You would have never found collard greens in one of my Mary Mac’s side bowls when I was a kid. I thought that they were the grossest things until I left the South for college in New York. Strange how these things happen, I didn’t actually become “Southern” until I left Atlanta.
I love collard greens now, but I have to admit, they are a process to make. They are dirty gritty greens and need at least 7 changes of water and some serious scrubbing to get all of that grit out. My mother has said that she has put them in the washing machine, but I fear finding green bits in my underpants. I heard an interview with Aretha Franklin who has a similar strategy and uses a little bit of powdered laundry detergent, I assume that she rinses all of that out because that could really do a number on your intestines.
I will often buy them already cleaned and just skip over the cleaning process.
Collard Greens adapted from The Blue Willow Inn – Bible of Southern Cooking
- 1 bunch fresh collard greens
- 2 tbsp bacon grease
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 6 ounces fatback or ham hock*
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- 1 quart water
Pull the leaves of the collards from the stems. Discard the stems (small stems may be cooked with the leaves). Coarsely chop or tear the collards. Wash thoroughly in cold water and drain. In a large saucepan combine the collard greens, bacon grease, sugar, fatback or ham hock, salt, pepper, baking soda, and water. Bring to a boil. Cook at a slow boil for 2 hours or until tender.
*Considering the fact that I am a Southerner raised by two Yankees, I don’t really know what fatback or ham hocks are. I used a few slabs of bacon chopped up into small pieces. You can also skip the bacon and its grease for vegetarian collards.