An authentic southern collard greens recipe that is amazing for any occasion! Fresh collard greens broken down into bite-sized pieces that slowly simmer away and tenderize in a rich, meaty, and flavorful broth; better known as the pot likker. This staple among Southerners and Black folks is an absolute must to be had!
Collard greens have such history and significance within America’s culinary traditions; these greens date back to hundreds of years. Additionally, they’ve been apart of Black culture for probably longer than I’m even aware of.
Listen, I’ve seen how collard greens have basically become gentrified. The wellness industry and other food outlets often leave out African-Americans stamp on these here greens. They are an important part of Black culinary heritage.
Southern collard greens are not just a recipe, they’re at best, a tradition. A timeless piece of Black history.
What Is The History Of Collard Greens?
Oddly enough, collard greens originated near Greece. Yup, evidence shows Greeks and Romans aided in the cultivation of collards and kale. However, it wasn’t until the early 1600s that collards actually became known in the states. They were already being grown in a lot of Southern colonies and areas. In addition, these greens are almost exclusively grown in the South. During the years that African-Americans were under enslavement, collard greens were among the only vegetables that we could grow and harvest to feed our families. Consequently, it was African slaves that made Southern collard greens gain popularity. Moreover, the way in which *we* would transform these large, dark, leafy greens into something magical; would be known as one of Americas greatest culinary contributions today.
What Is The Pot Likker/Pot Liquor?
African slaves took these collard greens and prepared them in such a unique and delicious way. The method consisted of slow cooking collard greens in a rich and flavorful thin-like gravy or stock known as pot likker. The pot likker is commonly found within elements such as onion, garlic, smoked ham hocks, chicken stock, red pepper flakes, hot sauce, and more! With this rich + savory pot likker, collard greens go from bland/bitter to downright delicious to put it mildly.
How Are Collard Greens Sourced?
My favorite way to get my hands on these big leafy greens is via the good ole farmers market. If you can source them this way, you’ll find that they are likely at their freshest state and super vibrant in color. However, I know that farmers markets are not easily accessible to everyone. And they aren’t always convenient. Alternatively, you can get a nice-sized bunch of them at your local grocery store in the produce area. Look for your collard greens to be somewhat limp and not so tough and also have good color. It’ll seem like a lot but like spinach, the greens wilt down.
Collards and cornbread,
communion meal of
I ate the survival leaf as I stood at
the field’s edge, soaking its cure through pores
and spirt.*poem by Aneb Kgositsile found in The African American Heritage Cookbook: Traditional Recipes & Fond Remembrances From Alabama’s Renowned Tuskegee Institute
Cleaning Collard Greens:
Since greens may come with grit/dirt (and sometimes little bugs) on them, thoroughly washing them clean is super important! Make sure your kitchen sink is clean and then fill it with cool water. Add the greens in with a tablespoon or two of vinegar. Stir the greens around with your hand to help release the grit. You should see any grit go to bottom of sink. Let the collard greens sit in the sink for a few minutes. Then rinse water and repeat at least three times.
Notes On Removing The Stem/Slicing Greens:
De-stemming the greens is fairly easy. Hold the collard leaf stem with one hand and with the other hand simply pull leaf away from stem. Then repeat this process until all leaves have stems removed. In contrast, if you prefer your greens with the stems you could skip this step altogether. To slice the greens, take a leaf and roll it up tightly together. Next, using a sharp knife, cut collard greens into bite-sized pieces. Repeat process until all greens are chopped up.
Let’s Talk About Meat: Can I Use A Substitute?
These southern collard greens get a huge bulk of their flavor from the meat that they’re braised in. Traditionally, smoked ham hocks, yield such a great depth of flavor. The saltiness, the smokiness, and the overall flavor can’t be beat. However, if you are adverse to using pork products, smoked turkey wings or neck bones work great too! As long as the meat you’re using is smoked + cooked, it’ll achieve the flavor profile that good ole southern collard greens should have.
What Can I Serve With These Southern Collard Greens?
The better question is what can’t you serve with these southern collard greens, peeps! Ha. Traditionally, and probably my most favorite; greens paired with cornbread is the ultimate way. And word to the wise, go on and sop up some of that cornbread in the pot likker juices. Yeahhhh. Southern collard greens can also be eaten with macaroni and cheese too! All in all, serving them alongside your main dishes for an ultimate meal, is one of the most popular ways.
While collard greens are a common staple at holiday dinner tables, these greens are truly great anytime of the year. Additionally, greens are best prepared ahead of time, before the day you intend to serve them for best results. Consequently, as they sit and absorb the pot likker, the flavor deepens and gets better!
Other Recipes You Might Enjoy
- Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese
- Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
- Jamaican Rice and Peas
- Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwiches
- Skillet Cornbread
- Easy Chicken and Dumplings
- Southern-Style Mac and Cheese
- Challah Bread Pudding With Bourbon Sauce
The process of making collard greens is really a true labor of love. And you can surely find a big pot of these greens at just about every Black event/function too. They are a every true Southerners favorite. And they just simply never get old. To me, southern collard greens signify strength, love, resilience, and rich history. I’m happy to share this recipe with ya’ll.
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Until next time…love and butter,
A truly authentic and timeless southern collard greens recipe that is amazing for any occasion! Fresh collard greens broken down into bite-sized pieces that slowly simmer away and tenderize in a rich, meaty, and flavorful broth; better known as the pot likker. This quintessential staple among Southerners and Black folks is an absolute must to be had!
- 2 tablespoons oil, canola/vegetable
- 2 large smoked ham hocks (or 2 lbs of alternate choice of meat)
- 1 large white onion, finely diced
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- freshly cracked black pepper, plus more to taste
- 4 cups (32-ounces) chicken stock
- 2 teaspoons hot sauce, plus more for serving
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 3 lbs collard greens; cleaned, de-stemmed, and cut into pieces
- Heat oil in a large dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add in ham hocks/other meat, and let cook on all sides for 5-7 minutes.
- Add in onion and stir around with meat until onions soften and become translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Then add in garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, chicken stock, hot sauce, and stir to combine.
- Cover pot with lid and let mixture cook over medium-high heat for at least 1 hour. Meat should be very tender.
- Remove meat from pot and let cool for a few minutes. Using a fork or your hands, tear meat off bones, discard bones, and add pieces of meat back into pot.
- Add in sugar, vinegar, and collard greens. Stir to combine all ingredients. Greens will wilt down. Cover pot again with lid and let slow cook over medium-low heat for another hour.
- Taste greens and season with more salt/pepper, and hot sauce, if desired. Serve and enjoy!
- Collard greens will keep in refrigerator for up to one week in an airtight container.
- Category: Sides
- Method: Braising
- Cuisine: Southern
Keywords: sides, collard greens