When you think of some of the staples of Southern cuisine, collard greens are easily one of the first things that comes to mind. Deeply colored, slow-cooked collards are hard to resist, especially when they come in their most traditional form: braised alongside bits of porky goodness.
But collards are just one of many sturdy greens that are used in Southern cooking, all of which take well to similar cooking methods. Once you're familiar with cooking collards, you can start having fun experimenting with the wide world of Southern greens.
Go Beyond Collards in the World of Southern Greens
Beyond collards, there are countless greens that Southern cuisine leans on. Mustard, turnip, and beet greens are just a few of the many that are prepared on the daily. They are all considered bitter, hearty greens, which means they all take well to a similar cooking method.
They also happen to be just as readily available as collard greens. Rather than tossing the tops on those beets you picked up at the market, know that you can cook them up to be as tasty as those ruby-red beets themselves.
The Best Way to Prepare Hearty Greens
What all of these greens have in common is that they are quite sturdy — tough and fibrous — and they can taste a little bitter. Luckily, the traditional way collards are prepared is a sure-fire method for not only taming their bite but also softening them and practically turning them velvety in texture.
The key is a slow braise in chicken stock or water, for 30 minutes or longer, preferably with some pork — either smoked ham hock or thick-cut bacon — in the pot. The salt in the pork helps cook the greens into a tender, silky heap, while its fattiness mellows the greens' bitterness. If you're vegetarian, however, you can mimic this effect by using olive oil and plenty of salt, along with braising in vegetable stock rather than water. Other strongly flavored ingredient additions, like onions and garlic, also help turn the greens into an irresistible side dish.
How do you like to prepare hearty, bitter greens?
Related: 5 Ways to Tame Bitter Greens