Collards with vinegar & brown sugar

by tmartin on July 1, 2011

Oh dear. When I picked up my veggies this week, I learned that many people had “turned in” their collard greens from the week before. Maybe I should have gotten my collard greens cooking-challenge-of-the-week up sooner and given those frightened folks a cheer of encouragement to try this most ancient of cultivated crops.

(Or, if I’d known, I’d have gone back and tried to snag a few more for myself, since the season has ended for them now — and they were wicked good! And, I found a few dozen more cooking ideas I want to try with them … ginger sesame Asian-inspired, for example!)

First, though, I have to confess that before this meeting, my encounters with colllards were limited to consuming them as a side at BBQ joints in various locales (disclosure: give me a chance to try Q and sides and I’m off and running!). They were tasty, but cooked by someone else. In from-the-farm-form, they present as big stiff green leaves and I can see how people might be frightened away by them.

Collards connect directly to cabbage and kale and when you think of it that way, you realize those leaves strongly resemble cabbage that hasn’t become a head. They’ve been cultivated pretty much forever, appearing first in the Asia Minor region. The ancient Greeks grew them. So did the Romans. They travelled along trade and conquest routes into Europe and Britian around 400 BC . Some histories say these greens even appeared as food in prehistoric times.

They are loaded with vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, beta-carotene, zinc, and manganese, and if you buy into the whole antioxidant thing, they’re a great source for that as well.

In short, collards taste good and are good for you too.

Here’s how I turned the giant scary leaves into a dinner dish so tasty that my 13-year old fought with me to get to the seconds first …

Collards with Vinegar & Brown Sugar

– Huge bunch of collard greens
-1 vidalia onion, chopped
– a bit of bacon grease (not strictly necessary, but everything tastes better with a little bacon flavor doesn’t it?)
– Cup of broth (I always keep some frozen in convenient half cup muffin tin cubes, but if you don’t have any handy, that’s ok. The results will just be a little less ‘rich’)
– 1/4 cup brown sugar
– 1/8 cup vinegar
1 cup water

1. Melt bacon fat in a pan large enough to hold the collards.
2. Add chopped onion and fry until translucent.
3. Add the collard leaves whole. They’ll wilt and fit into the pan.
4. Put water into pan large enough to also hold the collards, then add the broth and bring it all to a gentle boil.
5. Cover and simmer about 25 minutes.
6. Open the cover and gently chop up the cooked collard into small bite sized piece – I just stuck my favorite kitchen shears into the pan and snipped away!
7. Add brown sugar and vinegar and stir gently.
8. Simmer uncovered about 15 minutes, letting liquid reduce and vinegar boil off.

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