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No More Greens (recipe: Collard Greens with Ham hocks)

March 30, 2011
by Jackie Garvin

Another season is behind us.  I harvested the last of my collard greens today.  As excited as the prospect of spring makes me, I get a little melancholy at the same time.    In the spring we will gather tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, cantelope and radishes and onions from our little kitchen garden.   The glad and sunflowers will make everything bright and sunny.  The orange blossom’s perfume will be carried throughout our yard.   Bees will be buzzing.  Birds will be chirping.  The spring season in Florida is glorious, no doubt about it.  But the turnips, mustard and collards are gone for another season.   Certainly, they are available  almost all year round in the freezer cases, but I will be missing them from my garden.

Greens  make me feel connected to my ancestors several generations back.  As far back as we know, my ancestral  line lived in the southern US and were poor people just doing the best the could to stay alive.   Greens are well suited to southern climates.  They grow rather quickly, produce prolifically, have a moderately long growing season and give up their seeds easily.   In addition, they produce a nutrient rich green leafy, fiber filled vegetable.    You can cook them with some smoked meat in large quantities to feed a whole passel of hungry folks at one time.    Add some Hot Water Cornbread and you have a complete meal that contains all the essential amino acids.  After the greens are gone, the life of the meal can be extended by feasting on the pot likker, the nutrient rich  soup that’s left in the pot.    I imagine my ancestors had access to corn meal because corn was, and still is, a major crop in the south.  Farmers would raise pigs for the meat and smoke cure the biggest part of it.  Then, they all shared with their neighbors.  Sharing and helping each other out was a way of life.  They had a different mindset back then.  Often times my grandparents would speak of the notion of being neighborly and sharing when they barely had food to eat themselves.   My grandaddy  once said, “You might have a gracious plenty one year because your crops come in good.  Next year, you could go through a spell of bad luck,  sho’ as the world.”     For people who lived such meager lives, greens were a perfect food source.

Tomorrow, I will clean the greens,  make a good rich stock from ham hocks and throw in the greens for the last time this season.   I will be cooking the same food that sustained several generations of my ancestors.  My kitchen will have the same grassy smokey aroma that their’s did.  And I will eagerly await a bowl of fresh greens, just as they did.  We will welcome the spring and say goodbye to the winter as we eat the last bowl of greens.  And I will give thanks for our good fortune, sho’ as the world.

Y’all come see us.


Collard Greens and Ham Hocks

The last of the collard greens harvested.

Before you even start messin’ with your greens, get your ham hocks started.  Cover them with water, add a little salt (not too much just yet), and let them cook for a good hour.

Whoo-whee!  Those are some nice ones!!

Now, you can start on your collard greens.

See that big vein in the center?  You gotta get rid of it.  It’s tough and bitter.

You can fold each leaf in half, then cut the big vein with a sharp knife.

This leaf has been deveined.

I just tear my leaves off the vein.  I can do that faster than cutting.  You can do it either way.  Now, the greens are ready for the triple washing.  That’s right.  Triple washing.  Don’t cheat.  I’m watching.

After the triple (three times) wash to remove all the grit, chop the greens.  Just roll them up and chop in ribbons.

Add to the pot of boiling ham hocks and stock.  Cover.  Let them start to cook down.  Don’t be afraid.  They won’t completely disappear on you.  They just cook down an awful lot.

After the greens have cooked down and are starting to get soft, then you start tasting for seasoning.  I like my greens cooked in a simple fashion:  in a good rich ham hock stock with salt, black pepper and honey as needed to cut the bitterness.  I have a friend who says, “I just go on and put everything but my foot in my greens.”  I LOVE THAT!  Some people, including my friend, add vinegar, hot peppers,  prepared mustard and who knows what all else.  I do like to eat my greens with pepper vinegar after they are done.  But that’s about it.  Oh, and cornbread, of course.   It just a taste preference.  And I happen to have one.

Once you’re satisfied you’ve got the balance of flavors just right, pour up the greens in a bowl.  Shred the meat from the ham hock, eat some and throw what’s left in the bowl with the greens.  Make you some good hot  cornbread.  Sit down at the table.

Collard Greens with ham hocks and lacy cornbread

    Collard greens with ham hocks served with chopped onions, pepper vinegar and lacey cornbread

Collard Greens and Ham Hocks

Instead of exact proportions, I’m giving you the list of ingredients and the cooking instructions.  Cooking greens isn’t precise.  The proportions go up and down easily depending on how much you want to make.

2 or three large ham hocks

1 or 2 bunches fresh collard greens, triple washed and big vein removed


1 teaspoon kosher salt


Place ham hocks in a large stock pot and cover with water.  Add about a teaspoon of kosher salt.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat and let cook for one hour until they are good and tender.

After an hour, uncover and bring stock back up to a boil.  Add greens, a little bit at the time.  They will cook down rather quickly.  Continue until all greens are in the pot.  Reduce heat and cover.  Continue cooking until greens are cooked to your degree of doneness.  This is purely a matter of taste preference.  I pretty much cook mine to death, but that’s how we like them.

Keep tasting for seasoning and degree of doneness.  Adjust seasoning as necessary.  If the greens are too bitter for your taste,  add honey or your favorite sweetening.

Before serving, remove ham hocks from pot.  Take off any of the good meat, shred it and put it back in the greens pot.  Stir and serve.

You might also enjoy:

Rosemary Garlic Pork Loin

Southern Buttermilk Cornbread

High Rise Buttermilk Biscuits



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29 Comments leave one →
  1. Nana Ann permalink
    March 30, 2011 2:28 pm

    I know collards are supposed to be winter vegetable, but I just planted them and turnips in my spring garden and they are growing like crazy! (they had plants at Home Depot) I had planted collards before and as long as you kept cutting the leaves off they would keep producing. Anyway hope I get to enjoy some cause I grew up eating them too with some good ole cornbread!

