Freshly picked collard greens offer a unique and robust flavor in this healthy and delicious recipe. Prep time is 15 minutes and cooking time is 45 minutes, or up to 2 hours. The longer they simmer, the better the flavor.
Collard greens are not particularly popular outside the Deep South, where folks know their country greens. Many of us were subjected to poorly cooked collard greens in grade school cafeterias–or worse, we ate them from a can and that cured us forever. Most collard recipes call for processed and nitrate-soaked pork products, so health-conscious eaters sometimes avoid collards altogether.
A negative stereotype of collards is very regrettable. Most home gardeners can easily grow this hearty vegetable in the backyard plot. Shoppers at farmer’s markets can usually find local collards throughout winter and spring. Freshly picked collards from a chemical-free garden offer one of the best and healthiest tastes of the farm.
Why is this recipe excellent? These collards will have your kids asking for their greens. This dish can be quickly prepped and then set to simmer while the rest of the meal is prepared. Fresh bacon is used (not cured pork), so this dish is healthy and has a wonderful flvaor. The leftovers are excellent.
Ingredients (serves 4 as a side dish. We typically double the ingredients and use the same cooking time for each step.):
- quarter pound of fresh bacon, roughly chopped into one inch or smaller pieces
- half of a large sweet onion (1015 onion if you can find it), roughly chopped
- half teaspoon crushed red pepper
- good pinch of sea salt
- one large clove garlic, minced
- one bunch freshly picked collard greens
- 1 cup low-sodium low-fat chicken stock, with one cup extra on hand
- a dash or two of hot sauce
- salt and pepper to taste
To prepare: Rinse the collards well and remove the stems by holding the stem in one hand and stripping the leaf down the stem with the other. Removing stems should take less than a minute. Discard stems. Lay collard leaves flat on a cutting board and roll or fold over, and roughly chop into long strips.
Sautee the bacon, onions, pepper flakes, and salt in a cast iron pot with the lid off (you can also use a metal pot) over medium-high heat. Sautee until the onions turn translucent and bacon is about half cooked. Add garlic and stir until the garlic just releases its fragrance, about 30 seconds. Add as many leaves into the pot as you can fit, pour in one cup chicken stock, add a dash of hot sauce, cover, and simmer at a low boil for at least 45 minutes.
The leaves will cook down, so you can add the remainder of the leaves as the collards cook. As the collards release their moisture, the liquid level will rise, but as the dish simmers some of the liquid will evaporate. Add more chicken stock only as needed, to achieve your desired amount of liquid. Make sure the liquid does not cook all the way out.
After 45 minutes the collards are ready to serve. Salt and pepper to taste. You may continue to simmer for up to two hours.
Nutritional Information (per serving)
Protein: 4.7 g
Fat: 4.4 g
Carbohydrates: 4.8 g
Sodium: 165 mg
One serving of collards provides half the recommended daily intake for vitamin A! Vitamin A is important for eye sight and immunity, and serves as an antioxidant. Collards are high in fiber and vitamin C. Additionally, collards have an organosulfur called “sulforaphane” that has been shown to have anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, and anti-microbial properties.
More about this recipe: Rinse the collards well, perhaps two or three times in new water. Even collards grown in a pastured program like ours need a rinsing to get the dirt off. If you have collards grown in a chemical program, you cannot rinse away the chemicals, but you can at least remove some of the residual that rests on the leaves.
The red pepper flakes and hot sauce do not add much heat to the dish, but more of a spicy flavor. The heat is cooked out, and what remains of the seasoning is a subtle deep flavor.
After letting the cast iron pot of collards cool on the stove, we put the whole pot in fridge and reheat the next day. The flavors intensify overnight for a richly textured and beautiful dish. If you are taking a side dish to a dinner party, consider making this recipe the night before and reheat at the party. Pay special attention to the people who say they don’t like collards, and watch their reaction after they try your dish.