Collard greens

Collard greens

By
From
Deep South
Serves
6-8
Photographer
Andy Sewell

Good food is almost always achieved by doing it the hard way, while great food exemplifies the wisdom of self-restraint. Its downfall can be impatience – not letting your pan reach the right temperature before searing a piece of fish, for example. Organise yourself around the best ingredients available to you and cook them with enough restraint to allow you to find their expression, not yours. You may like brightly coloured greens, but if you don’t cook collards until they are the deepest shade of army green then you’re showing your impatience with the best way to get flavour out of this dish. It needs a little time to get to know itself.

Not many Southern vegetable dishes can trump a bowl of braised greens in potlikker. Collard greens are better known in the UK as spring greens. You can use any hearty, bitter green, such as turnip greens, mustard greens or a mixture of these. Gather up a mess of your liking and cook them into the potlikker base below. The smell of the slowly cooking greens will lure everyone into the kitchen.

The ham hock meat cooked in the vinegar here is what I call pickled pork. It’s a nice recipe on its own and goes very well with Creole mustard and a plate of braised turnips.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
5-6 bunches collard greens
50g lard
1 sweet white onion, thinly sliced
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
sea salt
see method for ingredients, to serve

For the potlikker:

Quantity Ingredient
500ml cider vinegar
2 litres light stock or water
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 see method for ingredients
a little light soft brown sugar

Method

  1. First prepare the potlikker. Put the vinegar, stock or water and garlic in a large pan and bring to a simmer. Add the ham hock and cook slowly for 2–3 hours, until the meat is fork tender. Remove from the heat.
  2. Take the ham hock out of the pan and pick off the meat, keeping the skin and any good collagen and discarding any tough bits and bone. Shred the meat well. Chop the skin roughly and fold it all back together again. Adjust the flavour of the base liquid with a little brown sugar to round out the acidity, then pour it over the meat.
  3. Prepare the greens by pulling the leaves away from the thick stems. Wash and rinse them twice in cold water to remove any dirt. Melt the lard in a large pan, add the onion, garlic and a pinch of salt and sweat until softened. Add the chilli flakes, then add a fistful of the greens and turn up the heat. With your hands, carefully massage the greens against the bottom and sides of the pan with another pinch of salt. You will notice that they take on a shine and the chlorophyll will begin to set brightly. When they have wilted enough to allow room for more greens, add another handful and massage them down too.
  4. Once all the greens have been added, pour in about a litre of the potlikker and lower the heat to medium. Simmer for 4–5 minutes, then add a little more likker – it should almost cover the greens. Let them cook for 20 minutes, stirring two or three times to keep the heat consistent throughout the pot. At this point, the colour should be a deep hunter green; if they are still brightly coloured, keep cooking. Taste the greens when they reach the correct colour; the texture should have just the slightest bite. Adjust the seasoning if necessary, then serve with hot pepper vinegar alongside and some Cornbread.
Tags:
American
Southern cooking
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