Eat like a farmer: Southern-style collards with ham

We've got a monthly whole foods recipe column in the Petoskey News-Review. You can read this article over there, too.

Many Southern crops don’t grow too well up here without the encouragement of some extra hand-wringing, brow-furrowing, and Country music played low through the fields. Not so with collards. Collards are the inveterate carpetbaggers of Southern cuisine, happy as can be in the short, cool summers of the 45th parallel. Their enormous leaves curl out of our garden rows like elephant ears.  

It’s worth noting that leafy greens carry an important class of vitamins that are only soluble in fat. If you don’t include a little oil of some kind in the meal, you won’t be getting the nutrients you should. 

This is not only the case with collards. Spinach and kale and all the other dark, leafy greens also require this. Therefore, it’s a piece of folk wisdom that traditional Southern greens also include a little smoked ham. If the pork is pasture raised, more to the good. Pasture-raised meats are higher in Omega-3 fatty acids, and lower in saturated fat in general. What’s more, fat is what carries the rich, smoky flavor of the pork through the greens. 


1 bunch collards (kale or other braising greens will also do in a pinch)
1 smoked ham hock, about 2 pounds
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 quarts water
Salt, to taste
A splash of cider vinegar


Simmer half of the onion and the whole hock in a crockpot for several hours or overnight. Pull out the hock, let it cool down enough to handle, and then chop the meat on a cutting board. Strain the cooking broth off into a separate pot and set it aside. 

Slice the collards into thin ribbons a couple inches long, and then re-pack the crock pot with them. Pour four cups of the broth back into the pot along with the collards and the chopped ham from the hock. Simmer the greens on low for several hours more. 

Like collards, I’m a southern transplant that does well up here. I grew up eating greens cooked in this style. For the full experience, you’ll want to serve these collards next to a plate of chicken, some cornbread, and a tall glass of sweet tea.  

Bluestem Farm is a year-round organic farm. Our build your own winter farm memberships are now open to the public. Details here