Cooking the CSA: Collard Greens
When the weather turns cool, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) lovers notice a drastic shift in what they find inside that weekly box. The corn fades away. Nary a tomato in sight. Sure, we can always count on a variety of root vegetables, but suddenly much of what we find is decidedly leafy and it’s going to stay that way for a while. Get used to plenty of spinach, kale, chard and, for many of us, collard greens.
Collards have been around for about as long as greens have been green. The ancient Greeks ate them. The ancient Romans brought them to Britain hundreds of years B.C., and the easy-to-grow member of the cabbage family became a culinary staple for Southerners during Colonial times. Like it or not, collard greens are here to stay.
Picked early, “baby” collards are milder and may be used much like kale. Once mature though, the large leaves become tough and bitter. Undercooked, the bitterness is hard to deny. Cooking mellows the flavor, but when cooked too long, collards become mushy. For many, the narrow window of proper preparation has left them with bad experiences it’s hard to overcome.
Well-cooked collards are a thing of beauty. Well, OK, not beauty. Even at their best they tend to look like something that washed up on shore when cooked. But boy they’re tasty. For those of us who have embraced them, collard greens are a welcome sight when they show up in that CSA box. For the rest of you, when it shows up this year, it may be time to give them another try. I suspect you’ll see a lot of them over the next few months.
This recipe for stewed collards treats collard greens as they deserve to be treated. The cider vinegar adds a sweet tang, red pepper flakes a touch of heat, and the ham hock just plain tastes good. Serve it with hot sauce and be sure to include the liquid left in the pot when you serve it. That broth is called pot likker and it is loaded with nutrition and fantastic flavor. You may even find yourself drinking what’s left in the bowl like the milk at the bottom of a bowl of Fruity Pebbles. It’s just that good.
Stewed Collard Greens
- 1 ham hock
- 1 quart chicken broth
- 2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 bunch collard greens (about 2 pounds)
- Salt and pepper
Place ham hock, chicken broth, water, cider vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and red pepper flakes in a large pot and bring to boil.
Cover and reduce to medium heat to simmer 1 hour.
Wash collards and tear leaves from stem running down the center of the leaf.
Stack collards, roll up like a cigar and cut crosswise into 1/4"-1/2" strips.
Add collard greens to pot.
Cover and simmer 1 more hour.
Salt and pepper to taste.