Collards are a staple food for many southern cuisines. The green leafy vegetable takes hours to cook down and reduce so that you can eat it with ease.
When making collards two by-products are often discarded; both the stems and cooking liquid are not used to their full potential. For hundreds of years have known of the medicinal properties of pot liquor, or the cooking liquid left over from cooking collards. It is extremely high in nutrients especially iron, and when reduced creates a rich “soup” that can be enjoyed with the greens.
Yields 8 Portions
5# Collard Greens
1G Chicken Stock or Water
1ea Onion, chopped
1cl Garlic Minced
Ham Hocks (skinless) or Bacon (Optional) – Feel free to add as much pork product as you want. If you add hocks or slab bacon make sure to remember that the more you use the more pork flavor you will develop. This also helps enhance the pot liquor’s flavor as well.
1. Wash the collards and comb through them to find debris. You might find rotten pieces as well as tag along guests, caterpillars. Once washed, fold the collard leaves along the stem and gently pull. They will separate easily from the stem and you wont have to use a knife.
2. Once removed from the stem break the collards apart. You can tear them so they are no larger than 3 inch squares. They do not have to be perfect.
3. Cut the stems in half and hold them until the collards are done.
4. You can do one of two things to cook the collards. (If you are short on time, blanch the collards until they wilt, in boiling salted water. Remove and then place in a new pot and add stock, pork product and reduce.)
5. My personal favorite and recommended procedure would be to place pork product in the pan and render out the fat. As soon as the pork product has begun to brown add the garlic and onions gently saute in the pork fat. Once golden brown, add the stock, quickly do this because the garlic can go from golden brown to burnt very quickly. Add the stock, then the greens and then cook until tender. This can take up to 2 hours. Make sure to cook on a low heat setting, in a covered pot, constantly stirring for the cooking duration. You may have to add more liquid during the cooking.
6. Once the greens are tender strain out the liquid, do not throw this away. If you used ham hocks, remove them and the meat should fall off the bone. Save the meat and bones. Take the strained liquid, place in a sauce pot and place on medium heat. Reduce by about a third and then add the ham hock bones and meat. Cook for another 5 minutes and then strain the mixture. It can be done through a colander, some meaty bits will fall through but they will add great flavor to your pot liquor.
7. Discard the bones and add the meat to the collards and liquid back to the greens.
8. Quickly saute the stems. Heat a pan to high heat and add a splash of pot liquor and butter. Throw in the stems and cook for about one minute. They will still be very firm and have a crunch which is a nice contrast from the cooked greens. Add in a scoop of collards, make sure there’s plenty of liquor and meat! Season and serve!