Perhaps my favorite chapter in Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches is Chapter Four where I share the recipe for collards and explain why we Southerners eat what we do on the first day of the year. There is a reason we eat collards, and for some this delicacy has more to do with remembering how the South scratched and clawed her way back from destruction. Ponder for a moment, the lowly cow pea (black-eyed-peas) being left for Southerners to eat. The Yanks thought we had been defeated, but today, it is the Yanks who have moved to the South in droves, hungry for our lifestyle. I for one propose that if you are going to live “down South” you must partake of our heritage food.
Many reader might recall smelling a pot of collards simmering on the stove. That is not how I cook my collards, nor do I sprinkle them with vinegar. If you have tried boiled collards with vinegar and cringed at the taste, please give this little recipe a try. These are prepared using a cast-iron skillet.
One bunch of collards
1 package of hog-jowl with thick outside layer removed; or 1/2 pound of thick-cut bacon (extra crispy)
2 cans of chicken broth
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake hog-jowl (or bacon) in the oven. I prefer to bake bacon and collards in the oven because this limits smoke and prevents grease from popping on your skin, and on the kitchen counter. While meat bakes prepare greens. Turn meat once to insure extra-crispiness. Drain on paper towel. Once cool,crumble.
Crumble when cool. Add to greens last to ensure crunchy texture.
Preparing the Greens:
Rinse collards to remove any dirt, drain on towels.
Strip the leaves.
Remove ribs of the collards and chop into bite-sized pieces.
Pour Olive Oil in bottom of cast iron skillet and turn eye on medium-high.
When oil is hot add one piece of greens. If it starts to sizzle, pan is ready.
Add as much greens as possible, turn skillet to medium. Cover skillet.
Once greens wilt, add remaining collards.
Add one can of chicken broth. If you want a large amount of pot likker (see image below), add two cans.
Keep a lid on greens for three minutes.
Remove lid and stir.
Cook the greens until they are the consistency you desire. I do not cook mine “to death,” because I do like a good bit of pot likker with my greens.
Add hog jowl just before serving. I add the meat last because I want to retain a bit of crunch with my greens. You can add it during the cooking process if you would like.
Serve with cornbread.
Goodbye 2014 Happy New Year friends. Best to you in 2015
Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches; Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. A Hardscrabble Christmas. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.