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Southern Collard Greens Recipe

Want to bring good luck for the new year?  Cook up a pot of New Year's Day good-luck collards with this Southern Collard Greens recipe ~ And usher in the new year in true Southern style.

Southern Collard Greens Recipe ~ Usher in the new year in true Southern style. Or, enjoy tender, tasty collards ANY day of the year!

If you want good luck in the new year, Southern tradition says to eat your collard greens!  Along with black-eyed peas and some form of pork, that is.  According to Southern lore, a New Year's meal of these three things brings luck and good fortune for the upcoming year.

And this New Year's Day tradition is certainly one we honor and follow in our home.

But have you ever wondered why  these three foods are said to bring good fortune?

Well according to legend ... as described on, ... some form of pork is traditional for New Year's Day because "pigs have long symbolized progress. A pig can't turn his head to look back without turning completely around, so it's believed that pigs are always looking to the future."  Eating pork on New Year's Day, therefore, symbolizes making forward progress in the upcoming year.

And the collards and black-eyed peas?  They're said to represent money ~ the collard greens meaning dollar bills and the peas, coins.  Eating these on New Year's day is supposed to ensure wealth and luck.

Now, I can't say for sure this is all true ... but we're not ones to tempt fate.  In our house we honor this Southern tradition, including this Southern Collard Greens recipe and a big pot of New Year's Day Black Eyed Peas in our New Year's meal.  I mean, if legend is correct, I certainly don't want us to miss out!

Southern Collard Greens Recipe ~ Usher in the new year in true Southern style. Or, enjoy tender, tasty collards ANY day of the year!

True Southern-style collards are silky, tender, and flavorful, a result achieved with a long, slow simmer in a generously seasoned broth.  Sticking some collards in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes simply won't do, my friends.  No way, no how.

For true Southern style, care must be taken to properly prepare the greens, to create a flavorful seasoned cooking liquid, and to gently simmer the greens for several hours to create a tender, silky result.

When preparing the greens, washing thoroughly is a must.  Collard greens can end up with a lot of dirt and grit trapped within the folds of the leaves ... soaking for a bit in warm water and scrubbing the leaves with a bit of salt will take that dirt away.  I like to fill my sink with water to soak my collards ... it works great.  Or, they can be soaked in a very large pot.

Removing the spine of each leave is also a must, as the spines are very tough and remain chewy once cooked ... no matter how long that simmering time is.  Lay each leaf out flat on a cutting board and cut on either side of the spine to remove it.  I find it easiest to do this with the collard leaf upside down ... you can see the edges of the spine better that way.

Southern Collard Greens Recipe ~ Usher in the new year in true Southern style. Or, enjoy tender, tasty collards ANY day of the year!

Once the spines are removed, create stacks of leaf halves, roll up each stack lengthwise, and cut across the stack to create collard ribbons.

Southern Collard Greens Recipe ~ Usher in the new year in true Southern style. Or, enjoy tender, tasty collards ANY day of the year!

The ribbons are then ready to be simmered low-and-slow in a chicken broth-based cooking liquid ... perfectly seasoned in true Southern style with bacon, onions, garlic, and ham hocks.  {See? ~ There's that pork tradition says to eat!}

And once that long, slow simmer is done?  You'll have one fine pot of silky, tender, and flavorful good-luck Southern Collard Greens ... all ready to help bring you good fortune in the new year.

But then be sure to keep this Southern Collard Greens recipe handy to enjoy all year long, because these silky greens are just too good to only serve on New Year's Day!

Southern Collard Greens Recipe ~ Usher in the new year in true Southern style. Or, enjoy tender, tasty collards ANY day of the year!
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Southern Collard Greens Recipe
(Printable recipe)
  • 2 large bunches collard greens {about 2 to 2 & 1/2 pounds total}
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 6 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 c. (32 oz.) chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 T. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 T. red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • pinch crushed red pepper flakes {optional}
  • 2 lbs. smoked ham hocks {or hog jowl or country ham}, rinsed with warm water to remove some of the saltiness
  1. Separate the collard leaves; place in a large bowl or clean sink and cover leaves with warm water. Add 2 teaspoons salt to act as a scrubbing abrasive. Gently scrub leaves with your hands and then rinse. For especially gritty greens, repeat the scrubbing process. One at a time, lay each leaf upside-down and flat on a cutting board. Cut along each side of the spine in the center, cutting each leaf into two halves and completely removing the tough spine. Discard spines. Assemble cut leaves into several stacks and roll up each stack lengthwise. Slice each roll into 1-inch pieces, cutting the collard greens into ribbons.
  2. Prepare the cooking liquid: Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven or stock pot. Sauté chopped bacon and onion about 5 minutes until bacon is cooked and onion is tender. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add chicken broth, sugar, black pepper, vinegar, crushed red pepper flakes {is using}, and ham hocks. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer 30 minutes.
  3. Add collard greens to the pot; stir into cooking liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently, uncovered, for 2 to 3 hours until greens are desired tenderness.
  4. When done, use a slotted spoon to transfer greens from the cooking liquid to a serving bowl. Chop meat from the ham hocks and stir into greens. Serve with vinegar on the side for drizzling on each serving, if desired.


Please enjoy these other Southern favorites from The Kitchen is My Playground ...


  1. My family didn't have any traditional meals but my husband's family eats pickled herring to bring them luck. I don't care what kind of luck that brings, I am NOT eating pickled herring. I am going to make this recipe because it looks so interesting and sounds so tasty. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Ok, I'm drooling here! Lol I'm so glad that I found your site. This looks YUMMY!!!

  3. I'm a Southern gal, so I'm totally loving the look of this collards recipe. Thanks for sharing, and Happy New Year to you!


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