During the winter months, we get quite a lot of greens: turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, you name it, if it’s green we’ll get it. And, for a long time, basically, we just sautéed or steamed them as a side, which used up the greens but didn’t really make them stand out. Sure, they were nutritious, but not necessarily delicious. Okay, yes, but delicious, no. In particular, collard greens seemed to stand out as one that was just (barely) okay. In fact, we kind of dreaded getting a bunch of collards in our weekly share. As it turns out, we just didn’t know how to cook them.
We were always taught that you should cook vegetables for only a few minutes to preserve the vitamins. Ideally, you should have just a bit of crunch when the vegetables are done; they shouldn’t be soggy. As with carrots: no one likes carrots boiled until they are mushy; they like the to have just that little crunch in the middle. And, so, that’s how we cooked collards, too. Maybe we steamed them for 5 minutes, or sautéed them. Sure, they might have retained the vitamins, but they were tough. And not very tasty. They were never going to be anywhere near the top of the hit parade.
Well, it turns out that the old way of cooking collards is the best way (at least the best way we’ve found). Basically, you want to cook them a long time and you want them to simmer to bring out the natural sweetness. If your family is from down south, your grandmother probably made collards this way. She knew what she was doing, and would probably be amazed that anyone wouldn’t just know this. Or that they’d need a recipe. Since we didn’t know, we figured that you might not either, so,if you didn’t learn this from you grandmother, you can learn it here. Our recipe is based on one from At the Kitchen Table, The Craft of Cooking at Home by Greg Atkinson.
- 1 bunch greens (about 1 pound)
- 1-2 Tbs olive oil
- 1/4 onion sliced thin and cut into quarter moons
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 cup water
- 1-2 drops liquid smoke (optional)
This recipe is great for many kinds of greens, but is especially good for those tougher or stronger-tasting greens such as collards, mustard, or turnip greens. We would not recommend it for beet greens, chard, or spinach. Those are too tender and tasty on their own.
Clean the greens. Wash and remove the tough stalks from the greens. If the stalks seem a bit tender, you can leave them on, but definitely remove the ones that are tough and woody.
Slice into pieces. Slice the greens into ribbons about 1 x 2 inches.
Cook onions. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan on medium high heat. Toss in the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are beginning to brown.
Add the greens. And add the pepper, salt, water, and, if using, the liquid smoke. Bring to a boil, stir, and reduce heat to medium-low so the greens can simmer.
Cook. Cover and simmer about 45 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add a bit more water if needed to keep the greens from sticking to the pan.
Serve. Slow-cooked greens make a great traditional side to just about any good southern dish, but can easily go with some of those Yankee dishes, too.
This is pretty much the only way we do collards these days, but, since we have greens other ways too, we’ll give it four stars.