As many of you may know, it is a long standing southern tradition to have some kind of greens on New Years day. For most of us the standard is collards or cabbage. Served along side pork (this can come in so many forms here in the south), black eyed peas (I'm not talking about the pop group), and corn bread this hearty green rounds out a meal meant to bring us financial prosperity, good luck and good health in the coming year. Did I mention that they are delicious?!.
This tradition stems from the civil war. When union soldiers ransacked the south they destroyed all food sources except collards and black eyed peas because they believed they were animal fodder. These hearty and healthy foods kept southerners from starving and got them through the devastation. The tradition is so ingrained that even those who don't love these foods hold their noses and shovel it in on New Years day.
This dark leafy green is packed full of Beta Carotene (vitamin A), Vitamin C, Calcium, Fiber and offers appreciable amounts of Magnesium, Folate, B6 and other phytonutrients. In other words... collards should be a part of any healthy lifestyle. I know some of y'all are thinking that southern greens aren't healthy and the truth is that most recipes include bacon grease. The recipe I've put together for you today has leaped into the 21st century by nixing the bad stuff, but you still get that slow cooked, hearty flavor.
Southern Tradition Collard Greens
2 lbs whole collard greens
2 ham hocks
8 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Black pepper and vinegar to season at the table.
If you would like to beef up the recipe you can add 1 cup chopped onion and 3 garlic cloves minced. Simply add them to the chicken stock along with the ham hocks.
For a vegetarian recipe leave out the ham hocks and switch the chicken stock to a vegetable broth.
Remove the stems from your collards and tear the leaves into bite size pieces. Place in a colander and rinse thoroughly. Collards can be difficult to get clean, so you may need to rinse two or three times.
In a large pot, combine the chicken stock and ham hocks. Add water if you needed to cover the ham hocks. Bring contents to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the meat starts to pull away from the bone, about 30 minutes.
Add red pepper flakes and collard greens to the pot. Cook over medium heat until the greens are tender, about 1 hour.
This is a simple southern collard recipe. We all take our collard recipes very seriously (just like our BBQ), so you may need to find the recipe that suits you best. Many traditional recipes will call for bacon grease, butter, onion, garlic, hot sauce, sugar and apple cider. This may vary by region and family. Just ask around and you'll find the perfect recipe for you.