling them. Worth a shot.
    Thanks!

  5. looks great, but I love escarole in my chicken soup. It is the best green leaf veggie especially for greens and beans or “minest” as my grand mother would call it

  6. Nice post and great pictures! :) Thank you for sharing.

    I’d like to share some of my ways of making greens, after having gone through quite a few trials:

    – Meat: I use smoked ham hock or neck bones & smoked turkey (wings and/or legs.) Pork-wise I prefer the hock. Turkey-wise I prefer the wings.

    – Greens: a mix of mustard greens, turnip greens, spinach, sometimes dandelion greens, and from time to time kale and collard.

    – Vinegar: never added this before. I had greens with vinegar in it and just personally preferred it without vinegar.

    – Added (with a health warning): to go really all out I’d add:

    bacon –> uncured, thick-sliced, very low sodium, preferably organic… bacon’s important… :)
    butter
    a real quick sprinkle of sugar…

    [- Cornbread: I usually just buy the ready-mix]

  7. The secret to collards is in the cut. I think it is right to call it a chiffonade. I cut them thinner than seen in your photos, the way my Nana used to cut them. Also, I think collards are more closely related to mustard and turnip greens. Kale is like a long lost third removed, twice married, kin but not kin relative. Heat the pan with vegetable oil then place the well washed, well cut ribbons of collards in the pan and cook to desired tenderness. Season with salt and pepper. That is all they need. This is a strong flavored green. Maybe a little hot sauce once they are on your plate but that’s it.

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  9. Thank you for sharing this! My husband made this the other night but didn’t take out the spine of the collards! I will definitely share this recipe with him to combine with ours! Delicious!

  10. I love collard greens! I had went to Shoprite in my neighborhood to buy fresh collard greens in their produce department. I was so surprised not to see any collard greens in stock! I asked the person working in the produce department if they were going to stock any collard greens? He had the nerve to say what’s collard greens? Really now? Your working in a major shopping chain and you don’t know what collard greens are? Greatly disappointed, I made up my mind to keep asking when I came in to shop. Low and behold, they started stocking fresh collard greens. Then I went in another day looking for salt pork to cook them in. Worker in the meat department, “What’s salt pork? I am in shock. Really! I had to cook my collards greens in thick cut bacon. Just the same I guess. So it was very nice to see your post. Keep collard greens alive! Spinach is good, but it can’t hold a “Leaf” to collard greens! :) http://www.quantumhealthspa.com

    • Amazing- collards used to be a staple and salt pork or shanks are the base of so many good dishes. I guess times change….but glad they stocked your collards!

  11. Reblogged this on What a ButterCusp! and commented:
    I make Mustard Greens mixed with Collard Greens on a weekly basis. While this isn’t my recipe, the Collard Greens in the picture made my mouth water, which for the ButterCusp means they doing something!

  12. Your recipe for Collards started my imagination rolling, but, everywhere I looked there were recipes for Kale. Kale is hail as the wonder food and mixed in many things so, why not collards? Anything Kale can do collards can do just, as well. A Google search for collards gives a few adventurous recipes, but the bulk was for stewed or salad collards. My first try outside the box was a collard smoothie. Paul Ahem has a recipe that I tweaked. The recipe is for Blueberry Peanut Butter Kale Smoothie (http://kalesmoothierecipes.com/blueberry-peanut-butter-kale-smoothie-recipe/). On my third attempt, I got a good tasting concoction. Because I like smoothies that are more like shakes than malts, I added ice. Extra coconut juice made it too sweet for my taste. Are there any of your readers that want to share out of the box collard recipes? My next project is collard/ chocolate chip cookies.
    Here is my adapted recipe.:
    Ingredients
    • 1 Tbsp ginger
    • 1 Tbsp peanut butter
    • 1 bananas
    • ½ cup coconut juice
    • 3 leaf fresh collards
    • ½ cup fresh strawberry
    • ½ cup frozen blueberries
    Instructions
    1. Put 1 tablespoon of ginger in the blender.
    2. Drop 1 spoon of peanut butter into the blender.
    3. Add 1 bananas to the blender..
    4. Pour ½ cup of coconut juice into the blender.
    5. Blend ingredients.
    6. Put frozen blueberries and fresh strawberries into the blender.
    7. Chop collard greens and stems, and put in blender.
    8. Blend ingredients, pour into a chilled glass and enjoy!
    9. Optional: blend ¼ cup of mixed nut, and /or 1 Tbsp shredded coconut

    • Thanks! We will check out the cookie recipe (very cool, btw). Our guess is that kale gets the love because you can make kale chips and a chip is a much easier intro to a new veggie.

      That said, everyone who tries these greens seems convinced that collards are worth the time….

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