In Florida, collards can easily be grown throughout most of the year, but the best yields occur from early spring plantings. Here’s a classic recipe from The COOP, John Rivers’ new Winter Park restaurant featuring traditional Southern comfort foods.
40 ounces collard greens (about 2 bunches), washed, stemmed and roughly chopped into 2- to 3-inch pieces
2 tablespoons coarse salt
4 tablespoons lard
1½ cups smoked ham, cubed
1 large Vidalia or other sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
3¼ cups chicken broth
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
8 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 Fill a large saucepan or stockpot with 7 to 8 quarts water. Place collard greens and 2 tablespoons salt in water and bring to boil. Lower heat to simmer and cook 20 to 25 minutes, until collards are soft.
2 Discard cooking water and strain collard greens completely. Once greens are cool enough to handle, squeeze dry in small batches and place on a cutting board. Chop/slice each batch 5 or 6 times. Wash and dry pot for use in balance of recipe.
3 Melt lard in same pot. Add ham and onion and sauté on medium heat until ham browns, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and continue cooking for about 2 minutes.
4 Add chicken broth, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper to ham mixture. Bring to boil. Add chopped collard greens and return to boil.
5 Lower heat and adjust seasonings to taste. Cook 5 minutes and serve.
Collard greens vary widely by season. During colder months, they tend to be sweeter than in the summer. Don’t be afraid to increase the sugar to help make your greens turn out just right.