I grew up with my Southern-born grandma, Bubbie Charlotte's, flavorful slow-stewed collard greens as a regular side dish on the Friday night Sabbath table, accompanying the roast chicken (gedempte hin), buckwheat kasha, and sweet potato and carrot tzimmes. And I can tell you there is nothing quite like the aroma of collard greens simmering away on the stove for hours to make a Southern boy smile.
Collards are a staple of American Southern cuisine and are typically served as a festive food for the secular New Year, along with black-eyed peas. My family traditionally serves collards (as well as black-eyed peas) on Rosh Hashanah. They are served as a siman (a symbolic food of good omen) of wealth in the coming year, the collards representing greenbacks(i.e. cash currency).
Collards are typically prepared in the south by stewing the greens in chicken or beef broth, along with smoked ham-hocks (we use a smoked turkey leg for our kosher version=KEY SECRET INGREDIENT), marrow bones, onions and garlic, vinegar, sugar, and red pepper flakes. The stewing liquid is known as 'pot liquor' and should be consumed with the collards and/or reserved for future cooking, as it contains much of the collards' nutrients lost (or transferred in this case) during the cooking process. The best way to enjoy the pot liquor is to soak it up with some fresh cornbread. Ain't nothing like BBQ chicken, collard greens, black-eyed peas, and some hot cornbread.
In a large stock pot, cover smoked turkey leg, marrow bone and onions with water (about 4-5 cups) and bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat and simmer for 2 1/2-3 hours, or until meat pulls easily from the bone. Remove from broth and cut meat from the bone. Set aside.
While turkey leg is cooking, rinse collards; cut the collard leaves from the center rib and cut leaves into about 2-3-inch pieces. Dispose of the rib. Return turkey meat to broth. Add collards, garlic, red pepper, sugar, salt, pepper, paprika, and vinegar. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until collards are tender. Season with salt and pepper, and adjust seasonings and vinegar, to taste. Serve with hot sauce.
Collard greens are a cold-season green, densely rich in vitamins and minerals. While they are available year round, they are tastiest and most nutritious in the winter months. Collards are an excellent source of antioxidants A, C, and E, as well as manganese, providing the 4 essential antioxidants. Collards are also are an extremely excellent source of beta carotene and vitamin K. (FYI: Collards are so high in vitamin K that if one is on blood thinners, they should limit their intake of collards.)