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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Southern Collard Greens and Ham Hock

Traditionally wild greens or greens from small gardens were seasoned with smoked meat such as ham hocks, fatback or a ham bone. Sometimes greens and vegetables with different flavors were mixed. Pot likker, the highly seasoned liquid that remains after greens are cooked, is rich in vitamins and minerals. When greens were served, the leftover pot likker and cornbread were often served the next day.

In slave kitchens, meat was often scarce. In the song “Ham Bone”. . .
"Ham bone, ham bone, where you been?
Around the world and back again”

. . .refers to the practice of sharing a ham bone to season greens. The ham bone was shared with different slave families and then returned to the owner. Even today many African American cooks would not think of cooking greens without ham hocks or fatback, but smoked turkey parts can be substituted producing the same type of smokey flavor with less salt and fat.

This recipe is for the beginner that may have never cooked or even eaten collard greens. It is a basic southern soul food method of cooking collard greens.



Ingredients:
4 pounds collard greens
2 ham hocks
1 teaspoon sugar
1 hot pepper pod
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
water

Cookware and Utensils:
1 Dutch Oven
1 cutting board
1 sharp knife

Recipe Instructions:
As always the key to great cooking is to be prepared and use quality ingredients.

Selection of collard greens is very important. Go to your local grocery store or farmer's market and select 5 pounds of young leafy collard greens. You will select more than the recipe calls for because some leaves will be unusable and the large stems will be cut off and discarded. Also, remember that the greens shrink at least by half in the cooking process. So you need more than you think.

Start off by cooking your ham hocks. You can find ham hocks in most grocery stores near the ham section in the meat department. If you don't see them, ring for the meat dept and ask for them. Place ham hocks in a Dutch oven. Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover meat and simmer until tender. This should take about 1 hour. Don't allow the water to cook out.

While the ham hocks are cooking, go ahead and prepare your greens for cooking. Rinse your greens several times under cold water to remove dirt or sand. Trim away any hard thick stem ends. After greens are clean and trimmed, stack several leaves on top of each other. Using a cutting board and knife, roll the leaves together and cut leaves into 1 inch thick strips.

When your ham hocks become tender go ahead and add more water, the collards, sugar, hot peppers and garlic powder to the Dutch oven. Add greens to the pot until the pot is full. Most likely all of the greens will not fit. Just allow the greens to cook down and continue adding until all of your greens fit in the Dutch oven. Cover greens and continue to simmer for about 1 hour, until greens are tender. Stir your greens often and keep sufficient water level so all the collards simmer. About halfway through cooking, add salt and pepper to taste.



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