Collard greens are a uniquely Southern food, I think. Most people who aren’t from the South (or haven’t lived here a while) don’t really know what they are, even if they’ve heard of them to begin with. Usually non-Southerners approach collards with suspicion, if not outright fear, visions of some overcooked, slimy green in their heads.
Hopefully this recipe will banish those thoughts from your mind. I got this huge bunch of greens at the farmer’s market this past Saturday and almost immediately went home and made some of them to have with dinner.
Collards are also insanely good for you as well as being really delicious. A serving of collards is high in fiber, calcium, and vitamins A & D. They’re also low in calories and fat – assuming you don’t add too much in preparing them. They’re also best in the early spring and late fall – being cool season greens – but are usually available year-round.
Here’s how I make mine, which is mostly the same way my Meemaw made hers.
Start by cleaning your collards well. Pull off each stalk and rinse it thoroughly. I fill a tub with cold water in my sink and swish each leaf around to make sure all the sand and grit is gone. Then trim out the tough center stalk to about 1/2-way up the leaf. You can do this quickly by folding the leaf in half and then sliding your knife along the thick stalk to separate it from the leafy green.
Then roughly chop the greens into large squares. Once your greens are washed, trimmed, and chopped, you can move on to the cooking!
Use a heavy pot or dutch oven and add about 2 T of olive oil (my grandmother used bacon grease for hers, but I don’t tend to keep bacon grease around a lot). Add a couple of cloves of garlic and an onion, diced.
Cook until the onion is translucent and then add your chopped and washed collards (about 8 cups all together). Stir them around and let them turn dark green and begin to look wilty.
(I know … I didn’t need 2 images here, but they’re so pretty when they’re this vibrant green!)
Add 6-8-ish cups of stock or broth. I had ham stock that I made after Easter, so I used that. Ham, bacon, or other various forms of pork are a traditional flavoring ingredient for collards, and I try to use ham stock whenever possible to keep them as I remember. You can see that I just threw in my frozen cubes of stock.
I’ve also been known to pour in 1/2 a bottle or so of beer if I have it handy, just for a change up of the flavor. Or sprinkle the mix with some red pepper flakes to give the greens a little bite.
Bring the pot to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Collard greens are something that you want to cook nearly into oblivion. They’re tough, stringy greens, so you want to make sure that you break down that chewiness by long slow cooking. 2 hours of slow simmering would not be unreasonable. Unlike spinach and more delicate greens, collards will not become slimy and mushy when you cook them for a long time. They’ll just become tender and flavorful.
I like to uncover the greens for the last 30-45 minutes and let some of the liquid simmer down.
Now you have some really yummy greens for a meal or as a side dish. I often take a double serving of these to work with me and have them with bread or cornbread as my lunch. Salt them AFTER they’re cooked, as salting them before will make them tough and take them longer to break down. When you do serve them, a splash of pepper vinegar or a squeeze of lemon or lime juice will brighten the whole dish.
One more thing: Don’t discard the liquid left over – what we in the South call the pot-liquor. The pot-liquor is tasty and nutrient rich. Use it to add to soups or stews, as part of the liquid to braise meat or other veggies in, or just to sop up with some really good cornbread. It’s good stuff.
The ingredients are simple: 8 cups cleaned and chopped collards, 1 medium onion chopped fine, 2 cloves garlic chopped fine, 2 T olive oil, 6-8 cups low sodium stock or broth.
Nutritional Info: (4 side dish servings from the above amounts) Calories: 130. Fat: 6.7g. Sodium: 158mg. Carbs: 10.6g. Fiber: 3.5g. Protein: 6.5g. (courtesy Calorie Count Recipe Analyser)
If made with vegetable broth or water, this recipe is vegetarian and vegan.