Give traditional braised collards some heat
Unless you grew up in the American South, you may not be familiar with collards. This simple recipe makes a great introduction to collard greens. The technique of braising makes the tougher greens tender and tasty. And these braised collard greens are also treated to some bold flavoring from spicy, tangy fire cider. The combination of the dark greens with the vinegary sauce makes a winter side dish recipe you won’t soon forget!
What are collard greens?
A tough, leafy green, collard greens, often called simply collards, have much in common with kale and mustard greens. In fact, they’re a relative of both. Not only are the leaves thicker than many greens, like spinach or arugula, they’re also fairly bitter. This is why braising is one of the most common cooking methods.
The best way to cook collard greens
The slow cooking with moist heat helps break down the tough leaves. Another great thing about braising is that it’s a blank canvas method, meaning it invites the cook to add their favorite spice or flavoring agent to help downplay any remaining bitterness after the greens are cooked.
Here, recipe creator Alana Chernila of Eating from the Ground Up adds the curative tonic fire cider to her braised collards. The acidity of the fire cider erases any bitterness in the greens and the tonic’s spices give the side dish a pleasing hint of heat.
What is fire cider?
This supposedly healing tonic is a blend of herbs and spices with apple cider vinegar and honey. It is known as an old, New England recipe. However, according to the River Valley Co-op, although the tonic may have existed for far longer, the name was coined in the 1970s by herbalist Rosemary Gladstar. Fire cider recipes vary by the maker, but all fire cider recipes involve heavy flavoring from warming herbs and spices, like ginger, horseradish, garlic and even chile peppers.
For this recipe, Alana uses Shire City Herbals fire cider. Although you could make your own fire cider, if you’re looking for a bottled tonic, we really love this one. Here’s our Shire City review. (This version of fire cider gets its heat from ingredients including ginger and habanero chile.)
We enjoyed the recipe so much that we wanted to share this spicy variation on classic collards with our readers and we’re grateful to Chernila for letting us highlight her “secret sauce.” We love how the fire cider adds a sultry spice to braised collards, traditionally considered a not-so-sexy dish. With this added kiss of spice and the brightness of vinegar, we think this collard greens recipe takes leafy greens from healthy food to simply sexy.
How to make a vegan version of these braised collard greens
For this healthy yet non-vegan recipe, Chernila uses butter to braise the greens. You can alter the recipe by using your favorite vegan butter substitute to make a vegan side dish. Although I haven’t tried it, if you prefer using a neutral oil such as grapeseed to cooking with a butter substitute, I encourage you to experiment with replacing the butter with an equal amount of your favorite cooking oil.
More vegetarian side dish recipes
Butter Braised Collards with Fire Cider
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 large bunch collard greens
- 3/4 cup water
- 2 garlic cloves peeled and finely chopped
- olive oil
- 2-3 tbsp Fire Cider
- To prepare the collards, de-stem each leaf then roughly chop the stems. Cut the remaining collard leaves into thin ribbons.
- Melt the butter in a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat.
- Add the chopped stems and 1/2 cup of the water and bring to a low boil.
- Cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium low, and cook until the stems are tender. About 10 minutes.
- Add the collard leaves to the pot along with the remaining 1/4 cup water. Cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, for an additional 10 minutes.
- Remove the lid, raise the heat to medium high, and add the garlic, stirring to combine and toss the greens in the buttery liquid for about 30 seconds.
- Remove the pan from heat.
- Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and toss with 2 tablespoons of Fire Cider. Taste, and add up to an additional tablespoon of Fire Cider depending on your preference.
braised collards photo by Alana Chernila
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