Collard greens, such a controversial dish! But in the south, we love them...as long as they are cooked correctly! (If you've ever had them & they were bitter, then they weren't.) It's true, they take a little bit of time to cook, but it is so worth it. Collards in my family tend to be a special occasion green, probably because they take a few hours to prepare. We usually have them on big holidays; always at Thanksgiving & New Years! But really, they are so simple to prepare we should all cook them more often! My sister in law, Amber, inspired me to make them on this particular day. We got to stop by & see her & her family this past Labor Day while we were in FL. They were having a cookout with all the trimmings, including collard greens! John & I got to sample hers & they were so good we craved them for days! Thanks again Amber & Paul!!
2 large bundles of fresh Collard Greens (about 2.5 lbs)
1 Ham Hock (about 1 lb)
Salt & Pepper
Crushed Red Pepper
Apple Cider Vinegar
If you can, shop at your local Farmer's Market for the collard greens. They have a much better selection & they are always fresher than what I can find in the grocery store! Then pick up a ham hock. I know, it's not pretty. But it's necessary!!In a large stock pot, I used an 8 quart pot, add the ham hock & fill about half way full with water.
Trust me, do not leave the smoked ham hock out! Put a lid on top of the pan & bring to a boil. Boil the ham hock for 1-1 /2 hours, until it starts to fall apart.
While the ham hock is boiling, clean your collard greens. You want to make sure you clean each individual leaf, lots of sand & dirt can hide on them! After the leaved are clean, destem them like this. Take 1 leaf.
Fold it in half.
Fold it in half.
Then tear the stem out, working your way down the leaf.
Stack about 6 or 7 destemed leaves flat on top of each other.
Fold them in half.
Then roll, like this.
Add the chopped pieces to a large bowl & continue until all the collard greens are cleaned, de-stemmed, & chopped. Look at all those greens!
When the ham hock is ready, add the greens to the pot. If you keep the lid on the pot while the ham boils then you shouldn't loose too much water. But if you boil it with the lid off & the water reduces, add some more water to the pot now.
Slowly add all of the greens to the boiling ham hock. You'll have to stir to work in all the greens as they start to cook & wilt down.
Look how full that pot is!
Once all the greens are in, add some salt & pepper. You don't need to add a lot of salt, the ham hock adds plenty on it's own. I would suggest starting with a couple of teaspoons & adjust as you go. Cover the pot & simmer on medium/ low heat, stirring occasionally.
Cook for about 3 hours, then remove all the excess fat & bones from the pan. But be careful, it's hard to make sure that you get all of the bones out! Make sure you leave all the meat that has shredded into the greens.
If you have time, continue to cook on low. I cooked mine for a total of about 6 hours. But a minimum of 3-4 will be fine. Collards are one of those few things that just get better as they cook. In fact, I think think they are best left over!