Pine Knot Farms in Hurdle Mills devotes five acres of its 75-acre family farm to collards, which have won praise not only from local chefs but from food editors with Gourmet magazine and The New York Times. Stanley Hughes and his wife, Linda Leach Hughes, are the owners of Pine Knot Farms, and Stanley is the third generation of his family to farm the land, making it a designated North Carolina Century farm. The Hugheses sell their produce directly to the public at an on-farm stand, and at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. Their produce can also be found at restaurants throughout the triangle.
The Sprout Cafe at the N.C. Museum of Life Sciences in Durham is one of the local restaurants that uses produce from Pine Knot Farms.
Following is Chef Rodney Lloyd’s recipe for making a side of traditional collard greens.
Traditional Collard Greens:
Wash and stem collards. Stem collards by holding the stem firmly in one hand, and with other firmly pull collard leaf away from base of stem (like you are making a “safe” sign for baseball). Place them in an empty sink. Fill the sink with cold water. Wash the collards, rubbing them with your hands to remove any surface dirt. Drain sink, and refill with cold water. Repeat washing. Drain. Fill with cold water and wash a third time. Remove the collards from the sink, shake excess water off and tear collards into large pieces and place in a large pot. Fill the pot with enough water, chicken stock/broth or vegetable stock/broth to almost cover the collards.
Boil the collards for 30 minutes, periodically turning over the collards. No need to boil hard- just regular boil. May be covered or uncovered – your choice.
While collards are boiling, slice one large white onion into 1/2 in wide slices and put in saute pan with a SMALL pinch of crushed red pepper, 1/4 cup of bacon and the olive oil or butter. Saute mixture until onions are translucent – DO NOT BROWN onions. Remove from saute pan and set aside.
After collards have turned bright green and are semi soft, set colander in sink and drain collards of their liquid into the colander. DO NOT SAVE THE COLLARD WATER. Run cold water over the collards to rinse off remaining liquid and then dump them back into the same pot you used to boil them. Add the onion-bacon-crushed red mixture to the top of the collards, add 1/4 cup of cider vinegar and the rest of your broth.
Put back on stove top, bring to a low boil and cook for 45-60 minutes, stirring and folding collards and mixture together.
Remove from stove top and serve or store in refrigerator for up to five days.
Chef’s Note: I like to store them in the liquid to retain flavor. These collards will be sweet and tender since we removed the bitterness from the first boiling. Some refer to the initial boiled water as the “pot liquor” and some like drinking it straight or using as a stock for other cooking. It is really bitter, but full of vitamins.