    • March 30, 2011 4:23 pm

      Nana Ann,

      Enjoy your collards and turnips as long as you can. I didn’ t replant them just because the warmer weather makes them seem somewhat bitter to me. If you pick the young leaves, they will probably taste better. I’ve kept some collards, turnips and mustard in my garden so they will go to seed. I will be all set for planting season this fall.

  2. March 30, 2011 3:27 pm

    YUM! Thanks for linking up this classic comfort food recipe, Jackie…it’s a keeper!

    If you haven’t already, hop over to and enter this recipe for cookbook consideration. We’d love to have it on file for Farmstand or another upcoming title.

    Thanks again! 🙂

    • March 30, 2011 4:24 pm

      Gooseberry Patch….you folks are just the best! I will enter this recipe for cookbook consideration. Just this past week, I entered one of my stories called “Blackberries and Summer” in your “Memories” category.

  3. Marilyn Burdette permalink
    March 30, 2011 4:32 pm

    Jackie, my grandfather, Tread Clayton, was a farmer in S. Ga. He planted collard greens just for his little Fl.granddaughter-Me. I loved collards as a child and to this day they are my favorite green. I cook them the same way you do and the memories of the days on the farm where I spent so many summers and most vacations because we couldn’t afford to go anywhere else and going to s. Ga. was going home, come flooding back. As a young teen-ager I even “handed”tobacco and my brother had to pick it. Guess my daddy wanted us to learn early that an education would pay off. I love your blog!!

    • March 30, 2011 4:50 pm

      I didn’t know that Tread was named for his g-g-grandfather. I love that!! I’ve tried different ways of cooking greens and have settled on the way described in this bog. Simple is best, as far as I’m concerned. The more I write, the more I hear from folks, like yourself, about their strong food/memory connections. I have long since held the opinion that food nourishes our soul as much as our bodies. Thanks for your comment, Marilyn. I love having you as a reader!!

  4. March 31, 2011 1:26 pm

    I’ve never had fresh collards before… gonna have to try this : )
    Thanks for stopping by Keeping Up With The Rheinlander’s! I email subscribed so I don’t miss a thing : )

    • March 31, 2011 8:58 pm

      We love our collards down south. They have to be cooked right though! 🙂 I hope you give them a try.

  5. March 31, 2011 1:27 pm

    I grew up in the Pacific NW and I have never ever had collard greens. I have seen them on cooking shows etc. Maybe one of these days I will have to look in the grocery store for them.

    Thanks for joining us today for Thursday’s Friends Cafe. Have fun! :

  6. March 31, 2011 7:19 pm

    This is a must plant ! Thank you for the tutorial !
    I will go to Home Depot 🙂
    You have wonderful recipes !
    Very nice wordpress blog. Enjoyed your post about the ranch too. I love animal…I want chicks so bad LOL.
    Anyways, drop by and follow me back on GFC !

  7. March 31, 2011 7:23 pm

    I don’t think my first comment went through…Hick
    I love your blog ! I have to plant green now that i have seen your tutorial. I loved the post about the ranch !!!
    big hugs

  8. April 1, 2011 2:29 pm

    These collard greens look so good, I have some in my garden. Thanks for sharing this. Have a great day. Kay

  9. April 1, 2011 5:21 pm

    Hi from your newest follower. Wonderful Blog you have. When you get the time please check out my blog and return the follow. I am going to be having AWSOME giveaways all throughout the year. Also PLEASE consider buying one of my cookbooks.

    Thank You and Many Blessings to you and yours,

    Connie C

  10. tiarasandtantrums permalink
    April 5, 2011 8:44 am

    Thanks for visiting my blog on this UBP 2011 party! I love to meet new blogs! I couldn’t find your UBP11 pot though – so am posting here. I can say that I have never had collard greens in my life – but your red velvet cake looks divine!

    • April 5, 2011 9:05 am

      Thanks so much for stopping by. Sorry about the link to the UBP 2011 page not working. I guess it was those computer gremlins, again!

  11. Jenny permalink
    April 5, 2011 10:19 am

    Your link on the party linky is broken so I had to go through your facebook page to find your blog 😛 Just thought you should know!!

    Happy partying! 😀

  12. Leslie Limon permalink
    April 6, 2011 9:53 pm

    I want to have dinner at your house, especially if your serving collard greens with ham hocks! 🙂 Looks positively delicious! 🙂

    Visiting from #commenthour

  13. April 21, 2011 6:19 am

    Had to laugh just a bit. I’m waiting for the snow to leave so I can plant ANYTHING! And here you’ve been done with your collard greens for almost a month. I am putting the peas in this weekend though 🙂

    CindyP, CITR

    • April 21, 2011 3:39 pm

      Here’s hoping for spring for you soon! We have already been hitting high 80s and low 90 degree temps. Looks like we are in for another brutal summer.

  14. rocky permalink
    November 27, 2011 12:21 pm

    I made this recipe today except I let the hocks cook for an hour and a half. For my first time they turned out great! The hock broth is fantastic. I would’ve used my fresh chicken stock but fortunately didn’t have to. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Linda Cates permalink
    November 14, 2013 10:43 am

    Is that hot water cornbread in the picture? if so what is your recipe for it?

  16. Janet Lynn permalink
    December 30, 2014 12:08 pm

    Where did you get the enamel pan you have your greens in? I had one years ago like this and gave it away as someone loved it and I can’t find one. There were different patterns and I bought a few and gave them away to friends/family as they loved them and now I want them back…!

    • December 31, 2014 11:30 am

      Some of my tonatoware pans were in my family and some I bought at various antique shops. They’re not that easy to find anymore.


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