I have always loved greens. Turnip, collard, or mixed, I just adore them. Among the greens I like, my Grandmama’s ranks the absolute highest. No one can make them like her. However, I did learn that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing…
When I was working on my degree, I lived with my grandparents for a while. Grandadddy passed away while I was living there and it was just me and Grandmama. You can imagine how very different life was for the both of us with Grandaddy gone. Being a southern lady, Grandmama needed someone to take care of – because thats just what southern women do. I had mentioned before how much I enjoyed Grandmama’s greens and she was off to the races with a cause!
Every day for lunch, we had turnip greens. Every day for supper, we had turnip greens. There might have been a day or two in there in which we only had them once, but they always made a show before the sun went down, carried to the table by a very pleased looking Grandmama as she bragged on how much I loved to eat them. I DID love them and hers WERE the best but…y’all can just imagine. I ate every bite, every day, at every meal she served them at. After a month or two, I half expected to look in the mirror and find my skin had turned green. At one point I went to get blood work and the doctor was impressed with my iron levels, her exact words were “You must eat a lot of greens and such”. If she only knew.
I laugh now, just as I did then, about Grandmama making me greens so much. I did get a little weary after a while, but the thought that was behind them still made them delicious and to this day I still count them among some of my favorite dishes.
Greens are a critical part of our New Year’s Day meal in the south. According to our tradition, the amount of greens you eat is directly proportionate to how much money you will have in the coming year. Even my brother, who has picky eating habits to rival the most obstinate toddler, has been known to manage a bite or two on New Years day!
You’re going to need some greens. You can use Collards or Turnip greens, or a mixture of both. I am using Collards because that was what was available to me. This is what a bunch looks like. The bundle I bought had three of these and that is the amount I’ll be making today.
I start by chopping the end off like this.
Then I put them in my pot and run cold water over them to start washing them. Washing your greens is extremely important as they do have dirt on them and you want to remove that.
I also pick up each individual leaf and run that under the water, too. Then I place washed leaves in a clean bowl or dishpan.
These little ones that have clearly been feasted on by little critters just get thrown away. I don’t mind them though, I don’t fault a little buggy who has a taste for some fresh greens!
Now we need to get that big old tough spine out of them. If you fold the leaf in two and hold it, it will easily tear right off the spine. If you can’t manage this, just tear it off or cut it off, whatever works for you is just fine!
You just want to end up with a nice bowl of collard leaves like this one.
Now take a bunch at at time and just coarsely chop them up a bit. Don’t worry about making them too small, they will shrink a lot when cooked anyway. We’re just going for big pieces rather than huge leaves here.
Once that is done, put them in a large pot. In your pot, pour about two quarts of water, 3/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, and 1/4 cup of salt. You may put more or less salt to taste but I would wait and let them cook a bit before you decide. If it is too salty, drain some of the water and add fresh, unsalted water. If it isn’t salty enough, just add a bit more. This isn’t rocket science so don’t fret over whether or not you are doing it right. If it tastes right to you, its perfect :). Cook these on medium heat for about two hours, or until tender.
Notice how they aren’t covered with water? There is already two quarts of water in that pot, they are just kind of piled in there but see what happens after about half an hour…
Now they are all sunk down in the water and cooking nicely. These still have over an hour to go. If your water starts getting too low, add some more while these are cooking. If you REALLY want some good greens, add you in a ham hock or some country ham slices while these cook and then shred it up and put it back in after the collards are done. I don’t have any ham hocks today so we’re doing these this way…
Now lets make some pepper sauce..I LOVE the pepper sauce!!
You’ll need: Vinegar, minced garlic, sugar, hot peppers, and salt.
In a pot, place all of your ingredients (recipe at the bottom). Give it a stir and bring it just to a boil. Then, reduce heat and simmer until it is cooked down by about half. By that I mean, look at the level it is at now and when it is half that amount (thanks to evaporation), your sauce is done!
Drain greens and place in a serving bowl after cooking them for about two hours. Drizzle individual servings with the pepper sauce… This sauce is great for so many vegetables!
Decide how rich you want to be in the new year and eat greens accordingly!
Thank you all and Happy New Year!