This year I grew the heirloom collards called Georgia Southern Creole, a pre-1880 southern variety that has done quite well overall.
Growing organically means that some of the leaves were ventilated by a mid-summer cross-striped cabbage worm invasion (treated with BT) and that I am currently trying to diminish the whitefly population with a hose and organic soap. Having no pests is not an option, keeping them in check is the goal.
No matter how your collards were grown, its always best to give them a good soak and cleaning before cooking and the easiest way to do that is to fill up a sink with enough water to cover then swish, swirl and agitate, drain and repeat.
I have tried a number of collards recipes and variations since moving to the south 3 years ago and this is the one I like best so far:
- 1 lb of washed collards, stems still on
- 1 TBS oil (I use an extra virgin olive that is good for cooking, but any vegetable oil should work)
- 3 slices of thick sliced bacon, cut into lardons
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less depending on preference)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 TBS red wine vinegar
- 6 TBS stock (chicken, vegetable or mushroom)
- Salt to season
Remove stems from collards and stack leaves and stems separately. Finely dice the stems and set aside. Stack a few collard leaves and roll into a cigar shape and cut crosswise (chiffonade) into 3/4″ pieces, repeat until all leaves are cut and set aside separate from the stems.
In a large frying pan (I like to use my 10″ straight walled pan) on medium-high, heat oil until hot but not smoking. Add bacon and red pepper flakes and stir until bacon begins to crisp. Add onion and diced collard stems. Cook until onions are translucent and stems have begun to soften, about 10 minutes.
Add the chopped leaves one handful at a time, turning into the bacon and onion mixture after each handful before adding the next. When all of the collards have been added and turned into the mixture, salt to season. When the mixture begins to sizzle, add the red wine vinegar and use a wooden spoon to gently deglaze the pan while turning the mixture.
Add your stock* and turn into mixture, cover and turn heat to low. Let cook another 10-15 minutes until greens reach desired softness. If necessary, add more stock to keep from drying out.
*Note – I filter and freeze the water after I have rehydrated morels and use this to add liquid and a delicious umame component to many dishes, including this one.