Some how I managed to grow up south of the Mason Dixon line without ever once tasting a collard green. In my mind, collard greens are those nasty, overcooked, mushy, stinky, soggy, dark veggies on the school lunch tray that kids managed to somehow further desecrate with a sprinkling of vinegar.
(Yes, we had collard greens on our school lunch trays. That was back in the day, you know, before french fries counted as a veggie and our tax dollars, not the sales of high-sugar junk food in the cafeteria line, paid for our textbooks. But I digress.)
Recently I’ve been on a mission to try new vegetables. Leafy greens are particularly nutritious, and this time of year they are in season, fresh, and locally grown. It just doesn’t get any better than that, folks. When I came across this recipe on my friend Heather’s blog, I knew I had to try them.
I didn’t have sausage on hand so I used bacon. And actually, I’ve used onion with good results. These are fast becoming a once-a-week vegetable staple in our house. It took my kids a few tries to warm up to them, but now they actually fight over the last spoonful in the serving bowl. I KNOW.
Here’s whatcha do.
First, wash your collards thoroughly. They come looking like this.
Then you chop them, or tear them, into rather largish bite-sized pieces.
Next, you brown some chopped up bacon (or sausage, I s’pose) in a big stock pot over medium heat. (Heather says it should NOT be aluminum. Mine is stainless steel.)
And add your collards. I sprinkled mine with some sea salt. My bacon is not cured, so it needs salt. If you’re using cured meat, then perhaps adding salt is overkill.
Cover the pot. They will wilt quickly. Lower the heat to medium-low, and be sure to stir them around a few times while they cook. They take about 20 minutes or so, and they are best when they actually start to brown just a little. I actually discovered this by mistake the first time I made them. I thought I’d ruint’em (that was for your southerners out there) but they turned out to be delicious.
I’ve also learned by trial and error not to under-cook them. When they’re undercooked, they’re a tad on the bitter side and hard to cut. This is one time you don’t have to be afraid of over-cooking a veggie. And because you aren’t losing any nutrients in the boiling water, I’m assuming they retain their nutritional value, even after they are cooked near to death. (Someone feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.)
This is the final product. They go great with pork chops and mac-and-cheese. Or fried chicken. Or, well, the possibilities are endless.