How to Clean, Cut and Cook Collard Greens

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Raw collard greens are bitter and tough.
Raw collard greens are bitter and tough. (Image: Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Collard greens are a staple of soul food cooking. The Southern style of cooking collards and other leafy greens originated with African slaves, whose diets included leftovers like ham hocks and the green tops of vegetables. Collard greens must cook for a long time to lose their tough texture and bitterness. The water used to cook the collard greens picks up the flavors and vitamins, becoming a sauce called pot liquor which is great to sop up with cornbread.

Things You'll Need

  • 1 large bunch collard greens
  • 2 ham hocks
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. hot pepper sauce
  • 3 qt. water
  • 1 tbsp. bacon drippings or butter
  • Knife
  • Large pot
  • Colander

Wash the collard greens in a sink full of cold water. Drain the water and repeat the washing process three or four times, until you have removed all the grit that often sticks to the leaves.

Cut the leaves away from the tough, woody stems. Discard the stems.

Cut the collard greens into slices about 3/4-inch thick. This is easiest if you stack several leaves together, roll them up and slice through them all at once.

Combine the ham hocks, salt, pepper, garlic powder, hot pepper sauce and water in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 to 60 minutes.

Add the collard greens and the bacon drippings or butter to the pot. Simmer the greens for about an hour, or until they are tender enough for a knife to easily pierce them.

Drain the collard greens and reserve the pot liquor.

Tips & Warnings

  • Serve the collard greens with meat and corn bread for a full soul food meal.
  • To add to the flavor, top collard greens with sauteed onions or chopped tomatoes.
  • Collard greens are a great vegetable as part of a healthy diet, since they are an excellent source of manganese, vitamin C an beta-carotene, as well as a good source of zinc and vitamin E.
  • Don't overcook the collard greens, or they will produce a strong sulfuric smell.

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