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If you didn’t know that greens can be an utterly decadent dish all on their own, I present as evidence these smoky Southern greens.
I most often give collards this pork-studded treatment, but any green you enjoy will benefit from the gentle braising that yields a silky-tender bite and aromatic pot liquor.
Whether you stick with collards or branch out into mustard, turnip, kale or even a mix of greens is up to you!
The first few times I experimented with this recipe, I wanted a simple side to cut through the richness of classic BBQ ribs. And they do go phenomenally well alongside traditional BBQ fare!
But lately, I’ve been making these smoky Southern greens to enjoy straight up, on their own as a main with something to soak up their delicious broth, or scooped over slow cooked beans.
The trick to the smokiness factor is to start off with a perhaps under-sung ingredient, at least here in the southwest: smoked pork neckbones.
They don’t yield a huge amount of meat – about 4 oz / 1/4 pound of meat per 16 oz / 1 pound of bones – but where they really shine is giving a richness to the braising liquid, with just a kiss of smoky flavor.
This recipe starts off by making a broth base for the greens by simmering the pork neck bones with a little diced onion. It’s just a little head start for the braising liquid that happens while you’re washing and prepping your greens.
Other than that, the magic of this recipe is the mostly hands-off gentle braising where the richness of the broth draws the flavor out of the greens, while the greens’ natural bitterness mellows out and contrasts nicely with the pork.
One last little trick: the kiss of vinegar towards the end of the cook time really brightens the flavors without needing to add excess salt. And it really makes that pot liquor sing!Print
Smoky Southern Greens
My go-to greens recipe! These smoky Southern greens transform dark leafy greens into a silky-tender side that pairs equally well with classic BBQ or weeknight meals. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself craving these – don’t waste the delicious braising liquid!
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 2 - 2 1/2 hours
- Total Time: 2 3/4 hours
- Yield: Serves 6 - 8 1x
- Category: gluten free, paleo, dairy free
- Method: stovetop
- Cuisine: American
- 1 – 2 lbs / 454 g – 900 g smoked pork neckbones, see notes
- 1 large onion, diced finely
- 5 cups / 1200 ml chicken broth or water
- 2 lbs / 900g collard or other greens, about 3 bunches, see notes
- 2 tsp granulated garlic
- 1 tsp / 5 g fine sea salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 tbsp / 45 ml white wine or apple cider vinegar, divided
SIMMER: Place the pork neckbones and diced onion in the bottom of a large dutch oven (mine is about 6.5 qt, for reference). Cover with the broth or water, cover and bring to a near boil. Reduce the heat so that the broth simmers evenly without boiling and let cook for 30 minutes to make your broth base.
PREP: Wash the greens very thoroughly – I like to soak them first in a clean sink, then drain that water and rinse them over carefully once again. Shake the greens of any excess water and then transfer them to some clean dish towels. I used a mixture of collard and kale greens here. For the collards, remove the thick lower stems and discard them. Then stack the leaves on top of each other, rolling them gently over into a cylinder shape before slicing them into about 3/4 inch thick ribbons. Repeat until all the collards are cut. For the kale, run a sharp knife along each side of the thick stems to cut off just the leaves. Discard the whole stems. Then roughly chop the kale into bite size pieces.
WILT: Uncover the dutch oven and season the pork broth with the granulated garlic, salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes and bay leaves. Working in batches, add the greens to the dutch oven, stirring until they wilt down into the broth. Repeat until all the greens fit into the pot!
COOK: Cover the dutch oven again, adjusting the heat as necessary so that the greens will simmer gently and evenly. Cook until the greens are just-tender, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour.
PICK: At the one hour mark, use tongs to carefully remove and transfer the pork neckbones to a plate. Remove the bay leaves and discard them. Re-cover the greens and let them continue to cook. Place the pork bones into the fridge to cool enough to handle them, about 15 minutes or so. Once cool, pick the meat from the bones and break it up into bite size pieces. (Discard the bones or keep them for your next batch of broth, if you like.)
FINISH: Add the pork to the dutch oven with the greens, along with 2 tablespoons / 30 milliliters of vinegar. Cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes. At this point, taste the pot liquor and adjust seasonings if you like. Once the greens are as silky tender as you like, stir through the last tablespoon / 15 milliliters of vinegar and take off the heat.
- Smoked neckbones help give a lovely smoky flavor to the pot liquor, but you can substitute smoked turkey wings for a similar flavor profile. You can also try smoked ham hocks or a few thick slices of bacon. 1 pound of smoked neckbones will yield about 4 oz of meat from the bones, for reference, so adjust the amount of pork to your taste.
- In the photos, I used about 2/3 collard greens and 1/3 kale greens. You can use whatever you like! Collards are always classic, but this method will work for turnip, mustard or even beet greens, too.
- I personally prefer to use white wine vinegar for a more subtle flavor, but if you want something a little punchier, apple cider vinegar is a good choice here.
- Black pepper is a Stage 1 AIP reintroduction, red pepper flakes are a Stage 4 AIP reintroduction.