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Recipe: Collard Greens with Ham Hocks and Beans

The first time I ever tried making collard greens was in 2008. The recipe and my process have evolved a lot since then, and I figured it was time to write it all out. I use a pressure cooker, but i’ve included instructions for stovetop or pressure cooking.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Smoked Ham Hocks
  • 2-3 boxes of chicken broth/stock
  • 1-2 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3-6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp or more crushed red pepper
  • 2-3 Tbsp bacon fat/olive oil/lard
  • Ham, cubed (optional)*
  • Collard Greens (4 typical grocery bundles, maybe 2 pounds?), washed, cut, dried**
  • 2 cans Pinto or White beans, drained and rinsed (or home cooked equivalent)

If you’ve got a pressure cooker, this is REAL easy. If not, it’s still easy but it’s a long long simmer to get the base broth done. I’ll give instructions for both.

Phase 1, broth it up

Over medium heat in a stock pot (or saute setting in your pressure cooker), heat the bacon fat, then add the onions, paprika and crushed red pepper, then cook until onions are soft. Add the garlic and stir continuously for a minute or so (don’t burn the garlic), then dump in one box of chicken stock. Mix/stir this mess up, then put the ham hocks in.

If pressure cooker: 90 minutes pressure

If stovetop: Add box #2 of stock. Bring to a boil, then low simmer for a few hours.

Phase 2, bring it all together

Once the broth is cooked, pull out the ham hocks to remove bones and skin and non-edible-ham material. Leave the good ham chunks in the broth. If you pressure cooked, move the broth to a stock pot on the stove and add the second box of stock. If you cooked on the stove, you may need to add more stock to your desired consistency to compensate for reduction.

With the broth on a good simmer, start adding the collard greens and stirring. After a minute or so in the hot broth they’ll take up a lot less space, so if it seems like you can’t fit all the greens in from the start, just do it in batches until it’s all in. If you’re adding extra ham, go ahead and do that now.

Bring back to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in the beans and feel free to add stock now to get to your desired broth consistency. Simmer for another 15 minutes or until you feel it’s right.

Additional notes:

*I usually add a bit of extra ham, or sometimes cooked sausage if i have something on hand. It’s not necessary. One thing to watch out for is that if you add a lot more ham, you may end up with a dish that’s too salty (all the salt in the dish comes from the ham)

**Here’s how I wash and cut my greens. Fill a sink with water, dump the collards in and wash thoroughly. One or two leaves at a time, I cut the thick rib out for compost or to cook in a stock (I don’t like thick collard ribs—I don’t enjoy the texture). Once you’ve got 6-8 big leafs with ribs out, roll them up like a big doobie and then cut into 1 inch slices (you’ll end up with strips). Spin or towel dry. Keep doing this over and over until you’re done. This is the only laborious part of the entire recipe, and I often do it one or two days before I cook the recipe and keep it in a loose plastic bag in the fridge.

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