Southerners love their greens. A time-honored tradition in southern kitchens, greens have held an important place on the table for well over a century, and there is no other vegetable that is quite so unique to the region. Greens are any sort of cabbage in which the green leaves do not form a compact head. They are mostly kale, collards, turnip, spinach, and mustard greens.
In the Southern states, a large quantity of greens to serve a family is commonly referred to as a "mess o' greens." The exact quantity that constitutes a "mess" varies with the size of the family.
Collard greens (whole collard heads or leaves)
2 ham hocks
4 medium size white potatoes, peeled (last 30 minutes)
Salt to taste
Toppings (suggestions follow)
Wash greens thoroughly, approximately 3 or 4 times to ensure they are clean and free of insects. Remove large stems.
Place ham hocks in an extra-large pot with enough water to completely cover them. Add salt and cook ham hocks at least 30 minutes before adding collards greens. Add collards, big leaves first (let them start boiling), then add remainder of greens. Cook 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring once about midway to ensure thorough cooking. Test for tenderness of stems at 45 minutes by piercing with a sharp knife. Cook additional time if necessary.
Remove from heat and drain in a colander, reserving the juice (pot likker). Chop collards with a collard chopper or a knife, leaving no large leaves or pieces. Add some of the pot likker if the greens are too dry.Salt to taste. Serve hot or at room temperature with your choice of toppings.
Onions and vinegar (chopped onions and vinegar mixed together)