Southern-Braised Greens with Bacon

IMG_9179Recently I received a desperate call from my neighbor insisting I liberate her from an over abundance of garden harvest.  I drove over with a box that quickly proved size inadequate.  Returning home, the entire back of my car was filled with collard greens, kale, Napa cabbage, and lettuce.  My repeated protests of “way more than I can possibly use” met with the response “you must take this off my hands.”  Having  gardened for years, I am more than familiar with the feeling of being overwhelmed by the garden’s bounty.  After sharing with a couple of friends, I still faced the prospect of what to do with what remained.

Collards are a long time favorite of mine so this drove me to search out a recipe.  Collard greens are a variety of cabbage that doesn’t form a head, but grows instead in a loose rosette at the top of a tall stem.  It’s often confused with its close relative kale and has been said to taste like a cross between cabbage and kale.  The Southern style of cooking the greens, my absolute favorite way to eat them, is to braise them in liquid with a chunk of bacon, salt pork or ham.  My search led me to a recipe by Emeril Lagasse where he recommends using a mixture of greens.  Problem solved. I cooked up a big pot of collards and kale that my husband said were the best he ever ate.  I had to agree.  Thank you Emeril.

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Here is how it went down.

Southern-Braised Greens with Bacon                8 servings

 Recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse

  • 3/4 pound sliced bacon
  • 3 cups sliced onions
  • 8 cloves garlic, mashed & minced
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 (12-ounce) can beer
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons molasses or cane syrup
  • 5 pounds fresh greens, such as mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens, or kale, rinsed well, picked over and tough stems removed and torn

In a large, heavy pot cook the bacon until it has rendered most of its fat, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, salt, cayenne, and black pepper and cook until the onions are wilted, about 4 minutes. Add 1 quart of water, the beer, vinegar, and molasses and bring to a boil. Begin adding the greens in batches, pressing down with a wooden spoon to submerge them in the hot liquid and adding more as they wilt. When all of the greens have been added, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the greens, partially covered and stirring occasionally, for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until tender.

Jeanne’s note:  I found the collards required a longer cook time.  I simmered mine for 2 ½ – 3 hours.

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I trimmed the recipe in half using molasses, as opposed to cane syrup, apple cider vinegar instead of the white distilled (because I like the flavor) and a little less bacon and a small ham bone I had hanging out in the freezer.  The greens were a bit mature, making them tougher, so as I mentioned above I cooked them longer.  I have heard people from the South say their mom would have a pot of greens cooking on the stove all day.  Judge the cooking time based on how long it takes before they are tender.  It will vary depending on the type of greens you use.  They can be prepared a day ahead and then warmed right before serving if you are short on time.  An added bonus to the salty, sweet, tangy taste, the aroma in my house that day was heavenly.

Before I close I would like to revisit last week’s subject, shishito peppers.  My friend sent me this article that was featured in the Chicago Tribune.  I thought it was an interesting read on the peppers versatility and growing popularity.  Yesterday I discovered another recipe for preparing them.  They are Japanese so I loved the idea of using toasted sesame oil and other ingredients that give them a more Asian spin.  Shishito Peppers with Soy-Ginger Sauce, a recipe from Haylie Duff featured on the Cooking Channel.  I made these last night and trust me when I say, they did not disappoint.  The combination of flavors in the sauce were perfectly balanced, giving these little guys a whole new dimension.  Let me know what you think.

IMG_9175So I leave you today with thoughts of red, white and blue and hopes of a happy and safe Fourth of July weekend for all.  As we wish the USA a happy birthday, let’s all make a pledge to be kind to each other and to work together in support of our great nation.  Regardless of what you are cooking up to celebrate, keep spreading the love, one dish at a time.  I am cooking outside this holiday so I send my grilling love to all.  My 13-year-old granddaughter is coming this Wednesday for a two-week visit so I have a feeling I will be spreading the love in abundance.  Happy holiday.  Jeanne

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2 responses to “Southern-Braised Greens with Bacon

  1. Elizabeth Palmer

    Yum; greens! This surely resonates with me. And collard greens that are young and not quite as “sturdy” as those found in the supermarket must taste divine! It is interesting to me, how some of the best tasting foods come from “humble” origins.

    We are having spareribs with a side of your Raw Kale Salad with Sesame Dressing tonight; scored some Lacinato “Dinosaur” kale at the Farmer’s Market yesterday. Looking forward to eating my greens tonight!

  2. So true, Elizabeth. Humble beginnings often result in the best tasting foods and traditions. I just sent my aunt that kale salad recipe. She told me she doesn’t like kale so I am hoping this recipe will change her mind. Hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend. Thanks as always for your remarks. I really appreciate hearing from you. Have a great week. Jeanne

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