When I was growing up, we always ate greens, but not collard greens. Everyone around here grew and cooked turnip greens and mustard greens or mixed them. Some also ate poke on occasion. I used to love poke salad when I was a little girl. I had an uncle that really loved it and he and I were the only ones who would eat it, so my aunt would cook us a big pot or a 'mess' as southerners like to say and we would have contests to see who could eat the most. I had forgotten about that until my mother reminded me of it the other day when we were talking about cooking greens.
We started cooking collards after Paula Deen became so popular on Food Network and cooked them on there and my sister moved to Georgia where they eat collards and she found out how good they were and passed that info along. Also my sister, mother and I took a trip to Savannah, Georgia and ate at Paula Deen's restaurant and those collards were to die for. Anyway, long story short, collard greens are now our favorite greens, but we still eat the others also. I love all greens cooked the right way.
This is how I cook my collard greens, but there are many variations and recipes and I know everyone likes their own so I am not saying this is the only way to do it. This is a very tasty way to cook them though. This is also not a set in stone recipe, you can vary the seasoning to your taste. There are a few musts when cooking greens to make them taste good though, use enough seasoning and you have to put some sort of meat grease in them. Not a bucket full or anything, but you do have to put some bacon grease, ham hock, ham pieces...something. It cuts any of the bitterness they might have. Here is what you'll need:
2- 3 bunches of collard greens depending on how they are bundled, about enough to fill up a plastic grocery bag once they are cleaned
1 meaty ham hock or 2 if not so meaty (preferably a country ham hock)
1 Tbs of salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Cajun Seasoning (I used Tony Chachere's) or seasoned salt if you don't want the spiciness
1 Tbs hot sauce (something like Texas Peete is good)
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. bacon drippings
Wash the ham hock off really well then place it in a dutch oven or large pot. I like to use my cast iron dutch oven for this. Cover the ham hock with water (about 2 quarts). Add the salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning, garlic powder, and hot sauce to the water. Bring this to a boil then turn heat to medium and cook the ham hock for about an hour.
Wash the collard greens by running them through about three changes of water. Lift each green individually out of the water to a large bowl or colander. Change the water and do it again. Collards are usually a little dirty and can be gritty and insects love them and will cling to them, so washing each one is important. Even the bags that are sold in the supermarket that say they are prewashed and cut need to be rewashed at least once. That's just my opinion...for what it is worth...lol. When you have them washed, strip the leaves off of the stems that run through the middle of the leaves. That stem is tough and fibrous...not good to eat. Stack the leaves in a stack of about 7-8 and then roll them up like a cigar. Take a sharp knife and cut the roll in about 1/2 inch strips.
Place the cut greens in the pot with the liquid and the ham hock. It will look like a whole lot, but they will wilt and shrink down as they cook. Add the sugar and the bacon drippings Cook on medium low for about an hour.
Remove the ham hock after one hour to a plate to cool. When it's cool enough to handle cut the lean meat off of the bone, it should just about fall off, discard bone and fat and return the lean meat to the collards and mix. Cook for about 30 minutes more and taste for seasoning. Some people make the mistake of cooking greens to death. They do not need to cook all day long. They should still be a nice green when they are done. The bigger your collard leaves, the longer it will take to get them tender. Taste for tenderness and you will be able to tell if they need more time.
Serve with vinegar, Vidalia onion, and of course hoe cakes!