Being new to the south, I was inexperienced with the cooking methods of collard greens. There is something special about the way they are made here, and if you do it wrong, you will end up with a bitter tasting vegetable (as I found out on my first attempt to cook collard greens). Collard greens are a staple food vegetable of Southern cuisine and soul food. They are often prepared with other similar green leaf vegetables, such as kale, turnip greens, spinach, and mustard greens in “mixed greens.”
Typical seasonings when cooking collard greens can consist of smoked and salted meats (ham hocks, pork neckbones, fatback or other fatty meat), diced onions, vinegar, salt, black, white, or crushed red pepper. Traditionally, collard greens are eaten on New Year’s Day, along with black-eyed peas or field peas and cornbread, to ensure wealth in the coming year, as the leaves resemble folding money.
Collard greens are simple to cook, and are extremely delicious. When I first made collard greens, I tried to make them using no meat. I do not suggest this. Cooking collard greens with a ham bone or ham hock should be mandatory, it really adds a wonderfully, subtle flavor that you just can’t get without the meat. I think it is best to keep your collard greens uncomplicated, not adding too many seasonings to them. This recipe is very simple and brings out the best of collard greens. I do think some onions would add a delicious flavor to these. Next time I think I’ll add some in and see how that works out.
Collard Greens Recipe
Do not season collards until they have cooked down, as it is very easy to have a heavy hand with the salt and pepper.
3 pounds collard greens, washed and chopped
2 cups water
½ pound side meat or ham bone or 1 ham hock
1 tablespoon white vinegar
Put ingredients into pot, cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook 45 minutes or until tender. Serve to 4 with homemade corn bread.