Great Grandma Babe & The Green’s

Great Grandma Babe (Ibae'), Great Aunt Sandra (Ibae') & grandma

My great mother Babe was born in the early 1920’s to my great great grandparents Pinkie & Jim Long in the rural setting of Mississippi. I don’t remember much about my great grandmother Babe as she transitioned in 1991 when I was still a fairly young girl, but I do remember her house at 1537 Center in Chicago Heights, IL. I remember the big porch that didn’t have any railing that so you could sit on the end and hang your legs off the front and watch the people passing by. I remember my family getting together at that house & the school that was across the street and the corner store my grandmother would give us all a dollar to go buy snacks. I remember my great aunts & my extended cousins all there. I remember that I loved to go to there with my grandmother to help Babe out around the house & how i felt when I was first introduced to the worst creation on earth in terms of food, Powdered Milk & cornflakes lol. Most of all I remember the love and how much fun it was to be there.

I was never able to grow to learn from Babe in the kitchen because by the time she came to live with my grandmother she was in her 90s and needed to be cared for, but I know everything I learned from my grandmother in the kitchen she learned from Babe & Babe’s mother Pinkie. So, this Collard green recipe that was handed down to me from my grandmother, is the direct link to my Great Grandmother Babe. My great grandmother is now my esteemed ancestor & every now and again I offer her a helping of her favorites, fried fish, a side of greens and a Budweiser on the ancestors’ altar just to say thank you! I hope you enjoy this and remember that my family is love when it comes to food and Babe is at the helms of all that is sacred in my family’s kitchen.

Great Grandma Babe (IBAE), Auntie Sandra (IBAE) Auntie Nessa (Ibae) Uncle Jesse (Ibae), Shaun

Greens are an act of love in any meal that meant that the whole family was coming together and one of the first things my grandmother ever helped me with. In black families cooking greens are serious business and I would come to love Collards more than all the greens combined. Although my family has a variation of how they make greens, collards are always king. Sometimes grandma would make a mix of mustards and turnip greens, but I always loved the collards. She told me that babe would mix the greens and that is how she learned to make greens a medley of Mustards and Collards or Collards & Turnips or just the collards & it always included some form of smoked pork to add to the flavor. Greens without meat is like having breathing with no air. Any black family will tell you, if you don’t know what you are doing DO NOT TOUCH THE GREENS.

First thing’s first, the ingredients. Now this is a passed down recipe with a few modern touches that I added to enhance what was already amazing in its own right, but my family raised a chef, so the additions are warranted as my contribution to the food of my bloodline.

& Because, I love the collard, I chose my family’s collard recipe, but you can use which ever green that call to you be it Collards, Mustards, or Turnips.

You will start by selecting a large bundle of collard greens. Collards are plentiful before they are cooked but once cooked, they shrink in size so I would start with 1-2 healthy bundles of greens. You want to make sure that the greens are bright green, strong and not wilted. Check for browning of leaves to ensure you select the best ones. Don’t mess around with the quality of your collards. Next you will need to choose your meat of chose. For this recipe, I added pork neck bones, but bacon, fatback, smoked turkey wings, & necks, or pork belly can work. You want to choose neckbones that are meaty and has good bone density for flavor. You can also omit the meat all together if you’re meat conscious. for my chef additions, you want to add 1 large onion & 1 red bell pepper roughly chopped. I chose red bell peppers because it adds sweetness to balance this very savory dish. Last, but not least 2 tablespoons. For seasoning we are using garlic & onion powders, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper & smoked paprika for a smokiness.

Next you want to pick your greens, removing the leaves from the stems. The stems are omitted because of their bitterness. Once they are picked from the stem, you want to chiffonade your greens. This is the process of rolling your greens over on themselves like a you are rolling a piece of paper and cutting the roll. As you can see in the photo the photo below. Cutting your leaves using the chiffonade method will allow you to work with smaller leaves and making them more manageable. Once they are all cut, its highly important that you wash them as they grow low to the ground and washing them removes any residual dirt and bugs still hiding in the bunch. I wash my greens the way Babe did and the way my grandmother would eventually show me, by soaking them in a sink of cool water adding vinegar to the water to remove any residue left over from their time growing.

