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Traditional Southern preparation for greens. These can be made a day or two ahead, and actually they taste even better if you do make them ahead of time. If you want these to be vegetarian, leave out the bacon and use vegetable stock instead of ham hock stock or chicken stock. I use Ham Hock Stock in this recipe, and it is the most authentic way to make them, but if you don't have the time you can just use low sodium chicken stock. You will notice that the recipe calls for 4 to 6 bunches of collards - this is because bunches can vary in size. If the bunches are big, you only need 4. If they are on the smaller side, use 6. You can use this same preparation for other greens as well - kale, mustard, turnip, etc.
- Strip the collards off the stems and tear into pieces. Discard the stems.
- In a large stock pot, sauté the diced bacon over medium heat until it has rendered out most of its fat and has browned.
- Add the onions to the pot and sauté until browned.
- Add the greens a handful at a time, and sauté over medium heat, while stirring. Once one handful wilts, add the next handful. Continue until all the greens are wilted.
- Add the sliced garlic and sauté for 30 seconds - just until it becomes fragrant.
- Add 1 quart of the stock. If this is not enough to cover the greens, keep adding stock (or water, if you don't have any more stock) until the greens are covered.
- Add the bay leaves, sugar, pepper, red pepper flakes, and salt. A NOTE ON THE AMOUNT OF SALT TO USE: I use home made ham hock stock to make this, and the saltiness of the stock depends on the saltiness of the hocks they are made from (this can vary considerably). Because of this it is important to always taste the stock you are working with before adding any additional salt to the dish. If you are using store bought chicken stock, I would not add any salt at this point. I would cook the greens for 2 hours, and then taste to see if you need any additional salt. Store bought chicken stock is very salty, even the "less sodium" kind. You can always put more salt in, but you can't take it out, so go easy here.
- Bring to a boil and stir well. Lower the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 2 hours.
- Remove the bay leaves and taste the greens. If you think they need more salt, now is the time to add it.
- IF YOU ARE MAKING THE GREENS AHEAD OF TIME:.
- Leave the bay leaves in the pot. Taste and add more salt IF NEEDED. Refrigerate for up to 2 days. When you are ready to serve, re-heat the greens on the stove over medium heat. Remove the bay leaves before serving.