With the dawn of every new year, there are some constants: fireworks, midnight kisses, watching the ball drop and heaps of collard greens. What? You don’t look forward to New Years Day JUST so that you can pile your plate with greens and eat them until you pass out?? Okay, so I guess that’s just me. Down South, we have a tradition: New Years Day= pork, blackeyed peas and collard greens. The blackeyed peas are supposed to represent luck and the greens represent money for your new year. The pork just represents pork being tasty. I look forward to this meal every year, even though it takes a bazillion hours to make because it’s amazing. I didn’t make it myself last year since I was on bed rest, but my mom did make it for me. Yay for moms!
Since it has come to my attention that there are a lot of people out there who think that they don’t like collard greens, I thought it would be fun to teach one and all how to make awesome Southern greens. I promise, if you think you don’t like them, you just haven’t eaten them cooked the RIGHT way. A lot of restaurants around here serve them, and, well, they’re not so good. It’s because they’re too bitter- they don’t know the secret: getting rid of the stalk and parboiling. My dad makes the best freaking collard greens on the planet, and he taught me how to do them, just like his mom taught him. And they’re darn good, y’all.
So here it is: get ready.
Two bushels of fresh collard greens (a bushel is usually two “clumps” tied together)
8 strips of Bacon (or you can use hog jowls… don’t freak out, they’re not that scary)
Palmful of salt
Step 1: Cut leaves off of stalks. You’ll be left with this:
2) Fill sink with water, pile leaves in sink. Swish around to wash and remove gritty dirt and sandy stuff. These are technical terms, guys.
3) Take a leaf, spread it open and lay it on your cutting board, like so.
4) Here is where the special technique comes into play. Run your knife alongside the stalk from about where I have my knife, all the way down. Do this on both sides until the stalk is cut free.
5) Remove stalk.
6) Fold collard leaf in half long-ways.
7) Roll it like you were rolling a cigar. I have no experience in cigar-rolling, FYI.
8) Slice your collard cigar in one-inch strips.
9) Repeat until all greens are cut. Pile all of your pieces into a stockpot. Fill the pot with water so that you can just see the water at the top of the greens. Like in the picture below. Then, you’re going to bring it to a boil and let it go over medium-high heat for 15 minutes. This is called parboiling and is the secret to non-bitter greens. Don’t you feel privileged and special to know THE SECRET?? I thought you might.
10) The water should be green after the 15 minutes is up. Drain greens. Meanwhile, add your bacon into the same stockpot while your leaves are draining. Cook it up until it looks like this:
11) Now, dump your greens back in the pot with the bacon and grease. Don’t you dare drain that grease! It’s what makes the greens delicious. I never said these were low-fat or vegetarian, you may recall. Put fresh water into your pot, about 8 cups. Add your palmful of salt (seems like a lot, but this is a lot of water and a lot of greens), about 10 cracks of fresh black pepper (or a teaspoon if you don’t have a grinder) and a good teaspoon of garlic powder. Bring to a boil, then cover and let simmer at a rolling boil (low to medium low heat) for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. I let mine go for 1 1/2, just taste them after 1 and see if they’re too tough.
12) Then, it’s time to EAT them! My mouth is watering, even though I’ve been eating these leftovers for two days in a row. In case you’re wondering, that’s the whole shebang: pork roast, spaetzle (not Southern, but my Grandma was from Luxembourg and we make it all the time) collard greens and blackeyed peas all smothered with pork roast gravy. I gained at least five pounds over the weekend, but that is okay.