As every good southerner knows, you can’t start the year without a plate of black-eyed peas and collards, some cut of pork, and probably a corn muffin. It’s a tradition passed down through many generations to ensure the year to come will be filled with luck and prosperity – the black-eyed peas bringing the luck, and the collard greens bringing you lots of greenbacks (meaning cash money) leading to prosperity.
Ever the entrepreneur, I made sure that my plate was full of collards to ensure I’d have enough cash to fund whatever business I was launching or running at the time. Even though I didn’t care for them one bit, every year I ate those greens like they were chocolate pie – because I’m southern and that’s what we do – stomach things we don’t care for simply to honor a tradition of which we often don’t know the origin.
About fifteen years ago, on a trip to Savannah I added collards to my plate at The Lady & Sons. On purpose. It wasn’t new year’s. I didn’t have to eat them, but they looked so delicious steeping in their juices on the buffet that I just had to try them. That’s when I learned a vaulable life lesson – you can’t discount foods, until you’ve tried them properly prepared.
And to Paula Deen, proper preparation means lots of butter. And as we all know, everything tastes better with butter. Though I did use Paula’s recipe as a starting point, my adaptation doesn’t call for a stick of butter per bunch of collards.
Over the past few months, I’ve prepared collards for clients, supper club at City Grit in October, Thanksgiving, the SlideLuck benefit, my best friend from high school’s family Christmas Eve dinner, our family Christmas dinner and will, of course, be serving them at my house on New Year’s Day. I’ve served them with beef, pork, chicken, and lamb, with vegetables, potatoes, and three kinds of grits. No matter what I serve them with, every time people go nuts over the collards.
This isn’t a quick recipe. In fact, it’s a two day deal. But collards freeze well, so you can dedicate an afternoon to the process and knock a few batches out. This post was probably better suited for early November versus two days before the new year! Sorry about that! But nothing says you can start it tomorrow, make people go nuts on New Year’s day, and bust out of the stash in the freezer for dinner in February.
- 1/2 pound smoked bacon
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon seasoned salt
- 1 hot chili
- 2-3 bunches of collards
- 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter
- Heat a large stock pot (at least 8 quarts but preferably 12) over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until seared on all sides*.
- Add 5 quarts of water, the salt, pepper, and garlic powder and increase heat to high.
- Once water comes to a boil, add the chili pepper and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for at least an hour.
- In the meantime, prep the collards for cooking. This is a great time to find a kitchen helper because it is a tedious and long process which begins with washing each and every leaf to make sure dirt isn’t hiding in between any of the leaves.
- Remove the stem that runs down the center of the leaf, slicing each leaf into two pieces by running the knife down the leaf close to the stem.
- Stack 8-10 leaves on top of one another and cut across the width of leaves into strips that are about an inch wide and place in a very large bowl or on the counter lined with paper towels.
- After the collards stock has simmered for at least an hour, increase heat to medium high.
- Once the stock comes to a low boil, add collards, two tablespoons of butter and cook – stirring every five minutes or so – for 30 minutes until collards have softened slightly.
- Using a slotted spoon or tongs, move collards into a storage container. Pour remaining stock into a separate container and place both the collards and the stock into the refrigerator.
- An hour before you are ready to serve dinner, bring stock to a boil.
- Reduce heat to low, add collards and remaining butter, giving them a few stirs and cover.
- Let collards braise in the stock for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and keep covered until ready to stir.
Notes: I use the best bacon I can find and cut it into lardons.
Chose the chili pepper that best suites your tolerance level for spice. A tablespoon of sriracha is also a magical addition.
You can do this in one day, but the collards will always taste better the second day. They also taste even better when you can freeze them – just make sure to freeze the collards and the stock separately.
What you’ll need: A large (preferably 12 quart) stock pot – if you don’t have one large enough, just use what you have and cook the collards on the first day on batches.
What you want to know: These collards are better for you than Paula Deens!