Every single person who loves and cooks collards believes their recipe is the best. This is fair... and I am no exception. :-) Many a non-collard eater has been converted by my 'go to' version, if I do say so myself!
They are a labor of love and really should not be rushed. Taking extra time during the cleaning and simmering process will render the perfect, deep green, savory, iron-filled side dish for any holiday comfort meal. There are as many opinions and recipes for collards as there are people who cook them, likely more. I have a few. One is a more traditional style with ham hock and bacon when I am channeling my grandmother and our Southern roots. Another with braised cabbage, Jameson, and roasted turkey. (Hmmm... I may need to make this happen. It's been too long.) However, this is my go-to, and am happy to finally get the "a little of this, dash of that, and short pour of the other" out of my head and into real measurements!
The measurements below are for a single bunch of collards, so multiply accordingly. One bunch renders 4-5 servings. (Allegedly. If anyone gets a handle on the math of collard portions, I'd love to see it. But 4-5 is as good a guess as any.)
Ingredients Per Bunch of Collards:
3/4 cup chicken broth (Have extra on hand.)
3/4 cup Chardonnay (Don't drink the rest of the bottle until the collards are done! You might need it.)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Set aside for cooking and just before serving.
Additional chicken broth and Chardonnay
2 TBSP white vinegar
Clean and Cut Collards:
Do not rush this!
Pull each leaf off the bunch and rinse each leaf thoroughly. I like to soak them in cold water for 20 minutes or so and then rinse.
Cut or tear out the stalk and discard. (Or save the more narrow ends to make vegetable broth once you have collected a gallon ziplock of veggie "trash." I don't have my exact recipe for this, but Google will give you plenty of options!)
Cut into about 2-inch squares. The easiest way to do this is to stack and roll them up; Cut long ways; turn to the uncut side and cut long ways again, then slice cut roll in 2-inch lengths.
Add all ingredients (EXCEPT VINEGAR) to a pot. Bring to a boil and turn the heat down to a simmer.
Simmer for 3-4 hours until leaves are to desired tenderness, stirring gently every 20 minutes or so. The more tender, the more smooth the flavor. I prefer almost all veggies al-dente. Not collards. I love them tender enough for a fork to easily cut through. The leaves are hearty and are not prone to getting mushy like spinach and mustard greens, so simmer on with confidence!
Add small, equal amounts of chicken broth and Chardonnay if necessary. You want to keep enough liquid to sustain a slow simmer and not have the leaves dry out. They do not need to be covered. A good measure is 1/3-1/2 the depth of the collard leaves.
Add 2 TBSP apple cider vinegar 30 minutes before serving. (If you cook them in advance, do this step after they have been reheated.)
In my experience, these are the quantities and timing that work most of the time. How fresh and/or green the collards are can cause liquid and cooking time to vary. They can be stubborn and it is far too much work to be unhappy with the texture, so here are a few final tips:
Start with plenty of time. They can be reheated. I will often move mine to a crockpot set on warm to clear the space on my stove.
Check and adjust the liquid often. Don't add too much at a time.
The wine is more than enough sugar (IMHO). If you feel they are still bitter, add pinches of sugar at a time and closer to the end. They sweeten as they cook.
Add additional pepper and/or vinegar a little at a time at the end if you feel they need a little more kick.
Don't forget to serve with pepper sauce.
And one last time for those in the back: Please... slow down and enjoy the process.
Love is the deciding component and it cannot be rushed!
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