New Year's Day: Slow-cooker collard greens

Collard greens for New Year's Day is a Southern tradition in the hopes for a prosperous New Year.

A Palatable Pastime
Cooking collard greens in the slow-cooker helps to achieve that Southern style of cooking with smoky flavor.

Regardless of whether we are superstitious or not, eating collard greens for New Year's day can also be about starting off remembering our culinary roots. For this type of Southern braised green, which can be symbolic of money or cash, in a particular culinary heritage, it is also traditional, and I am a person steeped in tradition.

I have been making greens in the slow-cooker for more than 10 years. For greens like collards, I like them Southern style, which requires a bit of cooking. I have to admit I don’t like having to tend that many pots on the stove that much, so when I make greens and have time, I like to start them in the morning for the evening meal.

I often make several different kinds of greens together, mixing collards with kale or mustard or turnip greens. I don’t use spinach or chard in the braised greens because I don’t think their tender character stands up well to braising.

The seasoning I use varies a little bit as well. My greens usually aren’t made vegetarian, although they can be. Usually I will add some type of smoked meat for added flavor and among these are things like smoked turkey wings or drumsticks, bacon, smoked pork shoulder, smoked pork neck bones, smoked ham, ham bones, country ham, or ham hocks. You can even add things like salt pork or side pork, but it won’t add any smoky flavor. What I use depends mostly on what I have already on hand, or if I have to buy something, whatever seemed the best buy at the time. Most things work well, so I am not apt to buy something when it is not priced to sell.

The slow-cooker I use in this recipe is a large oval 5-quart one. I call for about 8 cups of greens which is 1-2 bunches of greens or maybe three, depending on how big the bunches are. Once you have made this a couple of times you will know how much will work for you. You won’t have to use a 5-quart crock for this as there is nothing special about that. It’s just that is how much it takes for me to loosely fill up the crock before it begins to wilt down. You can easily use other sizes of crocks and just fill them up.

The amount of meat seasoning will be “more or less” meaty depending on how much you add. The amount of cooking liquid is really approximate and isn’t going to change how the greens cook (unless all of it somehow evaporates) and will just give a different amount of pot liquor (cooking juices) at the end, which are wonderful in themselves spooned over a piece of corn bread.

Slow-cooker collard greens

1-2 bunches of fresh collard greens (about 8 cups prepared) or also can use kale, mustard or turnip greens
4-8 ounces smoked seasoning meat
1 onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth, or water
salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
couple splashes vinegar (maybe 1/4 cup)
couple splashes hot sauce (if you like it really spicy)

1. Fill the sink basin with cold water and submerge the untied greens and swish them around a bit, and even let them soak 5-10 minutes. (why? they can have mud on them, or worse, especially if they are organic). Rinse and repeat until the drain water is perfectly clear; drain.

2. Fold each leaf in half at the center and slice out the thick stem.

3. Stack the leaves as you finish them, then roll them up in a stack like a cigar, and slice crosswise about 1 inch apart.

4. Take the curls and toss them then place in the crock with the other ingredients.

5. Cover and cook on low for about 8 hours, turning occasionally as the leaves shrink down, until greens are tender.

Related post on A Palatable Pastime: Southern braised cabbage

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