Basic Collard Greens

  • 2 bunches (about 5 pounds) fresh collards
  • 6 strips of bacon, diced
  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 ham bone

Wash the collards, breaking up the bunches as you go. Remove any tough or woody stalks. Cut the leaves into half-inch-wide strips. You can roll them into cigars to speed this process up.

Put the bacon in a large pot on high heat to render its grease. Cook for three or four minutes. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, but not very brown, about 5 minutes more. Add the collards and cover with cool water. Also add the seasonings and the ham bone. At work I often have more than just the bone to play with. We save all the scraps and end pieces that are left after the hams are sliced, so I add a lot of this as well- skin, fat, meat, whatever. One of the pleasures of cooking collards is picking the ham out of the pot all afternoon as they cook. Like as not, our hams are country hams, but I’ve used other kinds as well.

Collards must boil for at least two hours. Whatever nutritionists might say, collards were not made for quick cooking. Stir-fried collards would likely strangle you. You want the end product to be tender but not mushy.

Even people who love collards complain about how they make the house smell while cooking. People have different cures for this, but none of them work. Just open the windows.
Key 3Sides
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
4-6 servings
  • A look at the history of sugar, from art and language to 3-D printing

    Darra Goldstein is editor in chief of The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, an 888-page reference guide to all things sweet. "The book is really a compendium of human desires, a cultural history of desire for things that are sweet and what it has caused in the world, in both the realm of pleasure and also of pain," she says.

Top Recipes

Book Excerpts

Before paper confetti was invented, people threw candied nuts and plaster

A history of confetti from The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets edited by Darra Goldstein.