There are a thousand recipes for greens out there, and I’ve tried a lot of them. They’re all pretty good, but some are more complicated and don’t offer much of a reward for your hard work. I’ve come to rely on a relatively simple recipe that makes sweet and spicy greens with a mild, savory glaze.
Here’s everything you need:
Savory Glazed Greens
- 2-3 bunches collards, kale, turnip greens, and/or mustard greens
- 3 pieces bacon
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 bottle beer
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- extra salt, pepper, sugar, and hot sauce for seasoning
Greens can be a pain to prep, especially when they’re dirty. To clean them, either let them soak in a sink full of cool water or rinse each leaf and let them dry on a towel. Next, you have to cut or pull out the stems, depending on what greens you’re using. If you can stack the greens one over the other, just make a few piles and cut all the stems off at the same time in a V-shaped pattern. Alternatively, you can just rip the leaves off the stems.
Once the stems are stripped, roughly chop the greens into one inch strips.
Throw a few pieces of bacon into a large dutch oven over medium heat and cook until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy. I also threw in some pork trimmings I had left over from another recipe If you have some salt pork or a ham hock handy, then feel free throw it in as well.
While the bacon is cooking, chop the onions and garlic and measure out the crushed red pepper flakes.
When the bacon is finished cooking, remove it from the pan and let it drain on a paper towel. Some people like to crumble it and add it back to the pot, but I think it gets too soft and fatty when it boils. I just eat it. The cook should get a little special treatment, right? Next, add the onions and the salt and pepper and cook over medium-high heat until they start to caramelize, about 6 minutes. Next, add the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and simmer until the garlic starts to brown around the edges.
While the onions and garlic are cooking, mix the balsamic vinegar and honey in a cup. Once the garlic and onion medley is nicely caramelized, add the bottle of beer and the vinegar mixture. Use a wooden spatula to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. When the mixture starts boiling again, it’s time to add your chopped greens in batches.
Much like sautéed spinach, it seems like there’s no way you’ll ever fit all of the greens in one pot. Just add the leaves a little at a time, mixing well and covering with the lid between batches so they steam and wilt. It’s amazing how much they shrink.
Reduce the heat to a slow simmer and cook for about 90 minutes, stirring occasionally. It takes at least an hour for the bitterness to cook off, and another half hour for the leaves to soften. I like my greens to maintain a little stiffness, but if you like them softer, then gently simmer them for a full two hours with the lid on. Resist the urge to season the greens when stirring.
If you need to add more liquid to the greens during the cooking process, then pour in a little beer, water or stock. Once they’re finished cooking, remove the lid and turn the heat up to medium-high. The idea is to evaporate the remaining liquid and form a glaze. When there’s almost no water left in the bottom of the pot, that’s the time to season the greens. I always end up adding a few pinches of salt and white sugar, and a few squirts of hot sauce. Remember, you can always add more seasoning, but you can’t take it away without diluting the mixture and ruining the glaze. “Less is more” in this particular circumstance. Remove the fatty chunks of meat from the pot before serving.
You can pair these greens with pretty much anything. I served them with some rosemary-infused pork chops. This recipe is a nice departure form the over-seasoned, watered-down greens you get at so many Meat & Threes.