Today’s Meatless Monday on the blog, and we’re cooking with greens. Below, Karen Ranz, a volunteer testing and tasting recipes from our Vermont Fresh: A Fruit and Vegetable Handbook, takes us into her kitchen and shares her stories and tips for cooking greens!

cook bookAs a Yankee, I always felt conspicuous down South, but something must have gotten into my blood because a meal of seasoned greens, pinto beans and cornbread is just about one of my favorites. I love running into anyone with that soft, slow accent and a little time to chat about home and the foods they grew up eating.

While cooking greens is a relaxing do-while-I’m-doing-something-else-too kitchen project, I can see why Southerners grow or bring home greens by the bagful. They cook down tremendously, and then freeze well too. (I feel better knowing I have a can of Glory mixed greens on hand, generally speaking. For emergencies, I guess!)

One of the things I learned living in Georgia and the Carolinas, finding the best traditional southern cookbook authors – especially Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock’s Gift of Southern Cooking – is that along with some smoked meat, their best flavors come from sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper in differing proportions. Greens seem to be one the best illustrations of this.

Pepper vinegar is typically found on tables in homes and restaurants – bottles of cider vinegar with tiny hot peppers. I use several dried Japones from the produce department to a cup of vinegar. It’s ready after about a week and keeps forever.

This is what makes up the basis for the Carolina Low Country and One True barbeque sauce in my book! It’s dashed onto just about anything. My bottle stays on the counter, and I use it generously in coleslaw. (See: Pepper Slaw recipe.)”

Southern Mixed Greens – vinegarCollards, Beet, Mustard & Turnip Greens
Serves 4-6

2-3 lbs collards, beet, mustard and/or turnip greens – your choice, mixed if you like
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 smoked ham hock or smoked turkey wing -or- ¼ lb bacon or a 3” kielbasa or other smoked sausage, diced
2 tsp salt
Sugar to taste
Pepper vinegar (or cider vinegar and bottled hot sauce) to taste

Wash the greens, plunging them in several changes of cold water until they’re clean of any sand or grit. Cut or tear the leaves away from the stems, discarding the stems. Render bacon or kielbasa in a large stock pot. Otherwise, add the ham hock or turkey wing with a thin film of oil covering the bottom of the pan. Cook the onion in the rendered fat until translucent. Add the greens and salt along with a couple inches of water and cook, covered, on medium low until tender. Depending on the types of greens you’ve selected, this can be a couple hours.

Check the pot occasionally to see that the liquid doesn’t evaporate, but you want only a smallish amount of cooked down ‘pot liquor’ left for serving. Season with the ‘sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper’ flavors to suit your tastes and serve hot. Ladling into soup plates will allow you to dip in your cornbread or biscuits!