New Year’s, Collards and Potlikker


“Greasy grit gravy and gizzard greens
Big fat pie and mobo beans
Make you wanna split your jeans
Eatin’ greasy grit gravy and gizzard greens.”                        From the song Greasy Grit Gravy, lyrics by Shel Silverstein

In the South, legend has it that if you eat a serving or two of collard greens on New Year’s Day you’ll have riches in the New Year. Each bite symbolizes $1,000.

We eat so many collards throughout the year you would think our last name would be Gates or Rockefeller by now. Without any financial incentives we do collards as a side dish, at brunch topped with fried eggs, or as a main dish spooned over spaghetti squash with bacon.

Collards are the original kale; but better. They can be cooked any way you see fit and are also full of great anti-oxidants even when boiled with a ham hock.

Every Southern cook I know has their own “special” collard recipe: Leslie adds cabbage to her collards, Tristan throws onions and garlic into his pot, but I prefer the smoky potlikker-style collard recipes.

Potlikker is the best part about any kind of green. (Pookie loves it so much that she has a hat from the Southern Foodways Alliance that says “Potlikker, it’s a SFA thing”). That delicious pork seasoned broth can be saved and turned into soup, reduced into sauces or as Craig Claiborne suggested in his book Southern Cooking, “If you want to be fancy, you can always make cornmeal dumplings to float on top of the cooking liquid.”

In our house, potlikker doesn’t last long enough to make it to the fancy dumpling stage, and only rarely to the soup stage. We usually take what’s left and pour it over some corn bread and eat the dripping goodness with no shame, although sometimes over the sink.

Here are a few of our varieties of collard greens recipes.

Happy New Year!

Tristan’s Big Batch of Greens
1 onion
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Smoked ham trimming and bone
6 heads of collard greens, cleaned and chopped (no stems)
In very large pot, bring 1 and a half gallons of water to a boil. Add onion, garlic, salt, ham trimmings and bone. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add greens and cook for 1-2 hours until tender.

Sunday Collards, The Lee Bro.’s
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 smoked ham hock or ¼ pound slab of bacon, diced
8 cups of water
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 ¾ pounds of collard greens, ribbed, washed, and cut into 1 inch wide strips (confession: I use the pre-washed and pre-chopped collards and they work just fine in lieu of a direct garden connection)

Pour oil into an 8-quart pot over medium-high heat and swirl until it covers the bottom. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, put the ham hock or bacon in to sear and let the fat render. Takes about 5-6 minutes.

Pour the water into the hot pot. Then add the red pepper flakes and salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the cooking liquid for 30 minutes.

Then add in the collards by the handful. They will try to float so stir them often, fully submerging them, until they’re a bright green. They’ll become floppier and more compact, so you can add more handfuls. Continue adding handfuls of collards, stirring and submerging them, until all greens are in the pot (6-10 minutes). Turn the heat to low and simmer very gently for 1 hour. The greens will be a very dark matte green and completely tender.

From The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook, Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-Be Southerners, Matt Lee and Ted Lee, 2006.

And check out the great work going on at the Southern Foodways Alliance at