That Ol’ Pot Likker
In the pantheon of lucky foods to start the new year off right, I’d have to say that collard greens, which are supposed to bring wealth and will undoubtedly bring health, are my favorite. I know that leafy greens can be intimidating, so here’s a little how-to to get your year off on the right foot. This is not so much a recipe as a concept, but it follows closely in the footsteps of cooks all over the South, and you can feel free to make it as is or to add your own personal touches without compromising your luck.
First off, get yourself a pile of collards (I used 3 pounds) and a couple of good meaty ham hocks. Put the ham hocks in a 6 quart pan and cover them with water, then boil them for an hour while you are preparing the greens. You want the ham to be starting to fall off the bone before you add the greens. Now, wash the collards,
and laying each leaf out flat, one at a time, remove the center ribs with a sharp knife. Those ribs are tough and I just toss them, but if you have chickens or pigs to feed, I’m sure they’ll be glad to help you recycle the stalks.
Now take all of the leaf halves and stack them evenly one atop the other.
Working from the long side, roll the pile of leaves up into a tight bundle,
then slice across the bundle, creating a chiffonade of the leaves. I like to give one final slice in the other direction too, so that the threads of greens aren’t so long that they’ll hang from your teeth in snarky strings.
When you’re done wielding the knife you should have a neat and lovely pile of greens ready for the pot. Check your ham hocks. If the meat isn’t yet ready to start falling from the bone, go make a list of all the lucky things you are hoping for this year. When the meat is very tender add the greens all at once, add a teaspoon of salt, cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly ajar, and simmer the whole thing for 30-40 minutes. When it’s done the greens should be very tender, and the meat even more so. Taste for salt, and serve.
Be sure each bowl contains not only meat and greens but also a generous scoop of the juices, known as pot likker. Lots of people would say that the likker is the best bit of all, and far be it from me to disagree: I love the stuff. Douse your bowl with some vinegary hot sauce to taste, it should be tangy and spicy. If you like cornbread, it’s the traditional way to mop and sop up all the likker. Me, I put the bowl right to my lips and slurp it delicately down. And there you have a succulent bowl full of health and wealth and good luck all around. Happy New Year to you, and don’t forget to eat your vegetables!