I wanted to end the month on a positive note, so I’ll do that by sharing a comfort food recipe that my grandmother and mother prepared around the Thanksgiving holiday: collard greens. This side dish is prepared throughout much of the South; for example Georgia, the birth home of my grandmother and mother.
It’s always been essential for me to pick up recipes from my family’s past. In a way, I was maintaining my grandmother’s memory and traditions with each dish, which was important since my grandmother died in 2003. I learned my grandmother’s sweet potato pie recipe, and I also taught myself how to prepare her savory cornbread. So my mother seemed delighted and mildly amused over the phone, when I asked for her collard green recipe.
For those who don’t know, collard greens (in their raw form) are these thick, leathery, durable leaves – almost the size of tobacco leaves. Collard greens are a great source of vitamin A, vitamin K, protein, fiber, calcium, and iron. As a kid, I wasn’t a huge fan of vegetables, but collard greens definitely became an exception to that rule.
- Two bundles of collard greens, about 1 pound each, (0.45392 kg.)
- Two 2-pound (.907185 kg) packs of smoked pork neck bones / smoked turkey necks / smoked ham hocks (some kind of smoked pork or turkey meat)
- One yellow onion
- About two tablespoons of sea salt per pot
- Ground pepper, season to your taste
- Place your smoked meat in two large pots and fill the pots with water, until the water level just about covers the tops of the pieces.
2. Chop the onion and evenly distribute the diced onion in both pots.
3. Grind peppercorns into each pot to your preferred taste.
4. Place about two tablespoons (29.5735 ml.) of sea salt in each pot.
5. Boil the water.
6. Once the water boils, cover the pot and lower the stove temperature to “low.” Let that simmer for an hour.
7. While your smoked meat simmers, you’ll need to prepare your greens: remove the thick stem or stalk of the leaf, rinse each leaf (because it may have the occasional spot of mud or insect – consequences of agriculture, folks). And cut the leaves into smaller, more manageable sizes. Do this with both bushels.
8. After an hour of your smoked meat simmering, please remove all the meat and set aside in a dish or bowl – you’ll need that later.
9. Place the cut collard greens in the smoked meat/onions/seasoning broth, which is currently simmering. Add about two more cups (473.176 ml.) of water to each pot. Cover the pot. Let the greens simmer in the broth for 2.5 hours.
10. As you’re waiting for your greens to cook, may I recommend a glass of Kentucky bourbon, neat or on the rocks. I’m currently enjoying Henry McKenna, single barrel, aged 10 years. Pour a couple of glasses and invite a friend over. Talk about something uncontroversial like religion or politics.
11. Anyway, after 2.5 hours, garnish your simmering greens with small cut portions of your smoked meat. Let that simmer for another 30 minutes.
12. Serve your greens, using a draining spoon. The dish is savory, with a robust smoky flavor.
Collard greens are comfort food, best shared with people you care about; whether you’re in the Southern United States, or anywhere else in the world. I recommend you try this at home. Enjoy, and more importantly, be kind to each other.