Hi everyone, Jess here to talk about this magnificent hunk of meat.
The “hock”, is basically the very end of a ham shank, just above the foot but below the knee. It basically looks and tastes like a mini ham. Blood Farms in Groton, where Springdell hocks are processed, has a wonderful new smokehouse (rebuilt following the 2013 fire) in which the hocks are lovingly smoked.
If you’ve followed this blog, you’ll know that I have crusaded to enjoy collard greens without boiling them for hours next to a piece of meat. Today, I decided to end the crusade and see what happens.
I followed a basic recipe adapted from the Joy of Cooking.
I placed my ham hock(s) in a large soup pot and covered it with water before bringing it to a boil (be sure to skim off any scum that may rise to the top).
Next, I added the following to the pot:
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 2 stalks and leaves of celery (I used stuff frozen from the farm stand in the late fall, there is NOTHING like Springdell celery for flavoring soups)
- 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- handful of washed parsley springs (from the PYO herb garden)
- about 1/4 cup fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
The original recipe calls for 4 carrots, too, but I didn’t have any on hand and just skipped this part.
I simmered this uncovered for one hour, skimming off the scum as needed.
Next, I added to the pot:
- 2 bunches of collard greens, stems removed and leaves chopped into 3-4 inch pieces (mustard greens, kale, or swiss chard works, too, or use a combo!)
Scissors work great for separating the leaves from the ribs of the leaves. Next, I simmered the greens and the hocks for another 1 1/2-2 hours until the hocks and greens become fall-apart tender, like so:
The recipe calls for placing 1-2 ham hocks into each serving bowl, but since I’m just working with one giant hock, I pulled the lean meat out gently with a fork and placed it with the greens in a serving bowl.
Only a tiny bit of the cooking liquid is used in this recipe for serving, just enough to moisten the greens and meat. (I don’t include the celery, parsley, or bay leaf in the serving dishes). The recipe calls for having cider vinegar on the side for serving, which I found to add the perfect amount of acidity and really bring this dish home. It was heaven in every bite.
I concede that slow cooking collard greens next to a piece of meat for hours is an amazingly delicious way to enjoy them, and totally worth the time.
The great news is that the cooking liquid from this dish can be saved and used in other applications! I froze it up in two 4-cup batches and plan to use it the next time I make this soup.