Knowing how to prep and cook fresh collard greens (or turnip greens) is the mark of a Southern cook that will make you the Queen (or King) of meat & three Southern cooking!
For those of us who call ourselves “Southerners,” New Year’s Day is ushered in with black eyed peas and a “mess of greens.” Some are intimidated by greens, but they are actually quite easy to make.
“Greens” is a general term encompassing collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, and kale. Collard greens have a slightly bitter flavor, while mustard and turnip greens have a slightly spicy, peppery one. Kale is milder than all the other greens and is often eaten raw in salads. For New Year’s Day, I cook collards or turnip greens.
All types of greens can be cooked using the method below. Here are a few tips that I’ve learned about cooking tasty greens (and a few about shopping for greens for New Year’s Day).
- Buy greens early. Last New Year’s Day, I ran out to buy greens and found nary a bag of greens anywhere. At my 4th stop (Winn Dixie) I found whole collards (thus the recipe below). If you want to ensure that you get washed, bagged & ready to cook greens (pictured at right)~shop early!
- Buy pepper sauce early, too! All stores were wiped out of pepper sauce last year too, but thankfully a dinner guest brought a bottle that she had in her pantry. Be sure you have this spicy condiment on hand, as serving greens without pepper sauce is like serving French fries without ketchup:-)
- Have a large pot or skillet for cooking. Greens take up lots of space until they cook down, and a normal saucepan won’t suffice. (I use an electric skillet; see photo below.)
- Clean out your sink for washing fresh collards. If you make collards from scratch, they’ll need a good washing, and the kitchen sink makes a great place. I sprayed mine with bleach and cleaned/rinsed it well before filling it with greens.
If you end up with fresh greens, here is how to prep them for cooking them. The recipe that follows is how I cook greens of all types, and it really is yummy.
How to Prep Whole Collard Greens
A bunch of fresh collards is huge. These that I bought last year were bigger than both my rice cooker and slow cooker!
First wash greens. Next, break off lower stalks, then tear large leaves away from the center stalk that runs throughout each large leaf. Then, tear or cut leaves into smaller pieces. I used my kitchen shears.
I prefer an electric skillet for cooking greens, as it doesn’t take up any of my stove burners. I use this 16-Inch Electric Skillet. It is large enough for big jobs and has a glass top with an adjustable opening for air and an adjustable dial for temperature.
Save the bacon fat: Bacon fat is key to making greens savory and yummy. If you regularly make bacon, save the fat~it is liquid gold when cooking “soul food” such as black eyed peas, greens, fried corn, etc…. If you save it, you can skip the frying of actual bacon for this recipe and simply add a tablespoon or two of bacon fat. The photo at right is the bacon fat that I’ve saved over the last few weeks. The left is solid and the right is liquid because I just added fresh grease to the bowl. It will all solidify in the fridge. I cover the bowl with a sandwich bag to keep it fresh. It will keep for months, but mine never lasts that long.
I love to serve these greens with Nearly Always Perfect Black Eyed Peas, JalapeÃ±o Pimento Cheese Cornbread, and Fall-Off-The-Bone Baby Back Ribs. To round off the meal, I like to serve skillet blackberry cobbler. This is a soul-food meal at its best!
If you try any of these recipes, please let me hear how they turn out for you! I am so thankful that you stopped by my site. As always, be blessed, and stay savvy!