How to Prepare Collard Greens

Soul Food Advice Column
Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Most people that I know make greens but say that they often struggle with getting collard greens ready to cook because of the prep work involved. Collard greens are my favorite greens to make simply because I find that they are more flavorful than mustard or turnip greens and because I grew up eating turnip greens since my Big Mama only grew them in her garden. I really didn’t try collard greens until I was an adult then I became hooked on them.

Today, I am going to share with you how I select and purchase collard greens for cooking.

How to Purchase and Prepare Collard Greens

Collard greens are found in the produce section in the grocer and can be purchased in bags already picked, washed, and cut. The problem: The greens and stems are cut up together in the bag. The stems are usually what most cooks disregard. I don’t buy greens in bags because once you pick the stems from the greens, you have less greens to cook. Also, ready-to-cook greens in bags are more expensive.

Regular greens normally come in a bunch and usually 4 to 6 bunches (depending on size) are sufficient for a 4 pound recipe after the stems have been removed. Just make sure the leaves are a dark green color, healthy looking, and not wilted or have turned yellow.

How to Wash Collard Greens and Prepare for Cooking

1. Place greens in cool water in sink slightly higher than greens
2. Use both hands by dipping the greens in and out of the water
3. Repeat process 2 to 3 washings or until dirt and grit have been removed.

Prepare Collard-Greens for Cooking

Once greens have been washed thoroughly
1. Remove large stem in middle of greens by folding the leaf vertically.
2. Pull greens away from stem starting from the top
3. Slice leaves into bite-size pieces by rolling several leaves together and slicing in 1/4 inch strips.
4. Disregard all stems.

Collard Greens with Smoked Turkey Recipe

1 smoked turkey wing or 3 to 4 ounces smoked meat
2 quarts water
1 to 2 hot pepper pods or 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 pounds of fresh collard greens
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
4 medium turnips, peeled and quartered
Salt and pepper to taste

Place turkey wing or smoked meat in large pot; add water and pepper pods. Cover. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until tender. Remove from heat, but do not drain. Break stems off of greens. Wash leaves thoroughly. Slice leaves into bite-size pieces by rolling several leaves together and slicing in one fourth inch strips.

Add greens, sugar, oil, vinegar, onion, salt and pepper to smoked meat. Let greens cook down in pot, then cover over medium heat for about 30 minutes. Add turnips and continue cooking until greens and turnips are folk tender. Serve with a slotted spoon. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Tips to Remember When Preparing
Fresh Collard Greens

1. Cutting the greens in ¼ inch strips will help them cook faster.
2. You can substitute turkey bits instead of smoked turkey wings. Turkey bits cooks faster than the wings.
3. Adjust your seasonings as you see fit. For example, you can omit the salt and use very little pepper.
4. You can add more onion if you like. I add onion in with my meat while cooking and then add more after the greens have cooked for about 20 to 25 minutes. It’s basically up to you.
5. I also add a few dashes of red hot sauce. It really don’t make them spicy, I think it just adds to the flavor.
6. Start with 1 red pepper pod or ½ teaspoon of red crushed pepper to determine if it’s too spicy for your taste. Just remember, red pepper carries heat.
7. Try different variations with seasonings and spices to come up with your unique blend. Once you’ve mastered the process, you’ll be on your way to making a great pot of collard greens.

Serving Suggestions

Collard greens are usually served with chicken, or beef, along with sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and corn bread. Many soul food kitchens also serve collard greens with sliced tomatoes, chopped onions, and chow-chow, to complete the meal.

Good luck!

Cassandra Harrell is a Soul Food Advisor and recently owned a soul food restaurant and catering service. She has conducted cooking classes and one-on-one sessions on preparing great soul food cuisine. Her new book, Soul Food Advisor is filled with her authentic recipes that she passed down to her family along with soul food cooking history.

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