Otherwise known as “Not So Southern Collards”. When I arrived in Atlanta, I was taken to a landmark restaurant, which shall remain nameless. No offense should be taken by anyone when I say this, it’s simply a fact, Southerners cook their vegis with a strange substance I had never even heard of before, called “Fatback”. It’s just what it sounds like, it’s the fat from a pig’s back! Yuck!!! Yuck, and double yuck!!! Something had to be done, and quickly, because despite the issue at hand, Collard Greens are so delish, and great for you, when they are not swimming in fat. The other thing was (now that I was starting to sample collards made by everyone I knew), that alot of people also added meat to this otherwise wonderful super food and harmless plant, pork neck bones seemed to be the most popular, but for some folks any ol’ pork would do.
Needless to say, I was appalled. I don’t eat much pork myself, as a matter of fact Prosciutto is my only swinely weakness, and I probably eat it twice a year.
     Growing up in communes, all over the country, with home base being in Big Sur, Veganism was common place, and at Esalen Institute it was the main form of cooking served in the “Lodge” which was the communal eating house. I was lucky enough to do a “work study” program at Esalen when I was very young, twelve to be exact, and got to work in the Community garden and kitchen, where all three meals a day were prepared, by the chef at the time, John Russell, who instilled in me many great tricks to making vegan food taste good. “A little bit of this, and a little bit of that”,  he would say, pinching imaginary items out of the air! He was one of the first (of many) gay men I would fall in love with over the years. My husband not included!
I am not a vegan, and this recipe can be made with or without Chicken Stock, Vegi Stock works well also.  This is for John may his star shine as brightly as he did!

3 lbs Collard Greens (taken off the stalk) torn in to med pieces
4 cups Homemade Chicken or Vegetable Stock ( boullion cubes can be used in a pinch)
3 cloves fresh pressed Garlic
1 teaspoon brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste (“to taste” means to actually taste the food before salting!!!!)

In a large pot bring the liquid to a low rolling boil, add the torn collards a little at a time, they shrink down like any green, add the garlic, and sugar, lower the heat to simmer, for  20 minutes.

Serve with Vinager Peppers (recipe to follow)
and chopped Sweet Vidalia Onion

P.S. These pic’s were taken this morning in my garden, the Collards are a cold weather crop, and need a good frost before you pick them, to make them sweet. Also, they freeze and reheat very well, but only cooked, not raw.

Vinager Peppers
In a small mason jar w/ a new lid pack as many whole small hot peppers, Tabasco, Thai Chiles, Serranos (each has a distinctive flavor) as you can get in the jar, I highly recommend wearing gloves while doing this, the pepper oil transfers to the oil on your fingers and is hard to shake, trust me, also please keep your hands away from any sensitive areas, eyes, etc. In a small pan mix equal parts good quality white vinager and water and a tablespoon of salt, bring to a boil, pour over peppers in jar and seal, the heat will form a seal and you will see the lid is inward. Suggested additions to the jar: clove of garlic, sprig of any herb you like the flavor of, Bay Leaf, Slice of Onion or Carrot, teaspoon sugar. Let cool and refrigerate for up to a month.
© Jennifer Green Alger 2009