There’s nothing better than a savory, familiar, and comforting bowl of traditional southern style collard greens with ham hocks. Perfect for Thanksgiving, New Year’s Day, and even Sunday dinner. The best part is that they’re low-carb and keto-friendly. This makes an excellent side dish for my Perfect Pan Seared Boneless Ribeye!
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Let me start by saying that this recipe was so flipping hard to write. Not because it’s difficult or complicated; quite the opposite, actually. Collard greens is a dish I’ve been eating and making forever. I can’t even imagine a time in my life when they weren’t present. Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, New Year’s Day, and even Sunday dinner were all occasions where I could and would expect to smell, see, and taste a huge, comforting, and aromatic pot of southern style collard greens. As food bloggers, we often wax poetically about comfort foods, our childhoods, our grandmothers, our traditions, our heritage. Collard greens are the epitome of all of that for me. My grandma (or grand mama, to us) made the best most savory, hearty, soul warming greens I’ve ever tasted. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that my aunt Patricia makes a mean pot of greens as well.
So why was it so difficult writing this recipe? Simply put, my family never- and I mean never ever- uses a recipe to make collard greens. In fact, I don’t think I ever saw my grandmother in her kitchen fretting over whether two or three teaspoons of a spice goes into any dish. We usually cook intuitively, tasting as we go. Letting the spirit of our Ancestors guide us, as some say. That is, of course, unless baking which does require precision. Because chemistry.
Nevertheless, after much tasting and testing, I was finally able to get everything down on paper. The best part about making a pot of greens, is that you are in control of building the flavor profile that you want. You are always able to add more spices as you go, to suit your taste. But, before we get into that, we have to get pas an extremely important step.
How to Clean Fresh Collard Greens
Ask ten different people how they clean their collard greens, and you’ll get just as many responses. Today I’m giving you the method that works best for me.
I start by omitting any leaves that are obviously no good – any that are wilted, yellow, or otherwise discolored get tossed. If any leaves contain a noticeable amount of dirt I will go ahead and rinse those off first, prior to the cleaning process. I know that many choose to clean their collard greens in the sink, but I find that a large tub (used only in the kitchen/for food-related purposes) works best for me.
I take each individual leaf, tear off the extended part of the stem (that protrudes from the leaf) with my hands. That part can be composted, tossed, or saved for another recipe.
*Note: Some cooks choose to add the stems to their pot of greens instead of removing. This is optional, but if you do this you will obviously want to ensure that they get good and tender before serving.
When it comes to cutting collard greens, I know that some cooks prefer to tightly roll and then slice/chop their leaves. Others choose to hand tear their leaves. I’m actually a member of both camps, but today I chose to hand tear my leaves into smaller pieces.
As I tear (or chop) the leaves I toss the pieces into the large tub. When done, I place the tub in my sink and cover all of the greens with lukewarm water. I let this sit for a few minutes, agitating the leaves with my (clean) hands allowing any sediment to release from the leaves. I then release the water, and start the process again, this time adding a bit of sea salt to the water. Repeat the agitating process, to really ensure that any dirt, sediment, or even insects are released. I then drain the water again, and repeat the process for a third time, this time adding a couple tablespoons of distilled white vinegar. Yes, I wash the greens at least three times – more, if I see any remaining dirt or debris when releasing the water.
*Note: I know that supermarkets -at least mine- now sell prewashed and sliced bagged collard greens in the produce section. If you choose to purchase those, more power to you. In general, I would avoid canned greens.
How to Braise Ham Hocks
Next, it’s time to braise your ham hocks. I start by heating 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a large pot – one with a lid. Then, add the ham hocks and allow them to brown/sear about 2-3 minutes on each side. Searing will add more flavor.
To the pot, add:
- White Onion – sliced or diced. I prefer bigger slices. They will definitely cook down.
- Garlic Cloves – Minced
- Fresh Sage Leaves – Minced
- Smoked Paprika
- Black Pepper
- Cayenne Pepper
When the onions and garlic have cooked down, I pour in 4 cups of chicken broth. Allow the broth to come to a boil, cover with a lid, reduce heat to low, and continue cooking for about two and a half hours. After two and a half hours, the meat on the ham hock should be able to be easily pulled away from the bone with a fork. Lightly shred pieces of the meat into the pot liquor.
Pot Liquor – liquid in which meat, fish, or vegetables have been boiled; stock.
At this point, it’s finally time to add the greens to the pot. When you first add them things will look a bit…bountiful. Fret not. The greens will shortly begin to cook down and you will be able to fit them all.
After stirring in my greens, I add:
- Water –as needed
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Bay Leaves
Give everything a big stir, cover with lid, and allow to slowly simmer for another hour and half over low heat. You can taste, and adjust for any additional seasonings that may need to be added.
And just like that – you’re done! Don’t forget to remove your bay leaves. This recipe may not be quick, but it is relatively easy and absolutely worth it! If you’re looking for another way to use collard greens, be sure to check out my vegan collard green wraps.
As usual, try it out and let me know what you think in the comments below! Or hit me up on Instagram or Facebook!
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There's nothing better than a savory, familiar, and comforting bowl of traditional southern style collard greens with ham hocks. Perfect for Thanksgiving, New Year's Day, and even Sunday dinner. The best part is that they're low-carb and keto-friendly.
- 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 tablespoon Butter
- 2 Ham Hocks
- 1 White Onion, chopped
- 5 Garlic Cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon Fresh Sage, minced or roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons Smoked Paprika
- 2 teaspoons Black Pepper
- 1 teaspoon Cayenne Powder
- 4 cups Chicken Broth
- 4 bunches Fresh Collard Greens, cleaned, stemmed removed, chopped
- Water, as needed
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
- 2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
- 2 Bay Leaves
In a large pot heat the olive oil and butter until they begin to slightly sizzle.
Add the ham hocks, and lightly sear on all sides.
Add the onion, garlic, sage, paprika, black pepper, and cayenne. Allow the onion to cook down.
Add chicken broth to the pot, stir, and allow to come to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover pot with lid, and allow to cook for two and a half hours.
Meanwhile, clean and prepare collard greens using instructions found in the post above. Set aside.
After two and a half hours shred meat on ham hocks away from the bone.
Add the prepped collard greens to the pot, adding additional water as needed (up to 3 cups).
Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar, and bay leaves. Cover with lid and cook on low for an additional hour and a half.
Remove bay leaves and serve.
Additional salt may be needed. Taste and adjust.
Can be served with hot sauce.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 125Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 18mgSodium: 522mgCarbohydrates: 9gNet Carbohydrates: 5gFiber: 4gSugar: 2gProtein: 7g