Collard greens remind me of some of my favorite mealtimes as a child. They are in season after the first frost, so I remember enjoying them throughout winter months. My dad is from North Carolina, and my nana loved to cook these veggies for him up all season long.
Most memorably on New Year’s Day, my mom continues the tradition of making black eyed peas, cornbread, collard greens, ham, and “ham rice” as I called it (otherwise known as rice soaked in ham juice). A few of these foods are symbols for prosperity or luck in the coming year:
- black eyed peas: loose change – you should eat enough so you’ll be rich
- collards: dollar bills/greenbacks – again, the more you eat, the more money you’ll have
- cornbread: gold – obviously, symbolizes a pot of gold, but also gold is lucky
- ham: moving forward/progress – a pig cannot turn it’s head to look behind
I enjoy collards because they are great for you and a break from the “normal” veggies we typically eat further north. They aren’t difficult to prepare.
If you use fresh collards, here’s how to prepare them:
- Wash & dry greens thoroughly–if you aren’t careful, there will be some sand or dirt remaining on the leaves.
- Lay out the dried leaf on a cutting board and begin slicing out the stem.
- Discard stems.
- Line up and fold the leaf (images C & D).
- Begin chopping into smaller pieces (E).
When slicing them, I didn’t have time to cook them as I wanted to so, I simply sealed up for the next day. Here’s what the bag of slices looked like:
Being the dumb person I am, I forgot to take pics after I made them. But here’s the super top secret recipe handed down from Nana to Mom to me:
- Turn the stovetop on a medium heat and place a large pot (usually I use the 1 gallon noodle pot) on top.
- Fill with about 1/4 cup of canola/vegetable oil if you’re using a whole head of greens. If not, scale back. There’s no real magic number for the amount of oil to use, typically we just do it to taste. AKA YOU CANNOT MESS THIS UP PEOPLE.
- Dump in the raw collard greens, sauté until the leaves shrink up and turn a beautiful emerald color.
- Add a teaspoon of pepper and a tablespoon of salt. You can add more salt and pepper to taste, but I like waiting until you can salt your serving yourself.
- Add water to cover the greens.
- In this step, you can halve the water and add ham juice if you’re preparing with your New Year’s meal, or you can add a beef bullion cube if you’re just making these for kicks not on NYD.
- Cover the pot and turn down your heat dial to let simmer for 30-45 minutes. Keep adding water to make sure they are mostly covered.
- When ready to serve, have the salt ready. Also a strainer to drain the juice before the greens hit your plate.
- If you have any leftover to store, they freeze really well, but DO NOT DISCARD THE JUICE. Keep the collards and the juice together to preserve the flavor.