No matter what kind of greens you are preparing the key to making delicious greens is the seasoning. I don’t mean just salt and pepper. I mean down home kind of seasonings. Ham hocks, smoked turkey parts or fat back. Take your pick. I have used them all at some point in time to season both my greens and different kinds of beans.
Collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens and kale each have their own unique flavor. To me, kale has a very mild flavor that is sweeter than other types of greens. Plus, kale is a very tender green that has become popular as a substitute for salads or is prepared as a crispy snack. Turnip, mustard and collard greens on the other hand have a much stronger taste than kale. In the case of turnip and mustard greens I think they are on the bitter side so I often mix them with cabbage or with collard greens to balance the flavor. I love to pair collard greens with pork or if I am making a real southern Sunday dinner, I will make collard greens, fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. Throw in some skillet cornbread and my family is in heaven.
Every year until he passed away my dad would plant a garden in the backyard and on one side of the house. He enjoyed planting tomatoes, peppers, okra, beans and collard greens. The collard greens were for my mom and me since he really did not like them but he would grow them just for us. I don’t know how he did it but each year he grew some of the prettiest collard greens I ever saw. I always envied the nice large leaves and when I bought my first house my dad gave me a couple of plants to try in my backyard. The collard greens never quite turned out like his and were often a little puny so I would go over to my parent’s house and pick a few from their garden to supplement my pot of greens.
One trick my mom taught me when cooking Collard Greens was to strip the greens from the stem then layer a few into a pile. Next, you roll them up like a cigar and then slice them into ribbons. For whatever reason, my greens seem more tender when cut them up this way. I also add a little sliced onion and my mom’s secret ingredient to my pot of greens. One or two (depending on how spicy you want the greens) hot peppers. Do Not mix the peppers into the greens and break them up. You also don’t want to lose the peppers in the greens when you stir them up . The person that finds the pepper will have a nice hot surprise. Back in the day I use to be that person whenever my mom forgot to take the pepper out. Now, it is my daughter that finds the pepper on the few occasions I forget to take it out. Remember to just lay the pepper on top of the greens and be careful when stirring them.
Ummm …… talk about good southern cooking!
2 bunches collard greens
2 ham hocks or 2 smoked turkey legs
1 hot pepper
4 cups water
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup diced onions
1 tbsp bacon fat
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp Adobo (optional)
Place ham hocks or smoked turkey legs into a pressure cooker with 4 cups of water with ½ cup of diced onion. Cook for 35 – 40 minutes. Cool down pressure cooker by running under cold water so that pressure is released. Remove meat. Drain broth and set aside. If you are not comfortable using a pressure cooker, place the ham hocks or smoked turkey legs in a large pot with 4 cups of water. Cook for 1 to 1 ½ hours on medium high heat until meat is tender. Remove meat and drain broth.
Remove stems from collard greens. Layer collards in a stack of 4 – 5 leaves then roll up like a cigar. Slice collard greens into ribbons. Set aside.
Heat bacon fat in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onions and saute for 1 minute. Add meat, broth, water and collard greens to the pot then sprinkle with seasonings. Lay hot pepper on top of the greens. Reduce heat to medium and let greens cook for 1 ½ hours until they are tender. Stir occasionally but be careful not to break up the hot pepper. Add more water if necessary. Remove the hot pepper prior to serving.