Collard Greens

published Nov 24, 2019
Collard Greens

These collard greens are flavorful without being too salty. All you need is ham hock, two big bunches of collard greens, salt, pepper, and some red pepper flakes for heat.


Prep30 minutes

Cook2 hours

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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne; Prop Styling: Stephanie Yeh

This recipe is a part of our Ever-Evolving Southern Thanksgiving package. See all the recipes here.

Darlene Ivey, Statesville, North Carolina 

My mother always cooked collards for my birthday on October 20. She said you had to wait for the frost to come, so that they taste better. It was a real birthday treat. In Lumberton, where my family grows collards, they always talk about the frost. Something about it, when it hits the collards, it makes them taste better. 

Before my mom died 10 years ago, her health was declining and she just couldn’t cook the way she used to. Things tasted different. I tried to make her collards just like she did — boiling the ham hock, washing the collards three times, all of it — but I couldn’t get them right. I didn’t want them greasy, but I did want them seasoned. If I kept the collards in the ham hock juice, they were too salty. That’s when I decided to try draining them, rinsing them off, and putting them back in the pot with a little of the ham hock juice. It’s perfect this way, and I’ve been making it like this ever since. 

Maybe some of the magic is in the pot. I cook my collards in a pot my mom used to cook hers in. This pot must be 60 or 70 years old. After she passed away, I walked into her kitchen and saw the pot and just started crying. My family told me I had to keep the pot, so I did. The lid makes a sound when the collards are cooking. When I hear it, it brings back so many memories of my mom cooking collards. 

Collards are also close to my heart because they are important to my heritage. Collard greens are very important to the Lumbee [Tribe of North Carolina]. I don’t know about other people, but for me, Thanksgiving is a time I’m proud to be Lumbee. November is Native American Heritage Month and there is a pride in that you can’t really understand unless this is your life.

Collard Greens

These collard greens are flavorful without being too salty. All you need is ham hock, two big bunches of collard greens, salt, pepper, and some red pepper flakes for heat.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 2 hours


Nutritional Info


  • 1

    ham hock

  • 2 bunches

    collard greens (about 2 pounds total)

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • Red pepper flakes


  1. Put 1 ham hock in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low to gently simmer until the ham is tender. Meanwhile, prepare the collard greens.

  2. Thoroughly wash 2 bunches of collard greens by filling the sink with water. Immerse the greens and wash a few times as needed. Strip the leaves from the stems and discard the stems. Tear the leaves or use kitchen shears to cut into bite-sized pieces.

  3. When the ham hock is ready, place the collards with a little water into a large pot over medium heat. After the collards cook down some, transfer the ham hock with tongs to a clean cutting board, then pour the ham cooking liquid into the pot of collards. Season with a little kosher salt and black pepper and a few shakes of red pepper flakes.

  4. Continue to cook simmer until the collards are very tender, about 1 hour. When the ham hock is cool enough to handle, remove the meat, break up into bite-sized pieces, and add to the collards as they cook.

  5. Remove about 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Strain the collards through a colander, then run under hot water to get rid of excess grease. Return back to the pot and stir in the reserved cooking liquid.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Contributed by Darlene Ivey, Lumberton, NC.

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