Remove the leave from the stems
Making a chiffonade of your greens makes them more manageable

Our next step in the process while the greens are soaking, will be to roughly chop your onion and bell pepper. Next season your neckbones with all your seasonings very well as shown below.

In our next step we are going melt 2 tablespoons of butter to sear the neckbones, 1-2 minutes on all sides to lock in the flavor. Remove the neckbones and set aside.

Add the onions and bell peppers until the onions are translucent 2-4 minutes.

Seat Neck bones
Sauté Onions and bell peppers for 2-4 minutes

After the onions and bell peppers are sauteed, we will begin to add the collard greens to our pot, and then replace and tossing them with our cooked bell peppers and onions. Seasoning the greens with our season blend. Be careful when seasoning your greens. You want to use seasonings on their own opposed to things like “seasoned salt”. I heard a chef friend of mine, Chef Day, say the idea is to over season NOT over salt. So adjust your garlic, onion, paprika seasonings as much as you need to for flavor but be careful of adding “seasoned salt” and salt on its on. Salt goes a long way so as long as you’ve seasoned your greens you only have to use small amounts of salt to bring up the flavor.

Our final step is to add the neck bones back to our pot and toss them with our veggies & fill the pot with warm water until our greens are submerged. You will notice your seasons begin to color your cooking water and this is why it is important to season well and to adjust the seasons as your greens cook. This is where the POTLIKKER in African American cooking is made so make sure you season well.

Bring your greens to a boil and lower the heat to medium low and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. I know that we saw our mothers and grandmothers cook a pot of greens of 4+ hours but this is unnecessary as we want the integrity of the greens to remain. It is a huge misconception that we need to cook the greens for hours upon hours. Our ancestors did this because they were using the liquid left over from cooking greens for healing purpose and why POTLIKKER is so important in our culture. However, if you aint using the potlikker DO NOT OVER COOKING THE GREENS!

Once the greens are nice and soft and the meat is tender the collards are done. Serve them with some good ol cornbread and enjoy!

An Honor to my great grandmother BABE

Leave a comment & tell me what you thought of this recipe.

Great Grandma Babes Collard Greens

Print Recipe
Greens are an act of love in any meal that meant that the whole family was coming together and one of the first things my grandmother ever helped me with. In black families cooking greens are serious business and I would come to love Collards more than all the greens combined
Course Side Dish
Cuisine African American Foodways, American, Soul Food, Southern
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours

Ingredients

  • 1-3 Bunches Collard Greens
  • 1 Yellow Onion
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • 2 LBS Pork neck bones
  • 2 tbsp Butter
  • Garlic Powder to taste
  • Onion Powder to taste
  • Paprika Smoked to taste
  • Black Pepper to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • All-purpose seasoning to taste

Instructions

  • Start by cleaning and washing your greens. Next chop your collard leaves until they are manageable in size.
    While the greens are soaking in water, chop onions and red bell pepper and set aside.
  • Wash and clean neckbones, season with season blend. In large stock pot, melt 2 tbsp of butter on medium heat. Add neck bones and sear on all sides 1 to 2 minutes. Sear neck bones in batches. Remove from pot and set aside.
    Add bell peppers and onions to the pot cooking them until onions are translucent & vegetables are coated with fat left from searing the neck bones.
    Add Greens to the pot and toss them with bell peppers and onions until coated. Season the greens.
    The next step is to add the neck bones back to the pot, string to ensure greens get coated with seasonings from the seared meat.
    Fill the pot with warm water until greens are slightly covered. Adjust seasoning to taste. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low. Cover & simmer greens for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Serve with Cornbread.

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