What’s the best part about cooking collard greens with some ham? It might very well be the salty, beautiful broth that results from an hour on the stove. The pot likker. From the recipes that abound on the web, there are quite a few ways to go about coaxing this balm of balms from greens and ham, and all of them sound delicious. People feel very strongly about the stuff, and I tend to agree. Scrape your knee? A cup of pot likker will make you forget all about it. Have a bad night’s sleep? Have some pot likker. Nasty breakup? Just get fired? See a mouse in your house? Pot likker!
Seriously though, this liquid gold is the equivalent of (and some may even argue the superior to) chicken noodle soup when it comes to warming, healing, homemade goodness.
So am I embarrassed that I’ve only made it myself for the first time last week? Totally. But I’ll make it again soon, and you know what’s great when you’re red-faced from shame? Pot likker. And a glass or two of ice water.
Just Don’t Call It Pot “Liquor” Recipe
2 large bunches organic collard greens
Small (fist-sized) cooked ham shank (I’m going to try raw next time, or a different type of ham bone if the butcher has it, just to experiment)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
Teaspoon kosher salt
Half teaspoon red pepper flakes
Remove the larger chunks of meat from the ham shank bone and cut into small cubes.
Wash the collard greens and lay them out flat, stacking a few leaves on top of each other. Cut lengthwise down the stack of leaves along the thick stem, which can be discarded. (Or cooked? I’m not sure if these are too fibrous or if they turn out well from an extended cooking time). Roll up the cut halves of the leaves (like a jelly roll) and cut into smaller (1-inch) strips. Continue this until you’ve gone through all of the greens.
Heat a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven to medium heat, then add the ham shank cubes and bone. Cook over medium-low heat until the fat starts to render and the meat begins to crisp. Add the collard greens and smashed garlic, and continue to cook and stir until the leaves turn a bright green, around 2-3 minutes.
Add enough water to just cover the leaves, then mix in salt and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer and cook, partially covered, until your apartment smells like heaven and the greens are completely tender and the rest of the meat has fallen off the hame bone (approximately 1 hour). What results is a pot full of love.
Spoon over polenta, white beans, or rice, have it next to a sweet potato, or eat by itself from a bowl with a hunk of good bread. We used the leftover pot likker as the starting point for a strange soup of leftovers, and it was delicious.