Too often, collard greens get overlooked in the produce department. Their enormous, almost prehistoric looking leaves can be intimidating, not to mention difficult to cram into a produce bag. And do we really know what to do with collards other than to simmer them to a military green pulp? At the risk of typecasting myself, might I suggest that we can pickle that?
Collard greens are actually perfect for pickling because of their tough nature. A warm, spice-spiked vinegar bath is just what these guys need to coax out their tender inner spirit. Serve this delightfully piquant side dish with any type of simple roasted or grilled meat, or atop a bowl of creamy, braised beans.
Pickled Collard Greens:
1 & 1/4 C. apple cider vinegar
1 & 1/4 C. water
generous pinch of fennel seed
generous pinch of chili flakes
2 whole star anise (a cinnamon stick makes a nice addition, too)
1 Tbsp. honey or sweetener of your choice
2 tsp. sea salt
1 large bunch or 2 smaller bunches collard greens
1 small carrot or about 10 baby carrots, julienned
Combine the vinegar, water, spices, salt, and honey in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the honey and salt as the liquid warms. Don’t put your face over the pot of vinegar to smell it as it begins to simmer. Bad idea. Once boiling, cover with the lid, turn off the heat and let it steep while you prepare your vegetables.
Trim the tough, inner stems from your collard greens. You may either cut them out entirely, leaving two halves of each leaf, or if you have some smaller leaves like I did, trim the stems out in a V-shape.
Once the stems are discarded, stack a dozen or so leaves into a pile and roll them up like a cigar. Slice these rolls into 1/2” pieces, so that when unfurled you are left with strips of collards. Continue until all of the greens are sliced. Rinse the strips thoroughly in a colander and shake off any excess water.
Julienne the carrots using a mandolin slicer or by hand. This is easier to do with baby carrots (halve them, place the cut side down and then cut into 3 or 4 matchsticks). Plain old 1/4” slices of carrots are fine, too.
Once again, crank up the heat on the pickling liquid. Once simmering again, add the greens and carrots and stir to coat them in the liquid. In less than a minute, the greens will have cooked down enough to be submerged. Once you are able to push them down into the liquid, turn off the heat and cover the pot for 10 minutes.
Let the greens cool, uncovered for one hour, and then transfer to jars with the liquid. Two pint jars seem to work perfectly. Place them into the refrigerator to cool fully and then cover with tight-fitting lids. The pickled greens will last for up to a week.