So I’ve eluded to it, but it’s the truth. Edible Piedmont agrees, so it must be right, right? Collards are the new kale. Collards are a traditionally southern vegetable, but actually they have a long history, dating back to the prehistoric era. During the days of slavery, greens became popular among the black slaves because they would often get the vegetable scraps from the main kitchen to cook for their family (like turnip greens). Thankfully for the slaves, the “owners” who thought they were giving away trash were actually giving away some of the most nutrient dense food out there. One of the ways that the slaves made the most out of those nutrients was to drink what is called the “pot likker” or “pot liquor”, i.e., the water that’s leftover in the pot after the collards are cooked, a slight greenish hue. See below.
That, my friends, is nutrient-dense. It is pretty much most of the water-soluble vitamins and minerals in those collards, PLUS some from the pork fat it was cooked with. You better believe that shouldn’t be wasted, as it often is these days.
See, collards aren’t hard to make, the traditional way. You take some pork sides (smoked), you put them in some chopped collards, and you simmer it for a couple of hours, turning it that darkened green color that looks so horrid on broccoli, but so wonderful on collards. This makes for a tender, fatty, delicious meal, flavored of porkiness but also screams out VEGETABLE. The great thing about adding pork fat to your veggies: you absorb more of the fat-soluble vitamins in there.
Here’s a tidbit: if you buy the “pork-ends” at the farmer’s market, i.e., the leftover pieces that are cut off after they cut the bacon, you can save about $8 per pound. Those pork ends will run you $3-$5/pound, WAY cheaper than side bacon. Just ask your farmer, he’ll know what you’re talking about.
ANYWAY, This is what it looks like when it’s done:
But if you’re not drinking the pot liquor, you’re missing out. What are you missing out on? Well, you’re missing some of the Vitamin C, which is water soluble, some of the carotenoids (a precursor to Vitamin A), which is also water soluble, and some of the minerals, which are also water soluble. Also, when you put that beautiful pork side in with the collards, some of the fat renders out into the water, which contains vitamin K2, a nutrient which you might be missing out on, especially if you’ve followed any type of “low-fat” diet. Since you all KNOW I love charts, here is a chart comparing, from the USDA nutrient food database (which is pretty darn accurate), the difference between cooked and raw collards. Most of that stuff isn’t destroyed (although some vitamin C can be destroyed by heat), it’s in that H2O.
|Minerals||BOILED COLLARDS||RAW COLLARDS|
|Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid||mg||18.2||35.3|
|Vitamin A, RAE||Âµg||380||251|
|Vitamin A, IU||IU||7600||5019|
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)||mg||0.88||2.26|
|Vitamin D (D2 + D3)||Âµg||0||0|
|Vitamin K (phylloquinone)||Âµg||406.6||437.1|
AND, if you think that’s because boiled collards weigh more, think again. (I thought about that). The water content of boiled collards? 89.62 grams vs. 90.18 grams for the raw. Almost the same.
If you don’t fancy drinking the stuff, maybe you should just use it in another recipe? Add it to some mashed potatoes (or rutabagas?). They won’t turn green, I promise. Maybe add it to your next stock or soup? You probably will only taste the delicious pork-ness. While doing some research, I even came across a story about one chef who uses the pot liquor in his restaurant to make a kind of gravy.
Just please, please – I beg of you – don’t throw it away. If you really can’t use it, at least freeze it into ice cubes and throw it in your smoothies. Although you might not want to do that if you cook your collards with pork fat. Probably tastes better with butter. I don’t know, I haven’t tried it. Let me know if you do, though.