Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Collard Greens and Smoked Neck Bones ... Soul Food!

One of my favorite greens dishes!
     Soul food was not always called soul food.  Before the 1960's, soul food was simply called home cooking.  In the south and farm communities, down home cooking is done with tender loving care.  Slow simmered recipes that are rich in nutrients are the hallmark of good southern home cooking.  Soul food is a great name for this kind of cooking.  This old fashioned kind of food is cooked not only to satisfy the body, but to also satisfy the soul!
     Soul food puts meat on the bones!  There was once a champion bodybuilder who used to preach about the benefits of eating soul food.  Soul food adds strength and definition to muscles.  Slow simmered cartilaginous bones and joints, like trotters hocks and neck bones, create a rich broth that increases tendon strength.  A good rich broth like this is call pot liquor.
     I was raised on this kind of down home country style southern cooking.  I was an athlete when I was in high school.  I can honestly say that soul food did make me feel stronger and healthier.  Coordination also seemed to improve after eating this kind of down home cooking.
     Collard greens have the most nutrients of all leafy greens.  The flavor of collard greens is one of a kind.  Smoked neck bones provide plenty of flavor for the collard greens and the combination makes a great tasting savory pot liquor.  There is plenty of meat on neck bones.  Smoked neck bones are cure fully cooked ready to eat items, but after smoking the meat is drawn tight to the bone and it can be tough.  Slow simmering loosens the smoked meat on the neck bones and the meat becomes very tender.
     Just like ham hocks, neck bones provide the body with soft, easy to digest cartilaginous tissue.  This type of soft cartilaginous compound does help to build strong tendons, heart valves and joints in the human body.  By all means, nibbling the meat and soft cartilage on the neck bones is welcome at the table!
     Pot liquor is the name of a simmering meat and greens broth that is cooked down and reduced till it becomes a rich broth.  After a pot of collards and neck bones have been simmering for a long period of time, the reduced pot liquor becomes very rich in nutrients.  Never discard the pot liquor from a slowly simmered soul food recipe!  The broth should be poured over the greens and neck bones, before serving.  Corn bread or sliced bread is great for sopping up the pot liquor.  Any excess pot liquor can be drank or used for another recipe.
     Collard Greens and Smoked Neck Bones:
     This recipe makes 1 or 2 servings, depending on how big the appetite is!
     Trim the tough stems and thick leaf veins off of 1 bunch of washed collard greens.
     Cut the collard greens into large pieces, that are about 2 to 3 inches wide.
     Set the greens aside.
     Heat a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1 pat of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1/3 cup of chopped onion.
     Saute till the onions and garlic become fragrant and tender.
     Add the collard greens to the pot.
     Add 3 very large pieces of smoked pork neck bone.  (About 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of meaty smoked neck bones is plenty for this recipe.  Be sure that there is plenty of meat attached to the bones!)
     Cover the greens and smoked neck bones with 1" of extra water.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed red pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or cider vinegar.
     Raise the temperature to medium high heat.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Gently simmer the greens and neck bones for 1 hour.
     Remove the lid from the pot.
     Simmer the ingredients for 1 more hour with the pot uncovered.
     Simmer and reduce the broth, till it becomes a rich pot liquor.
     The entire contents of the pot can be placed into a large bowl, if this recipe is served family style.
     For an individual plate portion, remove a portion the collard greens and smoked neck bone pieces from the pot liquor and place them on a plate.
     Pour some of the pot liquor over the greens and neck bones.
     There should be plenty of pot liquor on the plate.
     Any extra pot liquor can be served on the side in a soup bowl.
     Serve with sliced bread or cornbread on the side.

     Bread is great for soaking up the pot liquor on the plate.  Plain old white bread, baked corn bread or pan fried corn bread are traditional.
     This was an awesome tasting plate of simple southern home cooking!  The smoked pork neck bones were high quality and they had plenty of meat on the bones, as you can see in the pictures.  The collard greens are deliciously tender and healthy tasting.  The pot liquor has a very rich flavor from the onions.  Some of the small onion pieces literally melt into the broth.
     The neck bones and greens add plenty of flavor to the pot liquor.  My granny from North Carolina used to say that pot liquor was like drinking good healthy medicine!    


  1. I'm cooking them now! Starting to smell heavenly darling!

  2. Anonymous has left a new comment -

    This will be my first time ever cooking greens for my family. I am going to try this and hopefully I don't screw up. I'm picking them now! Thanks for the receipe

    1. I had a goof and your comment was deleted, but I recovered the comment from an email notification. Thanks, Anonymous! Ha!


      Collard green bunches can vary in size, so the quantity is a judgement call.

      Be sure to cut any thick leaf veins off, because they will be like chewing on sticks.

      Slow simmering is best. The lid should allow some steam to escape. Flooding the greens with excess liquid dilutes the flavor, so use just enough liquid to barely keep the greens covered.

      Allowing the liquid to reduce creates the rich tasting pot liquor. Be sure to have some bread handy for soaking up the pot liquor!

      There is not a lot of meat on smoked pork neck bones, but nibbling the meat off the bones is really a soothing thing to do.


  3. Looks amazing and I don't cook them often, but when I do I love them. The only thing I would change is with the neck bones. I was taught to boil them down first and the fat comes to the top (white stuff) take them off, rinse them off and the pot and then put them in some water and let them boil then add the greens and other ingredients. I don't add all of that to my greens, but I want to try your recipe...thanks for sharing and the pics look very nice! mmmm

    1. Skimming the fat is not necessary if the smoked neck bones are lean. There was not much excess fat on the neck bones in the pictures. In fact, there were no opaque impurities on the surface of the broth to skim off. This is a sign of good fresh smoked meat! Chicago butchers do nice work and the smoked meats in that city are top notch.

      Most of my southern country cooking (soul food) was learned from relatives in the Carolinas. These folks tend to enjoy strong flavors.

    2. ooops... I forgot to say thanks, Florida Ebony!

  4. cookin' some now during the Ohio State vs Rutgers football game! GO BUCKS!

    1. Thanks! I have a couple more Soul and Southern Recipes that I recently cooked. These will be published in November. November is when I tend to write fancy food recipes for the holidays too.