Among the things I learned growing up in Andrews, SC was how to cook collard greens. We didn’t mask their flavor with vinegar and sugar and then again, they were so good we didn’t need to. This recipe is simple and if you take the time to prepare your stock and the collards correctly, you will be delighted at how good collards can really taste,
- 2-3 bunches of collards
- 2 pounds of smoked turkey necks, wings, and/or legs (You can substitute ham hocks)
- 1 stalk of celery chopped fine
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- Make the stock by placing smoked turkey in a large pot barely covering with cold water.
- Bring pot to a simmer and cook until meat falls off of the bone.
- Reserve the stock and separate meat from bone leaving it in large chunks; discard bones
- While cooking the stock:
- Cut root end off of collards leaving about 2-3 inches of stalk on each leaf.
- Clean collards: wash, rinse, repeat until sand and grit is not present in the bottom of your sink
- Stack collards and cut into 1 inch strips crossways
- Chop stalk ends into a ¼ inch dice
- Cook the collards by bringing stock to a boil (your pot should only be about ¼ to ⅓ full with a concentrated stock)
- Add 2 teaspoons of salt
- Add 1 teaspoon of pepper
- Add celery and chopped collard stalks
- Slowly add collards until they are all in the pot (do not add additional water - see note)
- Add turkey meat
- Place lid on pot and cook collards on low until tender stirring occasionally (about 1 hour)
- Adjust seasoning based on your preferences
- Serve hot with cornbread
When collards taste burned, it's usually because sugar was added to them and the sugar scorched on the bottom of the pot. Do not add sugar. It takes away from the taste and if your stock is good to begin with, you don't need additional flavoring.
Do not add vinegar. Pepper vinegar is nice to add table side but collards that are cooked with vinegar develop a rubbery texture in my opinion and the vinegar overwhelms the palette.
Do not use onions or garlic. Collards have a strong flavor by themselves and the stock helps to balance that flavor. When onions and/or garlic are added, the sulfur compounds multiply with those in the collards making them bitter. Cooks often add sugar and/or vinegar to counter this effect which further adds to a poorly cooked dish.
Finally, great tasting collards depend on a great tasting stock. Take the time to make a great stock and be patient when adding the collards to the pot. They will cook down and you will have plenty of pot-liquor that can be sopped up with cornbread. By the way, if you take the time to cook collards, then take the time to cook homemade cornbread without sugar. It's easy, very tasty, and compliments the collards.