Greens, Glorious Greens!

greens 1One of the really fine things about autumn is that the greens come on strong in our home gardens, at the farmer’s markets and at the Oklahoma Food Cooperative. The “Greens” category on the Co-op website is stocked full of tasty, safe and nutritious greens for your fall-feasting pleasure. We have a wide variety of cooking greens, such as kale, turnip, beet, mustard, spinach and chard! Plus, you’ll find quite a variety of salad greens, too — mesclun, arugula, lettuce, etc.

There are many different ideas when it comes to cooking greens, but as for me and my house, we are fans of the old-fashioned, slow-cooked, southern-style greens flavored with bacon, ham, neck bones or ham hocks. You also could use poultry. If I didn’t have any meat on hand, I would use a flavorful stock. I have cooked greens in beef stock before, so you could also use any kind of stewing beef for your greens. If you don’t eat meat, then use a flavorful vegetable stock. Save water from cooking potatoes and sweet potatoes and use that, or make a vegetable stock from onions, carrots, celery and garlic.

The point is that you cook the greens in a flavorful liquid. This recipe works for collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, beet greens and chard. One thing I like to do is mix several different kinds of greens together in a big “mess o’ greens.” And greens freeze just fine, too. Be sure to freeze them in their pot likker (the cooking liquid).

Bobby Max’s Basic Tasty Recipe for Cooked Greens
greens 4Wash the greens thoroughly and chop into pieces. I like to roll up my leaves like a cigar and then slice thinly. Chop an onion and mince some garlic. (We tend to like MORE garlic rather than less, so we use maybe 8 cloves. Use more or less to your taste.) Put some lard, tallow or butter (or olive oil if you are vegetarian) in a pot and add the greens and the aromatics. Stir until they are wilted and the onions start to get a bit clear.

Do you like things hot and spicy? Then add some sliced jalapenos or crushed red pepper flakes. Want something just a bit sweeter, with a dab of color? Grate a large carrot into the aromatics. More carrots = more sweetness.

Add some homemade stock, (beef, pork, chicken or vegetable), just enough to cover the greens and seasonings. Or add water and bacon, ham, ham hocks, or whatever you are using for flavor. When adding raw meat, you will need to simmer for two to three hours. You can use a slow cooker and set it on low for several hours and they cook themselves.

greens 2

Collard Greens simmering in a pot.

Collard greens simmering in a pot.

When you dish this up for serving, be sure to include a good helping of the pot likker. (That’s the liquid the greens cooked in.) We not only eat the greens, we sip up the pot likker, too, because it is loaded with flavor and nutrition.

What else can you do with your cooked greens? Well, there is always Creme of Greens Soup! Here’s a simple recipe to get you started.

Cream of Greens Soup

  • 1 pound slice of ham, with bone
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 large bunch of greens, washed and finely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 2 cups chopped green onions
  • 1/4 and 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 5 cups milk

Place the water and ham in a pot, cover and simmer for 3 hours. (If you have stock on hand, you can use that instead of simmering anything for 3 hours.) Add the chopped greens and simmer for 1 hour. (If you are making this with turnip greens, add them at the beginning of the cooking.) Melt 1/4 cup butter in a skillet, add the chopped onion, celery and green onions. Cook until tender. Put the cooked onion mixture in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Mix with the greens. Melt 1/3 cup butter in a cooking pot, gradually add the flour and stir to make a roux. Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly, until it thickens. Then add the greens and onion mixture, a dash of salt and maybe some hot sauce. Add the ham cut into chunks. Cook until thoroughly heated. Do not boil! Makes about 10 cups. TIP: You could skip cooking the ham and greens and make this with leftover greens and their pot likker.

Happy eating!