Introduction: Collard Greens: Southern Style
These collard greens are seasoned with bacon!
If you live in the southern United States, then you have probably eaten this classic southern dish. The traditional recipe requires lots of salt, and a greasy ham hock. This is a simpler version, with less fat and salt, but still a great tasting side dish or main course.
Step 1: Select Your Ingredients
For this recipe you will need:
· A mess of greens
· A bottle of Italian salad dressing
· Six slices of bacon
· A big ‘ol pot
· A stove top burner, outdoor gas cooker (turkey fryer), gas grill, or crock pot
“A mess of greens” is a whole bunch (head) of greens, or a 32 ounce bag of triple washed chopped fresh greens from the grocery store. Purists prefer whole fresh leaves, but I am lazy and like the pre-chopped greens in the bag. If you buy a bunch of greens, fresh from your neighbor’s farm, wash them thoroughly. It takes time to really clean the greens under running water. If you cheat on this step, the finished greens will be “gritty”, and have tiny pieces of dirt or sand that grates on your teeth.
Today, I am cooking a mess of collard greens. You may prefer spinach, kale, or mustard greens. The cooking process is the same, but the flavor will be different with each type of greens.
Buy a bottle of your favorite Italian salad dressing. I like the low calorie fat free variety to reduce the calories. Don’t worry too much about the bacon fat and calories. A big pot of greens will make at least six big servings, so each serving will only have about one slice of bacon, 50-100 calories.
Step 2: Start Cooking.
I often cook my greens on the stove in a large pot called a “Dutch oven”. Crock pots will also work well. I need to warn you that collard greens are very aromatic. The smell of greens cooking will fill your house for the rest of the day. I like the smell, but many are offended by it. If strong cooking smells concern you, then move outdoors. Use one of those big metal cooking pots fueled by propane gas (sometimes called turkey fryers), or put a big cooking pot on a gas grill. Yes, you can use that turkey fryer for something other than deep frying!
Fill your pot about 1/3 to ½ full of water. Add ½ bottle of Italian salad dressing. Cut the six slices of bacon into pieces about two inches long, and toss into the pot. Add more flavors, based on personal preferences: garlic, chopped onions, hot peppers.
Step 3: Add the Greens.
Bring the liquid to a roaring boil, and start adding your greens. At this point, you a probably thinking, “How are all those greens going to fit into my pot?” Don’t worry, they will fit! Add a few, and watch them wilt and sink. Add some more greens, a few at a time. Just keep stuffing them into the pot. You are making a hearty dish, not soup!
Step 4: Finish Cooking.
Turn the temperature down to a high simmer. Let them cook for at least two hours. It is very difficult to undercook, or overcook, greens. Raw greens are fine to eat (but a little less palatable to Southerners), and overcooked greens are just a little more limp. Dish them up, and serve to a crowd with traditional Southern dishes: fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits, cornbread, black-eyed peas, macaroni ‘n cheese, and fried okra. Dinner is served, ya’ll!
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