Friday, April 16, 2010

Southern Style Collard Greens

Southern seasoned collard greens made with smoked pork hocks, or other smoked meats, and served with raw onion, vinegar pepper sauce and cornbread or hoecakes on the side.
Southern seasoned collard greens made with smoked pork hocks, or other smoked meats, and served with raw onion, vinegar pepper sauce and cornbread or hoecakes on the side.

Southern Style Collard Greens

Collard greens and ham hocks were just meant to be together in my opinion. I mean, is there possibly anything more southern than a big bowl of southern style collard greens, made with ham hocks and a couple of hoe cakes tucked into the corner of the bowl? I absolutely adore collards personally, and really, though you can use a few other types of meats to season them with, ham hocks rule.

The other day, I asked The Cajun to make a pit stop by the market on his way home, and he just happened to pass by his Mama's and the Winn Dixie store. Well, lo and behold, Winn Dixie just so happened to be having a 2 for 1 special on collard greens, so in he walks with this armload, and I mean ARMLOAD full of 4 huge bundles of collard greens.

Collard greens are in season right now down here and plentiful and I am telling y'all, that man cannot pass on a bargain!  Well, I recently had a reader request for hoe cakes anyway, so I bumped that up to enjoy some of those with this newfound bounty of collards that had just walked into my door!
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Now, I confess, I love greens, but ... I am the only one in this house who will eat them, which really makes the whole thing about The Cajun bringing home this big bundle of collards funny - he will not touch collards!

I don't know what is wrong with that man!!

While there are a few veggies I manage to get into him {and a few I sneak into him}, bottom line is that he is simply a meat and potatoes man.

So, it is a rare thing for me to make greens from fresh, because frankly, it is a bit of work for just one person. Over the last few years, while I have ventured outside of the frozen box, I've pretty much kept it simply to mostly a few seasonings and sauteed down in some bacon.

Time to kick it up a notch!  

This time I am using smoked pork hocks for seasoning, so first I got those going to season the water for the greens.  You can use other smoked meats - neck bones, turkey legs, ham and good ole bacon are very common - and I've used them all, but smoked pork hocks are my preference.

Cover the ham hocks with water plus about another inch, then add salt, Cajun seasoning, onion, garlic, and a couple dashes of hot sauce. If you use a highly seasoned smoked meat, such as Cajun style, omit the hot sauce and Cajun seasoning until they are cooked. Then taste and adjust. Bring the hocks to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for an hour.

Thankfully, I have a neighbor across the street who was the recipient of half of this 2 for 1 bounty - after I cleaned them of course - which is the next thing you'll need to do while the ham hocks are simmering. 

Mostly this involves tearing the leaf away from the hard stalk and then washing and rinsing the greens, multiple times, to ensure getting rid of all dirt and grit. Three rinses seems to be the magic number.

One of the Facebook tips that was shared, was to bundle the greens in a pillowcase and use your washing machine to do a plain, cold-water rinse and then, to spin the greens.  I was fortunate that the bunches I had were actually pretty clean, so a couple of rinses was all I needed. What I do is to fill a clean sink with water and plunge all of the leaves in the water; drain and repeat two more times.

If you're never cleaned collards before, it's just a matter of pulling, or cutting away, the tough stem from the tender green leaf.  Once you get the hang of it, you can pretty much just strip it, sort of like you would with fresh herbs.

Some people prefer to use a knife to cut around the stem, but I just stripped them to make a quick and easy job of it. You can also just substitute 2 large (16 ounce) packages of already cleaned and chopped collards, though understand that with anything like that, you do pay a premium for those greens, because someone else has done the work!

Once you strip the stems away, stack about 6 to 8 leaves on top of one another.

And then cut them in half lengthwise and stack them together again.

Then, you can either roll the leaves up like a cigar and cut them into strips, about 1 inch in width, or just keep restacking and cutting them lengthwise, then across into strips.

Dredge all the chopped leaves in a large pot of water, drain them and add them to the pot with the ham hocks. To season the greens, I use chicken broth, brown or white sugar, oil, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, a pat of butter, and some scraps of ham, if you happen to have some remnants leftover from a holiday ham.

Let the greens cook down, give them a stir, cover and cook on low.

Some folks like them a bit firmer so check them at about 30 to 45 minutes if you like them firmer, or go as long as 1-1/2 to 2 hours, if you like them more tender and cooked down, stirring occasionally.

Add additional chicken broth, if liquid cooks out too much. Sprinkle with dried pepper flakes just before serving, if desired. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Serve with cornbread or hoe cakes and offer chopped raw sweet onion, hot sauce and peppers in vinegar to pass at the table.

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Posted by on April 16, 2010
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