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Eighteen years ago, I tasted some amazing Southern collard greens at a church potluck in Savannah. To my great delight, I was able to find the lady that brought them, so I naturally asked her what her secret was.
Can you guess what ingredient she said? Ham hocks.
Why do we eat collard greens on New Years?
Southerns like to eat greens (collards, mustard or turnips) instead of cabbage on this holiday because they are plentiful at that time of year and are the color of money. Eating greens on the first day of the year symbolizes more folded money in your pocket in the new year.
What does the traditional New Year's Day meal mean?
The traditional meal in the South is collard greens, black eyed peas, hoppin' John, cornbread and pot likker soup. Having pork and ham is considered lucky and will bring prosperity to you and your family.
There is a well known phrase, "Peas for pennies, greens for dollars and cornbread for gold." The peas are symbolic of coins or wealth, greens are paper money, and cornbread is gold. Whether you believe these foods will make you more prosperous in the upcoming year or not, it's a very delicious meal and is tradition in many homes in the South.
Is this recipe healthy?
Eating greens is very healthy, they are packed with many vitamins and minerals. They are high in calcium and dietary fiber, vitamins C, A, E and K. They are also low in calories. A serving size of ½ cup with pork is 72 calories and has 7.3g of carbs.
How do you store them?
- Wrap the unwashed bunch in damp paper towels.
- Place in an open plastic bag.
- Refrigerate for as long as 5-7 days.
How do you clean them?
- Fill the kitchen sink ½ way with slightly warm water.
- Add ½ cup to 1 cup of white vinegar and a tablespoon of salt.
- Let them soak for 5 to 30 minutes.
- Rinse with cold tap water.
How should I cut this vegetable?
- Fold each leaf in half lengthwise.
- Cut out the tough rib with a sharp knife.
- Stack 3 to 8 leaves high and cut in ½ inch to 1 inch pieces. You can also roll the leaves before cutting.
Does vinegar help tenderize?
Adding anywhere from 2 teaspoons to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar will help with any tenderizing.
How do you get the bitterness out?
Add one teaspoon of salt or lemon juice. Stir and taste, if necessary, repeat the process until the bitter taste is gone.
Why do they stink?
If you overcook them, they will release a pungent sulfuric smell. The best way to eliminate this smell is to remove the ribs and have the leaves trimmed in smaller pieces so they cook evenly and more quickly.
What do you eat with this recipe?
This vegetable can be served with cornbread, black eyed peas, or grits.
Can this be made in advance?
Yes, it's actually best to make it a minimum of 4 hours in advance, or up to a whole day ahead. When you make them the night before, allow them to cool at room temperature for two hours before covering and refrigerating.
Is this good reheated?
This recipe tastes better the next day because the extra time will allow the flavors to deepen. To reheat, place in a pot over medium low heat. Stir and cook until heated through.
Once cooked, can it be frozen?
Yes, allow the collards to cool first, then place in airtight freezer container or a zip-top freezer bag. Lay the freezer bags flat in the freezer for up to 3 months.
How to Make this in a Crockpot
- Place the ham hocks, onion, garlic, 2 cups water, and 2 cups chicken stock in a crock pot. Place the lid on and turn on high.
- After 4 hours of cooking, the meat on the ham hocks should be tender enough to fall off the bone. Using metal tongs, start pulling the meat off the bones while it's still in the crockpot.
- Add the clean collard greens, sprinkle of salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and brown sugar on top, then pour on the apple cider vinegar.
- Stir. Cover and cook 2 more hours on high.
- Serve with extra ham, potlikker, and corn bread.
How to Make
Gather all the ingredients. Chop the onion and mince the garlic.
To clean the leaves, fill the kitchen sink half full of slightly warm water. Add ½ cup to 1 cup of white vinegar and 1 tablespoon of salt. Stir with your hand. Add the leaves and let them soak 5 minutes or up to 30 minutes. Rinse well with cold running water.
Fold the leaf in half lengthwise and cut the rib out with a sharp knife.
Place the ribs into a freezer bag to use when making vegetable stock.
Stack 3 leaves high and slice into thin, even pieces.
Over medium high heat, heat up the olive oil and add the chopped onion.
Saute for 6 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
Sprinkle on the salt, pepper. Cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, stirring constantly, to bloom the spices. Dump the cooked onion mixture into a bowl and set aside.
Using the same pot, fry them in batches, stirring them constantly until they're wilted.
Return the wilted vegetables into the pot and pour in the chicken stock and the water.
Add the red pepper flakes, the apple cider vinegar, and brown sugar. If you want, you can add 1 cup of additional chopped ham right now or wait until the end.
Place the three ham hocks into the pot, making sure they are surrounded by the greens.
Cover the pot and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and let it simmer for 1 hour. Check on it occasionally to give it a stir.
After one hour, check the ham hocks. If the meat is tender enough for your taste, remove them and let them cool.
