I think I was about 20 years old before I ever ate collard greens. We just didn’t have them when I was growing up, though my Mother said her mother cooked them. I think my Dad didn’t like them and that explains that!
Like all greens you have to wash collards really well before cooking them or you’ll end up with grit in your teeth. I wash each leaf and break off the biggest tough parts of the stems. I do leave in some of the smaller stems.
I’ve cooked collards for many years now and it’s amazing all the different ways people have of seasoning them. I’ve settled on using a piece of smoked pork, red pepper flakes, a pinch of sugar, minced garlic, salt, pepper and sliced onions. Now, we have a vegetarian in the family so I always cook a small pot of collards with no meat, they’re good, too.
The thing about collards is that you need to let them cook a LONG time to really bring out the taste. So, I put everything in a big crockpot and let it cook on low overnight. When I know I will be here all day I cook them in a pot on the stove, adding water as needed.
To cook collards:
Pick over each leaf, tearing out any imperfect places and breaking off large, woody stems.
Wash each leaf well.
Chop the leaves into bite sized pieces and place them in a big pot.
Add enough water to fill the pot about 2/3 full, don’t worry about covering all the leaves, they will cook and shrink, or “cook down” eventually.
You can add water if needed later.
Add all the seasonings to the pot of collards.
Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Allow collards to cook for several hours until they are very tender and flavored with the seasonings. Don’t be surprised if this takes 4-6 hours.
Serve with cornbread!