Southern style greens

I’m a Southern transplant, and even though you can’t take Brooklyn out of the girl,  I may have absorbed some of the food culture here. One of our favorite side dishes is southern style greens.  These greens pass the test of my Tennessee farm-born father in law. 🙂 Of course, he won’t eat his without a dash of red wine vinegar! It’s my most requested bringalong for family get togethers.

The secret to yummy, sweet and tender greens, I have learned, is threefold: pork fat, onions, and time.

I dice up some pastured, nitrite free local bacon, render and brown and then cook some diced onion.  Lard is one of the most healthful fats available, if it’s non hydrogenated and from pastured pigs. And did you know that the wonderful long list of vitamins and minerals in these vegetables require some fat taken along with them in order to be useful to your body?

I like to add some diced chard stems, beet stems or even small diced beets in there for a little extra sweet and some textural interest.

I fill up the sink (or a basin or large bowl) with water and a splash of vinegar, to soak the greens. This method is great because greens float and dirt sinks. I usually triple wash the greens by mixing them up well so all the dirt falls down to the bottom, then substituting the plug for a sink strainer and sliding all the dirt down the drain as best I can, then refilling with water.  After washing, I LIFT the greens out of the water  in batches into a colander so that the dirt doesn’t come with it.  So if I use a bowl or basin, I don’t pour into a colander as the dirt might get mixed back in.

I have to put the greens in my cooking receptacle in batches, as it takes up a lot more volume before it steams down.

The next part is just cooking and waiting. When I finally have it all in the pot and mixed together, I leave it on a low setting (it should continue to lightly simmer or at least have steam coming from the whole surface) for a long time. At LEAST an hour, and that’s only if you just couldn’t get to it until an hour before dinner. For collards, they need even more time on low to be totally sweetened. Two to three hours. I am not sure if there is such a thing as  “too long” to cook greens. I’ve never gotten to that point.  I’ve even done them in the crock pot on low and left them overnight to bring to a gathering the next day.

As they cook, they turn from a beautiful bright green to a darker, more yellow green. The long cooking really ups the nutrition, too. Spinach and vegetables in the brassica family have thyroid-suppressing chemicals in them, which are neutralized by cooking.  Some greens also contain protease inhibitors (which causes poor digestion and interferes with mineral absorption), and spinach has oxalic acid (which bonds with iron and calcium and is one of the possible contributors to kidney stones).

Don’t forget the “pot-likker” – the delicious thick liquid remaining in the pot. I used to think it meant “licker” like you were licking the dregs, but I found out it’s referring to “liquor” – it was prized for its taste and nutrition and in some places it’s even served beside the greens in a little shot glass.

I like to mix a variety of greens together – some bitter, some sweet. The mix I’m making today is collard greens, spinach and red chard. I also love to mix in arugula, beet greens, mustards, turnip greens, etc. But, whatever greens I have on hand, this is a no fail method for delicious, nutritious and comforting southern food.

How do you like to “fix yer greens”?

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8 Responses to Southern style greens

  1. Sheila says:

    I love them creamed! The first time I ever had creamed collard greens, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. (My husband was less impressed, haha.) Or you can just stick them in with a ham hock when you’re cooking one already. But with cream sauce will always be my favorite.

  2. Kerri says:

    Long cooking!!!! So that’s the ticket!!!! You have no idea how glad I am to learn that. I wanted to grow a bunch of greens in our garden, knowing how good they are for us, but in the past noses were turned up by the bitter taste. Mostly they were cooked by my MIL who likes all things as fresh/raw as possible and with the lowest fat. My kids would choke them down. Now I have to find a good fat source (we use pastured butter when we can).

    BTW, how do you feel about pork? This is one area has always been a confusion to me. I know we are not to live by the Law, but if take a look at which animals he said were unclean all of those animals happen to be the ‘clean up crew’ for the land or the seas. So they would have to most toxins in their bodies. We still eat pork ourselves, but this has always been a concern for me. Any thoughts?

    • Sarah says:

      Interestingly, I have just been learning about this. Food Renegade recently had some posts. Unmarinated and uncured pork is actually “bad” for you in a way, as it causes blood coagulation! However, this effect is mitigated when it is traditionally prepared either by curing or 24 hour marinating in an acidic medium. Since learning about this we have been soaking pastured pork chops and such. And bacon that is *traditionally* cured (with salt and sugar, not sodium nitrite) is also mitigated. I would check out Kristen’s posts on the topic for more info. As you say, God used the “unclean” animals as a metaphor for the Gentiles, and in the new covenant He explicitly made all food “clean” and no Christians were to be ostracized or looked down on for eating foods that were formerly considered unkosher. So I do not use the kashrut laws as a basis for my food choices. My husband is a big fan of pork (especially the cured items) so we do enjoy it every now and again, though our staple is grass fed beef. 🙂

    • Sarah says:

      PS, Kerri, greens taste great in coconut oil, too, if you can source that.

  3. It is also in the Wise Traditions journal, in case you are interested. You can read it for free on the WAPF site here:

    It made me think of all the ways my grandmother prepared pork and she was always right!

  4. ann kraeger says:

    Yummy! That’s one I am going to try.

  5. Elaine Mills says:

    Just read this post, timely given our posts on FB yesterday 🙂 Our favorite method of flavoring collards is with sesame oil, honey, salt, garlic, onions, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. We sautee them for ~15 min in butter, add the sesame oil and honey at the end.

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