This is a dish that is best made when the weather starts getting a bit chilly--why? Because collard greens are best when they have been touched by the cold during their growth cycle--it makes them a little sweeter! They are a healthy and delicious source of nutrition, and, at least down South, a major source of vitamins. I grew up with big pots of collard greens with hog jowl or ham hock or smoked neckbone to give strength and flavor, as well as additional protein, and with big golden hunks of corn bread with butter served with them--it makes for a complete, tasty, satisfying meal on a cool autumn or winter evening, I can tell you! For those who don't eat pork, smoked turkeywing/drumstick/necks are fine as a substitute. If you are vegetarian and still want the taste and nutrition of collards, use Liquid Smoke and perhaps a bit more of the hot pepper to complement the taste. Collards are good hot or cold and we kids loved to slap some of those tender, cooked leaves between two slices of bread with a little butter or mayo--sounds weird, I know, but it beat bologna any day! On New Year's Day down South these are a must-have dish, along with red peas/black-eye peas and rice (flavored with ham hock, of course, and hot sauce), some golden-orange baked potatoes and cornbread. My mother told me that when she was young, living out in the countryside the farmers would keep the "pot liquor" (juice from cooking vegetables or collards) for the kids to drink--it was believed most of the vitamins from the greens were retained there--rather like home-made vitamins! If you need another reason to eat collard greens, try this: they are an excellent source of Thiamin, Niacin and Potassium, as well as Vitamins A, C, E and K, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium and Manganese! —BeijingRose
large bags of pre-washed, chopped, fresh collard greens
smoked ham hocks or neckbones/turkey wings
(In case you only have access to the large fresh collard bunches, I am giving you the instructions here for preparation first--if you have the pre-washed bags of cut leaves, go to the next step now) Wash your collards thoroughly; take off the leaves, making sure you get any dirt or small rocks cleaned out. After washing, take each leaf by the end of the stem (where it was attached to the plant) and run a very sharp knife along both inside edges of the stem-throw the stem away; the leafy part is the ONLY part of the collards you'll be cooking. At this point you can put them in the pot whole, or slice them up beforehand--either way is fine, just according to your preference. If you don't want to waste the stems, chop'em up and toss'em in your mulch pile.
Put half the greens in a large pot--half the smoked meats go here, then pile on the other half of the greens--the other half of the meat gets laid on top. Cover greens with cold water--stuff the leaves in there, mash them down a bit (there will be more room as they cook), then add your water until it covers the top of the greens.Add your pinch of sugar and vinegar and stir it into the water; next goes your salt, red pepper flakes and Tony Chachere's New Orlean's Seasoning.
Turn the heat on high and cover the pot. When it starts to boil, turn down to medium and set your timer for 2 hours--you're cooking'em long and slow. About two thirds through your time, add thechopped onions and cover again. There are some people who will tell you greens will cook in 30 minutes, but those collards must be young and tender; most of what you will find at the grocery store is a bit older, and yes, more tough, but this cooking method works best for them. Anything less than 2 hours is going to give you chewy greens with a bitter aftertaste, even with that little dab of sugar! TWO HOURS minimum! Serve with cornbread and butter, with baked apples on the side for a complete meal!