Slow Cooker Collards
Want to know how to make the easiest, tastiest and most tender Slow Cooker Collard greens around? Today I will share a simple but addictingly delicious recipe for Slow Cooker Collards. Perfect year round thanks to our Slow Cooker!
Most of my childhood I was raised in Southern Oklahoma by my single Mom who did the best she could to always provide well for me and feed little ole me till I was full. That often included a good big pot of beans on the stove, with or without a ham hock AND some greens. Mom liked to use Collards and her second choice was turnip greens.
I can still remember waiting all day long for those beans and greens. I would run in and out of the kitchen checking the pot and smellin the smells. And getting hungrier and hungrier! Mom would occupy me by us making homemade (of course) cornbread together, after all that IS the trinity right? Beans AND Greens AND Cornbread!
Mom didn’t have a Slow Cooker or Crock-pot. She did have a pressure cooker and did use it on occasion, but she usually just used the “big pot” and cooked the beans alllllll day long! I knew when it was half time because we would start on the Collards, then came the cornbread and THEN came the beans! Dinner (and many leftovers) was served, and served plenty and well!
Collard Greens are great year round, but have a particularly “yummy” about them in the fall and winter. They take on a sweetness they don’t have in the spring. September is Collard planting time in the south so we have a good supply through the fall and winter months. Perfect for Thanksgiving by the way. So we plant the Collards in September and we also get our modern gadgets out – The Slow Cooker – and cook up some heaven!
Let’s take a look at our lowly but lovely Collard Greens. Grab your drink of choice, it’s usually a Sweet Tea or Ice Coffee for me, and lets chat a bit.
What are Collard Greens?
Collard greens are a leafy, green vegetable and a member of the Brassica family of plants, just like broccoli, cabbage, and kale. These plants are native to North America and have been a traditional part of the Southern diet for hundreds of years.
Collards Have a History!
Collard greens date back to prehistoric time and one of the oldest member of the cabbage family. What some of you may not know is that Collard greens are also known as the tree cabbage. Some may think that Collard greens originated in Africa but they originated in the Eastern Mediterranean.
According to What’s Cooking America, The ancient Greeks grew kale and collards, although they made no distinction between them. The Romans grew several kinds including those with large leaves and stalks and a mild flavor; broad-leaved forms like collards; and others with curled leaves. The Romans may have taken the coles to Britain and France or the Celts may have introduced them to these countries. They reached into the British Isles in the 4th century B.C.
According to the book, The Backcountry Housewife – A Study of Eighteenth-Century Foods, by Kay Moss and Kathryn Hoffman:
The 17th century Lowland Scots had greens or potherbs “from the yard” along with their oat cakes or oatmeal. The switch to corn cakes or mush along with their greens in 18th century American was most likely not too difficult a transition for these folk.
John Lawson remarked on the many green herbs, wild and cultivated, growing in Carolina in the early 1700’s. These greens included lamb’s1quarters, plantain, nettles, rhubarb (dock rather than garden rhubarb), comfrey among “abundance more than I could name.” The “abundance” most likely adds dandelion, sorrel, spinach, cabbage, lettuce, endive, cresses, and purslane to the list.
Collard greens have been cooked and used for centuries. The Southern style of cooking of greens came with the arrival of African slaves to the southern colonies and the need to satisfy their hunger and provide food for their families. Though greens did not originate in Africa, the habit of eating greens that have been cooked down into a low gravy, and drinking the juices from the greens (known as “pot likker”) is of African origin.
The Many Health Benefits of Collard Greens
Just like other Brassicas, collard greens are packed with nutrition and provide many health benefits when eaten regularly as part of a healthy diet. Just take a look at all the health benefits from eating Collards below, courtesy of WebMD:
- Promotes lung health
- Lends Cardiovascular protection
- Supports a healthy transition though menopause (This alone is worth it)
- Gives Broad Antioxidant protection
- Improves Bone Health
- Disease Prevention
- Helps Prevent Birth Defects
- Improved Immune Function
The vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber found in collard greens provide significant health benefits. Dietary fiber is important for helping maintain your digestive health. The soluble fiber in collard greens can help absorb cholesterol before it makes its way into your bloodstream, lowering your cholesterol levels. The insoluble fiber in collard greens feeds the good bacteria in your gut, which can help you digest foods more efficiently.
Collard greens are rich in potassium, which is important for regulating your heartbeat, helping your muscles contract, and balancing out the effect of salt on your body.
Collard greens also have a low glycemic index rating, which means they won’t cause your blood sugar to spike after eating. People who have diabetes often turn to foods with a low glycemic index to help manage blood sugar levels more effectively.
And Lastly, Collard Greens have the alphabet too:
So as Momma use to say…Eat Your GREENS!
What’s with the Pot Liquor?
Pot “likker” or liquor is the highly concentrated, vitamin-filled broth that results from the long boil of the greens. It is, in other words, the “liquor” left in the pot. It is said by southern grandmothers that:
“Pot likker will cure what ails you and if nothing ailing you, it will give you a good cleaning out.”
