You can use any hearty greens to make this dish, but my Grandma always used collards, turnip and mustard greens in whatever combination she could find them. You need a lot of greens to make collards since they cook down to nothing. As a former slave food, collards used to be very cheap to buy and make. When I took over making them, Grandma would ask how much they cost. When I told her she would be horrified and tell me stories of how they were a nickel a pound in her day. She was also a stickler for not using the stems. “Stemmy” greens were a sign of being cheap or low-class. When greens were cheap, maybe you could afford to throw out the stems, but these days they’re not. I find if you don’t use the stems you have to buy a lot more greens. I strip off the leaves and chiffonade the stems. I cook them for a long time so they’re nice and tender.
- 6 pounds of collard with some turnip or mustard greens mixed in, washed. Leave wet.
- 1/2 pound of fatty bacon, diced
- 10 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 pound smoked ham hocks or neck bones
- 1 pound of rutabagas, peeled and cubed
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Hot sauce (optional)
- Prepare the greens by stripping the leaves off the stems. Slice the leaves into 1/4” strips and julienne the stems, diagonally very finely.
- In a small saucepan, cover the ham hocks or neck bones with water and bring them to a boil. Drain off the water.
- In a large heavy bottomed stock pot,over a medium low flame, render the bacon until is crispy.
- Remove the bacon bits from the pan, leave the fat and add olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and sauté until just golden.
- Add the ham hocks or neck bones, the bacon bits and as many greens as will fit in the pot. Put on the lid. Allow the greens to steam for 10 minutes, open the pot, stir them, add more greens, continuing until you fit all the greens in the pot. Season with salt and pepper.
- At this point, you can continue to cook the greens on the stove, but I like to transfer them to a large baking pan. I cover them with aluminum foil and cook them in a 300° oven, so I don’t have to watch them carefully.
- If you leave them in the pot, lower the flame.
- Cook the greens for an hour and a half until they are tender. Adjust seasoning. Add a dash of hot sauce (or serve it on the side). Cool completely.
I find that the greens taste better the next day after the flavors have a chance to meld. We call them Collard Greens even if we mix in turnip or mustard greens. You can also use kale, Swiss chard, cabbage, beet greens, and so forth.