If you want to cook them longer, keep them in the pot. Once the ham hocks are cool enough, cut the meat off the bones and shred it into smaller pieces.
Taste it after one hour. If they are tender enough, you can remove the pot from the heat. If you like them very tender, keep cooking them on medium low and checking them every ½ hour.
Once everything is cooked, strain with a colander placed over a large bowl. You'll want to keep the potlikker, so don't let it go down the drain.
Place them in a bowl, stir in the shredded ham hocks and the additional 1 cup of smoked ham. If you need to keep this side dish warm to bring to a covered dish event, transfer them to a 6 quart crock pot and keep on warm.
Serve warm with fresh cornbread, and have guests pour some potlikker then use the freshly made cornbread to sop it up.
- Don't want to use ham hocks? Use ham bone, smoked turkey drumsticks, wings, or bacon.
- Need this vegan? Omit the meat, use vegetable broth, smoked salt, liquid smoke, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and hot sauce to taste.
- Want this as a main course? Increase the meat per serving, by stirring in more chopped ham.
- Want to increase the spiciness? Increase the red pepper flakes to ¼ teaspoon, or add ½ teaspoon of hot sauce.
- In a hurry? Use pre-washed collard greens.
- Want to use baking soda? Adding a pinch of baking soda can help this vegetable remain green and can help cut the gas.
- Need to make more? This recipe is easy to double or triple. Just use the scale button in the recipe card.
- Don't throw out the ribs, use them for vegetable stock. Place them in a freezer bag for future use.
- Can't find collard greens? This recipe work for mustard or turnip greens.
- Emeril Lagasse Dutch Oven: this heavy-bottomed pot is our favorite for cooking.
- Bamboo Spoon: this spoon is great for stirring sauteed veggies and soups.
- Large Bamboo Cutting Board: we love a spacious board for chopping veggies.
- 2-Cup Measuring Cup: this glass measuring cup has a convenient pouring spout.
Love Southern side dishes? Why not try these.
The pleasure of a 5 star review would be greatly appreciated.
Southern style collard greens is an easy recipe that is healthy, spicy, and delicious. Learn how to make greens on the stovetop or crock pot with ham hocks, vinegar, and onions. This popular soul food makes a great Sunday dinner idea that the whole family will love.
- 2 tablespoon olive oil (30 ml)
- 2 cups yellow onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoon salt + more to taste at the end
- 2 teaspoon black pepper
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken stock (355 ml)
- 3 cups filtered water (355 ml)
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 pound fresh collard greens, washed and chopped (954 g)
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (20 ml)
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
- 3 ham hocks, roughly 1 ¼ cups of meat (2 pounds; 907g)
- 1 cup smoked ham, shredded (if ham hocks don't have enough meat)
- Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Saute the chopped onion for 6 minutes, then add the minced garlic and saute for one minute, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper.
- Using the same pot, fry the cleaned and chopped collards in small batches over medium heat until they wilt, stirring after adding each new batch. Put the wilted greens in a bowl to make room in the pot.
- Once all the collards are wilted, put them back in the pot and pour in the chicken stock, water, red pepper flakes, brown sugar, and vinegar and stir. Place the three ham hocks into the pot, making sure they are mostly surrounded by the greens.
- Bring the covered pot to a boil, then turn it down and let it simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours. Taste test at 1 ½ hour mark. If you like your greens more tender, let it simmer a bit longer.
- Remove the ham hocks after the first 1 ½ to 2 hours, let them cool for 45 minutes, and shred the meat from them. Cut off the fat and grisle.
- Add the meat back to the pot (if you don't have a lot add extra ham) and simmer for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Remove the greens from the pot with a large slotted spoon, being careful to reserve the liquid (potlikker) for its nutritional value and taste. Use the potlikker to pour on top of individual servings of greens and sop it up with cornbread.
- Serve warm. Set out the potlikker for guests to pour on top. Serve with cornbread, black eyed peas or grits.
- Place the ham hocks, onions, garlic, water, and chicken stock in a 6-quart crock pot. Cover and cook on high for a total of 6 hours.
- After 4 hours, the ham hocks will be done. Use tongs to start pull the meat off the bones. Leave the meat and bones in the crockpot until the 6 hours are complete.
- After 4 hours of cooking, add the cleaned and cut collard greens, the spices (salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes), and brown sugar. Pour in the apple cider vinegar.
- Stir, cover, and cook for 2 more hours. Serve with extra ham, potlikker, and cornbread.
- Use pre-washed collard greens, if you're in a hurry.
- Help this vegetable remain green and reduce the gas by adding a pinch of baking soda.
- This recipe is easy to double or triple if you need to make more for a crowd.
- Use the ribs for vegetable stock, and place them in a freezer bag for future use.
- Use this recipe for mustard or turnip greens, if you can't find collards at the store.
- Category: Side Dish
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: soul food collard greens recipe, easy collard greens recipe
This recipe was originally published on October 26, 2017.