One cold January day, I asked my brother if he’d enjoyed black-eyed peas and greens for the New Year. He said that he hadn’t yet, but there was still plenty of time and he’d get around to it soon.
Now, I’ve always been a purist when it comes to eating these good-fortune foods as the year begins, but my brother inherited the laid-back genes in the family, and so I should assume there are probably others out there who also feel the same.
Likewise, while these foods may be deemed important on the first day of January, there’s certainly no reason why they can’t be shared throughout the month, as well as the rest of the year. In fact, when I lived in New York and would order barbecue, the meat was fine but it was the collard greens that truly shined. My brother has the right idea.
Collard greens are in season now, so it makes sense to eat my fill of these while they are abundant at the market. Especially when I can find local greens while most of the other items in the produce section are being shipped from far away. Not to mention, they’re healthy and taste good. They are an excellent food for these cold, grey days.
Now, a few years ago, I shared a vegan version of collard greens that get their flavor from chipotle chiles and peanut butter. If you don’t like meat, I highly recommend them. That said, my favorite way to prepare my collard greens these days is with lots of garlic and bacon. No, they’re not meatless but they’re slick, smoky, tangy, and very, very good.
They take little preparation, as I fry the bacon in a large pot then add a handful of minced garlic to the aromatic fat. I then add the greens, water, salt, and a splash of vinegar, then let them simmer for an hour or so until tender and smooth.
Even though they’re easy to make, they still have a depth that belies just how simple they are. The greens, of course, are juicy and savory with bacon and garlic, yet the broth, or pot liquor as it’s usually known, is equally delicious. A drop never goes to waste.
There are many ways to cook your greens, and I know that some like to lace their greens with ham hocks, smoked turkey legs, or chicken broth instead. All produce an excellent pot. Though I will confess that I’m now biased and find these are the best.
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Smoky savory collard greens
- 2 bunches collard greens
- 12- ounces bacon
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
After washing the collard greens, cut out the stems and ribs. Stack the greens then roll the greens, lengthwise. Cut slices from the entire roll at 1-inch intervals. You should now have lots of collard green strips.
In a large pot, cook the bacon on medium heat until crisp, turning once. Remove the bacon from the pot, leaving in the grease.
Add the garlic and cook while stirring for 30 seconds. Add the greens to the pot and cover with an inch of water. Chop the bacon and add it to the pot, along with the salt and vinegar.
Bring the pot to a boil then turn the heat down to low. Simmer uncovered for 1 1/2 hours or until the greens are slick and tender. Check on the pot occasionally and if the liquid gets too low, add more water. Taste the pot liquor when done and add more salt if desired.