These Southern greens with ham hocks are slowly simmered in a spice-infused pot liquor until meltingly tender. Come to understand why they’re such a Southern staple.–Angie Zoobkoff
Southern Greens with Ham Hocks
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 large onions, diced
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 (about 1 lb) smoked ham hock or a piece of slab bacon
- 4 to 6 cups water
- 4 pounds mixed cooking greens, such as collards, kale, chard, and mustard greens, tough stems discarded, washed and roughly chopped into 2-inch-wide (5-cm) strips
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the onions, season generously with salt and pepper, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, mustard powder crushed red pepper, cayenne, and paprika, and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the ham hock and water and bring to a boil. Adding more water will result in more pot liquor, which some people simply can’t get enough of!
- Add the greens a handful at a time, pushing them down with a wooden spoon to help them wilt into the liquid. When all the greens are in the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered, until the greens are very tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- Taste the broth adjust seasoning as needed, then stir in the vinegar.
- Serve immediately. The cooked greens will keep, refrigerated in their liquid, for up to 3 days. Reheat before serving.
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I made this as a side for Thanksgiving Day dinner, but this dish will work well any time you want to add a bit of Southern flair to your menu. The ham hock (or any type of smoked ham that you choose to use) adds a bit of smokiness and the cayenne a hint of heat.
I used a combination of collards, kale, rainbow chard, and beet greens. They started out as tough and leathery but in about an hour were deliciously tender. I made 1 1/2 times the recipe, which nicely served my crowd of 13 with a small amount for leftovers.
There was quite a bit of broth at the end of the cooking period and so I removed about 2 cups which I saved with some of the greens and ham bits for a delicious lunch.
The smell of these greens slow-cooking on the stove with a smoked ham hock really brought me back to my grandmother’s kitchen in Mississippi. When we gathered around her table for a Sunday supper, there was always a pot of greens on the menu accompanied by a jar of homemade pepper sauce. Something about this specific smell is both super comforting and inviting!
That’s what initially drew me to this recipe–the familiarity and also the intriguing mixture of spices. Not just seasoned with salt and pepper, these greens are cooked in a fragrant mixture of paprika, dry mustard, a pinch of cayenne, crushed red peppers, garlic, and tomato paste, all of which flavor the greens themselves, but also the beloved pot liquor. I let my greens cook at a low simmer for 1 1/2 hours–the longer the better, I think. They were perfectly wilted and flavored at this point, and the liquid was perfect for dipping as well.
I designed our dinner menu around these greens as a side dish and served them with cornbread and a Creole seafood court-bouillon over white rice.
For this amount of greens to wilt and melt into liquid, I really think you need between 6 to 8 cups of water. (Especially if you want pot liquor to dip bread into.)
I like the addition of the vinegar at the end of cooking; I would actually add a touch more than the recommended 1 tablespoon, maybe 2 tablespoons for this amount of greens. I would also highly recommend serving them with pepper sauce for drizzling to be added at your own discretion as you eat!