Monday, December 13, 2010

Soul Food! Collard Greens and Smoked Ham Hock

     The aroma of simmering collard greens and ham hock is truly one of the greatest aromas that there is!  Collard greens are one of the most famous plates of soul food!
     I really do have to laugh about this memory of mine.  One side of my family is from the American South.  I ate collard greens and ham hocks, as well as many other southern recipes for many years as a kid.  Then somebody gave this kind of food a name.  People started calling southern down home cooking "Soul Food." I just looked at my granny and said "Somebody gave a name to this stuff that we eat all the time?"  Granny smiled and said "Somebody was bound to give our cooking a name sooner or later!"
     Soul food has been cooked in the south by all races, creeds and colors.  Soul food is color blind!  Everybody who cooks collard greens is proud of their recipe too.  Collard greens just about have the most nutritional value of all greens.  Collard greens are native to Africa, just like okra.
     You can not cook collard greens quickly, unless you have a pressure cooker.  Most soul food chefs cook collards slowly for a long period of time, the same way as I do.  The leaves have to be cooked tender so they can be eaten.  Canned collard greens are taboo!  Fresh is best.
     Collard Greens and Smoked Ham Hock Recipe:
     Heat a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 2 pats of unsalted butter or 1 tablespoon of bacon grease.
     Add 1/4 cup of small chopped onion.
     Cook the onions, till they become a caramelized brown color.
     Add 2 pinches of crushed dried red pepper.
     Add 1 smoked ham hock.
     Add enough water to cover the ham hock.
     Bring the broth to a boil over high heat.
     Reduce the temperature to medium/low heat.
     Simmer the ham hock.
     Wash about 5 to 6 large leaves of fresh collard greens with cold running water.  Trim off any damaged parts of the leaves.  Cut the thick veined ends of the collard leaves off and discard them.  (The thick plant veins will be tough and chewy no matter how long you cook the greens.  So it is best to trim them off.)   Take the smaller collard leaves and split them down the middle, splitting the leaf vein in half.  Do the same for the larger leaves, but cut the large leaves into 4 large pieces.
     When the smoked ham hock broth is reduced to half of the height of the ham hock, add the collard greens.
     Gently press the greens into the hot broth with a wooden spoon, as the leaves wilt.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of cider vinegar.
     Cover the pot.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
     Take the lid off of the pot occasionally to gently "turn the collard greens from the bottom of the pot to the top.
     After 2 hours the greens will start to become tender.
     Check to see that there is enough "pot liquor" in the pot.  It may be necessary to add a splash of water while simmering, but do not dilute the pot liquor broth!  The broth has to be rich, so the flavors meld together.
     When the collards are done cooking, there should be barely enough pot liquor to cover the greens.
     Keep the greens warm. 
     Use a spoon or tongs to set the collard greens in a shallow bowl.
     Pour some of the pot liquor over the greens.
     Place the simmered smoked ham hock on the greens.
     No garnish is necessary!
     The chopped caramelized onions are cooked for so long, that they dissolve into the broth.  The flavor of the smoked ham hock is thoroughly infused with the greens.  Collard greens are very durable.  Even after simmering slowly for hours, they still retain their shape.  Serving the ham hock with the greens is optional.  Some people like to nibble on the simmered ham hock meat.  This is a warm, comfortable, healthy bowl of collards!  Soul food is feel good food!  Delicious!  ...  Shawna


  1. And I love me some collard greens!!! Have to love some soul food!!! :)

  2. May I use one of your photos for a school assignment? JC from Austin.

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