Collards were a staple in our house growing up. It was a common Sunday afternoon event for our family to take leisurely drives out in the country. From the backseat of the family station wagon, I would see huge collard plants growing out in the sandy fields. Later, my parents would stop at the roadside farm stands to purchase them. On New Year’s Day, the tradition was that eating collards helped insure that money would come your way throughout the year and Hoppin’ John (black-eyed peas and rice) would bring good luck.
I have been cooking a lot this holiday season and a large amount of it has been party food. On Christmas day I bring a dish and gather with my husband’s family at one of my sister-in-law’s. This year after so much party food, I felt the need for something green and nutritious so I cooked a bunch of collards to take. My brother is the collard cooking king in the family so I gave him a call the day before, “Hey George, remind me of how you fix the collards?” They are so easy and so good.
If you go to the grocer and buy collards they are usually tied up in a bunch. When you see it you’ll think there is no way that your family will eat all of them. Do not worry, they will amaze you and cook down to less than half the original volume.
- 1 bunch collards
- 1 ham hock or 6 pieces of bacon
- 2 cups or so of chicken broth
- salt and pepper
- What you want to do is strip the leaves from the center stem and soak in a sink of cold water for about half an hour. Collards can be pretty sandy so you want to be sure to get all of it off. After soaking, drain the water away, rinse the collards and put in the other side of the sink. Clean out the side they were just in, rinse them again and again put in the clean side. I usually do 2 or 3 rinses. There’s nothing worse to a Southerner than gritty collards or gritty oysters!
- Get a large pot out and put the meat in. What you want to do is render (melt) the fat at a fairly low temperature. If I am using a ham hock I’ll cut it up first to help with the rendering. It may take 20 minutes or so but at the point you think the fat just won’t melt anymore pour in the chicken stock to a depth of about an inch. Leave the meat in the pot, and shake out some salt and pepper on it.
- Put the rinsed collards in the pot, put the lid on and simmer on low for a couple of hours, stirring every now and then. Salt to taste if needed. When serving, it is handy to have pepper vinegar or hot sauce on hand as a lot of folks like to dash some on the collards.
- The liquid in the pot is referred to as pot liquor. It is common to cook the dried black eyed beans in this for New Year's Day.