How to Cook your Slow Cooker Collards
Alright, let’s get to it. For this amazing Collards recipe you will need your favorite Crock-pot AKA Slow Cooker. And the following list of ingredients. This is only a quick walk-through and not the actual recipe with measurements. Check out the Recipe Card below for that.
- Fresh Collard Greens – from your garden, right?!!
- Mustard or Turnip Greens – as fresh as you can get.
- Ham Hock
- Bacon – a whole pound – uncooked
- Chicken Broth
- Apple cider Vinegar
- Brown Sugar
- Hot Sauce – We need a zip and zest in our Collards.
- Red Pepper Flakes – more zing, we like it hot in Texas
- Onion, preferably yellow
- Garlic – to your taste, we like lots
Step 1: Remove your stems and wash your greens
The stems can be bitter and somewhat tough at times depending on rain, age of leaves and so on. I wouldn’t suggest eating them. It’s pretty simple to remove them.
Fold your greens lengthwise and slice with a knife down the middle of the folded edge of the leaves. Easy.
Step 2: Wash ALL your greens
This is not the time to do a little rinse off of your greens. Not even a rinse through a strainer. fill a sink full of water, included some white distilled vinegar and soak your leaves. 1/2 C vinegar and 3 tsp. salt to a sink full of water. Submerge your leaves and start swishing them around. Agitate them like it’s a washing machine y’all. Get all the dirt and nasties off. They like to hide.
Then we rinse and rinse. And rinse some more.
Step 3: Cut your Greens
After all the greens are clean, we cut them up. This step is easy too. Two ways people like to cut their greens are stack/roll/cut into shreds OR tear into bite size pieces of your choice. I prefer the tearing option. I like the look, and the size of the “bite” you get when you eat them.
Step 4: Let’s Cook’em!
Now comes the fun part, cooking our Collards. Let’s begin with our aromatics. Onions, garlic and bacon. I like to saute them in a cast iron skillet till almost done. Then add in our greens to wilt slightly. Add in your hot sauce, peppercorns and hot pepper flakes. Continue to saute briefly for about 1 minute.
Step 5: Everyone in the Pool (AKA Slow Cooker)
Add all of your previous ingredients to the Slow Cooker. Add remaining ingredients as well. Cook on low for 8 – 10 hours or until tender. OR on high for 4-6 hours. I highly recommend low and slow if you can for the best development of flavor.
Step 6: Serve
Now is the time to cut up or shred your ham hock, adjust any seasonings and stir all together well. Make sure and serve with plenty of “Pot Likker”… do as Grammie says! Serve with rice, beans, cornbread or all of the above!
Slow Cooker Collards
- 2 Each Large Bunches Collards
- 1 Each Bunch Mustard OR Turnip Greens
- 1 Each Ham Hock
- 1 Pkg Bacon, smoked
- 3 Cups Chicken Broth
- 2 Tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
- 2 tsp. Brown Sugar
- 1 Dash Hot Sauce of your choice
- 1 tsp Hot Pepper Flakes
- 1 Whole Yellow Onion, dices
- 2 Tbsp. Garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp. Peppercorns
- 1-2 Tbsp. Smoked Sea Salt, course
- Wash greens well, see detailed instructions above.
- Remove ribs and stems and tear remaining leaves into bite size pieces.
- In a separate Cast Iron or heavy skillet, add onion, garlic, bacon and saute for 1 minute. Add your greens and saute an additional minute. Add your squirt or two of hot sauce and hot pepper flakes, peppercorns and salt. Cook for 1 additional minutes. Total saute time: 3-4 minutes TOPS. You are not thoroughly cooking these ingredients in this step. Just sauting over heat to bring out the flavors.
- Add all ingredients to your Slow Cooker. Add Chicken Broth, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar and stir well.
- Cook on low 8-10 hours. Low and slow is preferable. In a hurry, cook 4-6 hours on high.
- When done, remove the ham hock and shred or dice the meat and return to the Slow cooker. Stir and taste for seasoning, adding more hot sauce of course.
- Serve with plenty of Pot Liquor and you eat with your favorite side dishes such as beans, and cornbread - the Souths favorite Trinity.
7 Common Questions About Collard Greens
What takes the bitterness out of collard greens? Collard greens cooked Southern-style aren’t as bitter, because we cook them low and slow. You can add a pinch of baking soda to the Slow Cooker if your are concerned with this.
How long can you eat leftover collard greens? Cooked collard greens will last 3-4 days in the fridge, if not consumed before.
How much is a bunch of collard greens? A bunch is usually about 20 whole large leaves or a little over 1 – 2 lbs. (before stems are removed). If you purchase whole collard greens from the store, they are usually already in a bunch. For this recipe, you’ll need 2 bunches.
Why are collard greens called collard? The name “collard” comes from the word “colewort” (a medieval term for non-heading brassica crops).