How to Cook Southern Style Collard Greens

Cook good-luck collards in true Southern style.

Want good luck in the new year? Then Southern tradition says to eat your collard greens! According to tradition, a New Year's Day meal of black-eyed peas, greens, and pork will bring good fortune in the new year. While turnip greens, mustard greens, or cabbage will do, the Southern good-luck green of choice is collard greens, or simply "collards" as they're known in the South. True Southern-style collards are silky, tender, and flavorful, a result achieved with a long, slow simmer in a generously seasoned broth. Follow these steps to cook your own pot of good-luck greens in true Southern style. Then be sure to keep the recipe handy to enjoy all year long, because these silky greens are just too good to serve only on New Year's Day!

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1 Wash Greens

Separate the leaves of 2 large bunches of collard greens (about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds greens). Place in a large bowl or clean sink and cover leaves with warm water. Add 2 teaspoons salt to act as a scrubbing abrasive.  Gently scrub leaves with your hands and then rinse.

If greens are especially gritty, repeat the washing process to ensure all dirt is removed.

2 Remove Spines

One at a time, lay each leaf upside-down and flat on a cutting board. Cut along each side of the spine in the center, cutting each leaf into two halves and completely removing the tough spine. Discard spines.

3 Cut Greens

Assemble cut leaves into several stacks and roll up each stack lengthwise. Slice each roll into 1-inch pieces, cutting the collard greens into ribbons.


4 Prepare Cooking Liquid

Cooking the greens in seasoned broth creates very flavorful collards. To prepare the seasoned cooking liquid, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large Dutch oven or stock pot. Chop 6 slices bacon and 1 large onion; sauté about 5 minutes until the bacon is cooked and onion is tender. Add 2 cloves minced garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add 32 ounces chicken broth, 1 1/2 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar, a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional), and 2 pounds smoked ham hocks. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer 30 minutes.

It's Southern tradition to season collard greens with some form of cured pork, use any combination of smoked ham hocks, country ham, fat back, and hog jowls, as desired. As these are all generally quite salty, rinse the pork products before adding to the pot. For especially salty cuts, soak in warm water for 30 minutes to draw out some of the salt

5 Add Greens

Add collard greens to the pot. Stir into the cooking liquid and bring to a boil.

6 Cook & Serve

Reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, for 2 to 3 hours until greens are desired tenderness.

When done, use a slotted spoon to transfer greens from the cooking liquid to a serving bowl. Chop meat from the ham hocks and stir into the greens. Serve with vinegar on the side for drizzling on each serving, if desired.

Add more chicken broth while the collards are cooking, if needed.

About Kitchen Is My Playground

Tracey is the creator of the popular blog The Kitchen Is My Playground, which she founded in 2011. Her goal is to share recipes with other home cooks looking to create flavorful (and somewhat adventurous) food for their families and friends. Connect with her on PinterestFacebookTwitter or Google+.