collard greens

Besides the butter dumplings, I learned to make a few other southern staples from the Bragg book. Several of the recipes were for the birds (literally), but there were some solid finds, too: creamed onions, jalapeno cornbread, ham and beans, stewed cabbage, and collards.

The collards, in particular, I was excited about. I’d always been curious about them — how could a bitter, boring vegetable be at the heart of a cuisine that relied so heavily on meat, fat, and sugar? 

Turns out, the greens are anything but boring, and they cut the richness quite nicely — probably that’s the key to their success. I like them because they’re a cheap and delicious way to get great mounds of greens into our tummies, and the slow simmer is perfect for cold winter nights.

Never mind that no one else is particularly enthusiastic about my new discovery. It’s good for them and I’m in charge so end of story.

Collard Greens
Adapted from The Best Cook in the World by Rick Bragg.

The first time I made these, I accidentally cooked the pot dry and the greens got slightly charred on the bottom. I immediately transferred them to another pot, added a little water and continued cooking, but rather then being a disaster, the chewy bits of caramelization made the greens taste fantastic — sweet and salty, with a hit of heat. The second time I cooked these, without any scorching, they weren’t quite as interesting. Do as you wish!

I used my dad’s homecanned hot sauce, but you can use whatever you have: sriracha, tabasco, dried peppers, etc. Just be careful not to go overboard. You’re aiming for only a whisper of heat.

2-3 large bunches of collard greens
2 slices bacon, rough chopped
A dollop of hot sauce
1 small clove garlic
1 tablespoon each salt and sugar

Devein the collards and discard the stems. Rough-chop the leaves into large pieces. Wash well. You should have enough greens to fill a 12-quart soup pot.

Put two to three cups of water into the pot. Add the bacon, hot sauce, garlic, salt (I usually start with half the amount and then add the rest at the end), and sugar. Pile in the greens.

Bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat, clap on a lid, and simmer for about two hours. Use a pair of tongs to gently stir the greens every fifteen minutes or so. By the end there should be very little liquid, and the greens should so soft that you can easily cut them with the side of a fork.

Remove the garlic clove and taste to correct seasonings. Serve with ham and beans, cornbread, eggs, pot roast, whatever.

This same time, years previous: kitchen sink cookies, the quotidian (2.13.17), the quotidian (2.15.16), the quotidian (2.16.15), chocolate pudding, buses, boats, and trucks, sweet.


  • Margo

    Southern greens are seriously the best! I like to add a leetle splash of vinegar – as I was taught by a Southern cook.
    One of my favorite menus is mac and cheese, greens, and fried chicken. Oh baby.
    The creamed onions you mentioned sound great, too.

  • Chickynurse

    I LOVE cooked greens of any sort! I have taken to cooking mine in Chicken Broth and Complete Seasoning. Collards are one of those greens that taste even better after a frost has hit them. They get SWEET.

  • beckster

    I was raised on beans, greens, and cornbread, and I love collards! However, when I started cooking kale, I adopted a new method for how to cook all my greens. I use beef broth, hot vinegar, sugar, then add extra salt if needed at the end. I think the beef broth really adds a great bit of flavor. I usually like to end up with pot liquor at the end since I like it and drink it, or I use it for my next batch of greens. I'm glad you have discovered collards. They are actually my favorite of all the greens.

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